How to Grow Daphne Odora

Choose the right location and a strong plant, and you're set for success.

Daphne odona / Japan daphne / Daphne indica
Photos from Japan, Asia and othe of the world / Getty Images

A beautiful blooming shrub, Daphne odora—also known as winter daphne—is one of the best plant choices for year-round benefits. Long known for being early to flower, even in winter, it’s often a bright spot on a gloomy day. When you learn how to grow Daphne odora, you can count on it being reliable to butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. A gardener's favorite aspect of this plant is the flowers' scent; the small clusters can really fill a space with fragrance. Choosing your variety carefully (more on that later) will help ensure your success for establishing Daphne odora in your garden.

Botanical name Daphne odora
Sun exposure Partial shade
Soil type Well-draining 
Soil pH Neutral
Bloom time Winter and spring
Flower color Pink, white, purple
Hardiness zones 7-9 (USDA)
Toxicity Toxic to dogs and cats

How to Plant Daphne Odora

Growing Daphne odora can be challenging for some, but you can give yourself an edge by starting with a strong, healthy plant from your local garden center. Here’s how to give yourself the best chance of success when growing this shrub. 

Growing From Cuttings

Growing from cuttings is preferred to growing from seed, though both are tricky. While it is possible to begin Daphne odora from seed, it could take years before you get a big and strong enough shrub to put outside and even more time to get flowers.

With cuttings, start with around a 6-inch branch from an existing, healthy shrub. Dip the cutting into a rooting hormone, and then plant in a pot with rich soil and compost. Keep the cutting lightly watered for the next couple of months. You can gently tug on the cutting after a few weeks to see if roots are established. Then you can try transplanting it to its permanent location in a shady area. 

Growing From Starter Plants

This is the best way to plant Daphne in your yard or to grow it in a container. Since this tends to be a sensitive plant to get established, go the extra mile to find a good plant source to buy from. Start with your local garden store or a native plant source who can advise you about cultivars best for your region.

Choose your location carefully and dig a hole about twice the size in width as the root ball and about as deep as the pot that it’s currently growing in.

Transplanting

Daphne odora doesn’t like to be transplanted—and many gardeners will say this is like a death wish to the plant—but if you want to try growing it from a seed or cutting, you will need to transplant at some point. Follow the guidelines for starter/established plants above.

Growing Daphne in Containers

Here’s another area where Daphne odora can be a little sensitive. Some gardeners love growing this plant in a container and have no problem while others say it’s a bit finicky. Be sure you are using a large enough container where it has room to grow. Also, try to mimic growing conditions it will like, which includes warm, shady spots.

Daphne Odora Care

Half the battle of growing this sensitive but gorgeous shrub is choosing the right location; the other half is starting with a strong plant. If you can check these two off your list, the rest is fairly simple.

Light, Soil, and Nutrients

While Daphne can tolerate sun, it really likes shady or partially shady locations. Organic well-draining soil is the best home for Daphne plants. It usually does best in a neutral pH or a slightly acidic soil. If you don’t know what your soil type is, try doing an at-home test. It doesn’t need a lot of added fertilizer, but you can try using one a couple of times a year. Check with your local garden or plant expert for additional tips on what to use. 

Water, Temperature, and Humidity

Always water new plants or shrubs regularly so they can easily get established in their first year. Once established, Daphne tends to do pretty well on its own or even in slightly dry conditions. Some gardeners take the approach of infrequent watering. 

Daphne odora prefer warm conditions with some shade, and they don’t tend to hold up well to cold snaps or cooler climates.

Common Pests and Diseases

You can sometimes get aphids or other insect pests on Daphne, but these can usually be taken care of by noticing them right away and using an organic removal—either an organic pesticide or by picking the pests off directly and putting them in soapy water. Mosaic is another issue that can arise with Daphne; the disease will show up in spots and lead to reduced growth or non-flowering. If this happens, check with an expert but you’ll likely have to get rid of the plant altogether.

Daphne Odora Varieties

Beautiful pink, scented spring flowers of Daphne Odora 'Mae-Jima' shrub
Mae-Jima' shrub. Jacky Parker Photography / Getty Images

Daphne odora is a specific variety in and of itself, among the main family of Daphne. So by choosing it, you’re already focusing on a specific type. Below are some additional different cultivars. Definitely check with your local garden source or expert, as well, as they might know of others that work well in your area.

  • Aureo-Marginata: This type has a great fragrance and leaves with unique look, lined in gold. It’s also one of the most popular to grow in backyards. The blooms are a purplish-pink. You don’t have to do much once you get this one established. You don’t even need to prune it.
  • Zuiko Nishiki: Some Daphne are known for drooping a bit, but this variety has stiffer leaves and is more compact.
  • Mae-Jima: This is a semi-dwarf variety with beautiful green and yellow leaves. You’ll get dark pink blooms when the shrub flowers.