Daphne ‘Star White’
One of the best things about winter in Australia is the fragrance of daphne in flower. Winter daphne (Daphne odora) originally came from China. As well as the green-leafed variety with pink and white flowers, there is also one with a creamy yellow border to the leaf (‘Aureo-marginata’) and a pure white flowering form (‘Alba’).
Daphnes have a reputation for being very touchy plants. They often drop dead suddenly but if the right growing conditions are provided, they will last a long time and develop into large shrubs.
Tip: Daphnes grow well in large containers in potting mix and are quite reliable. They become touchy once they’re planted in the ground.
There is now a new white flowering variety called ‘Star White’ that is reputed to be a hardier form of Daphne odora ‘Alba’. It is a denser plant with a lemon scented perfume. It is currently only available in New South Wales and Victoria but will be more widely available from nurseries in spring.
If you are going to grow daphne in the ground, they require perfect drainage and a cool, sheltered spot. For good drainage grow the plant in a raised bed, that is a garden bed where the soil is built up by 20-30cm (8-12″). It is best grown in drier areas of the garden, e.g under eaves. Daphnes do not like to be constantly wet. A light pruning by taking off the flowers will prevent the plant from becoming woody.
If this is not possible a pot is the next best alternative.
When potting a daphne, put some plastic fly-wire over the drainage hole in the bottom of the pot. This is not for any horticultural reason, but to stop soil from leaching out of the drainage hole with each watering. Then add the potting mix, selecting a potting mix that meets the Australian Standard. It is a good idea to add a little peat moss to your mix to improve drainage and water-holding capacity of the mix.
Note: In some instances daphnes are grown in soil, dug up and sold in a pot. Any soil should be gently hosed away before it is repotted into potting mix.
Take care when potting, especially if you are handling a large plant. If you damage the roots in the repotting process, it is important to keep the repotted plant in a sheltered spot for several weeks to give it a chance to establish new roots. It will also need close attention in hot or windy weather until it is firmly established.
Tip: For good growth on your daphne, add a sprinkle of gypsum to the potting mix.
Cost and availability
Daphne odora ‘Star White’ may be difficult to find but is available in NSW and Victoria in limited numbers with more plants becoming available in spring. They can be ordered through your local nursery. A 15cm (6″) pot costs around $10-$16.