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February Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Daphne odora

Despite all this crazy weather we've been having, Daphne odora is blooming right on schedule here in our garden.

Fragrant Winter Daphne…mmm—the fragrance is just lovely. If you’ve never had the pleasure of approaching a Winter Daphne shrub in bloom, just imagine a bowl full of fresh lemons, sliced, right beneath your nose. Scent descriptions vary for these very fragrant flowers. To me they smell like lemons but I've heard others describe the scent as that of Fruit Loops. The fragrance is very pleasing and not overpowering. The scent doesn't annoy even the most sensitive of noses. 

Daphne odora is a small evergreen shrub, reaching only 3-4 feet in height. This Daphne carries several common names. You might know it by Fragrant Daphne, February Daphne, or Winter Daphne. It is available with pink blooms or white and with straight green foliage or variegated. But all Daphne odora is both evergreen and very fragrant. Blooms come in either pink or white. 

The first time I saw it, we were at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. It was so cute that we determined to find one for our own garden. That took a few years, actually. Daphne is hard to find in local nurseries and garden centers, probably because it has a reputation for being difficult to grow. Really, it isn’t, if you know what it likes. Daphne will not tolerate wet soil. It needs very little water. That can be a problem during times of drenching rains as we've had this winter. When it rains, our heavy clay soil will remain soggy, so amend the soil for drainage when you plant. Daphne prefers shady conditions, but can tolerate a little morning sun. The perfect spot would be beneath large trees on an incline for good drainage. Mix in some soil conditioner or compost and builder’s sand, and plant high—with the top of the root ball slightly above ground level. Then mulch well to conserve moisture and keep the roots cool. Water the shrub when you plant it, but don’t worry about watering it again. Can you believe it’s that easy? It is! If you live in the South, you are constantly looking for drought tolerant plants, and once you know about Daphne, it will be your favorite.

Daphne odora is a beautiful shrub even when not in bloom. The small rounded form of this evergreen shrub can fit into any garden. You simply must have one!

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