Garden Talk

winter daphne

Horticultural Highlight: Japanese sacred lily

Tess Anderson

In this series, the staff of Duke Gardens highlights plants you’ll find within our 55-acre living collection. This week, assistant horticulturist Tess Anderson features one of her favorite winter-blooming shrubs.

Botanical name: Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’
Common name: Winter Daphne
Family name: Thymelaeaceae (Mezereum Family)
Plant type: Evergreen shrub
Native range: China
Location in Duke Gardens: Kathleen Smith Moss Garden in the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum
Site requirements: Part shade
USDA Hardiness Zones: 7-9

Winter daphne

Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’ is an evergreen shrub that blooms anytime from January to March here in Zone 7. Its pinkish red winter blooms make it a desirable plant to have in the garden—not only for their color, but for their smell. Although the flowers are small, their scent is powerful, hence the specific epithet odora, meaning fragrance. The smell is very sweet and noticeable.

In addition to its noteworthy flowers, this cultivar also has pretty foliage. 'Aureomarginata’ means “edged with gold,” and the leaves are green with a yellow gold rim on the edges. It is important to consider different textures and colors when looking for plants to add to your garden.

Plant winter daphne in part shade to protect it from sunburn in the summer months and cold winds during winter, for it does not tolerate very cold temperatures. However, it can also be planted in a container and overwintered inside a greenhouse or a porch. It does best in well-drained soils but does not like to dry out, so be sure to keep it watered—especially in the summer and in the first few years after planting to help it become established.

Even if winter daphne isn't a good fit for your garden, you can enjoy this wonderful shrub blooming now in the Asiatic Arboretum.

Photos by Tess Anderson (daphne) and Clarence Burke (portrait).

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