You Need February Daphne In Your Early Spring Garden

– Posted in: Acquisitions, Plant info, What's up/blooming

February daphne (Daphne mezereum) is blooming now for me–before the forsythia, before any rhodos, before my spicebush. My February daphne is still a baby, given to me by Deborah Banks when I visited her garden last year. Look, it’s not much more than a twig:

February daphne seedling fragrant Daphne mezereum

Only three flowers, but the fragrance is amazing.

One sniff was enough to convince me that every cold climate gardener should have this shrub in their garden. It is reminiscent of an old-fashioned rose fragrance but with something more.

Obviously February daphne doesn’t bloom in February here, but it is a very early bloomer and hardy to USDA Zone 4. Because I had seen mature shrubs in Deborah’s garden, I could recognize them in Quebec City when I visited there.

fragrant shrub daphne Bernard Carrier garden

Arrow points to Daphne mezereum in the garden of Bernard Carrier in Quebec.

Fragrant February Daphne at Domaine Joly-De Lotbinière

Here’s February daphne growing at the Domaine Joly-De Lotbinière

Brian Bixley also grows daphne in his garden. There is only one reason why you would not want this in your garden: the berries it produces are quite poisonous and if you have small children, you may wish to wait until they are past the age of putting everything in their mouths.
Daphne mezereum berries at Domaine Joly-De Lotbinière

The daphne berries are very poisonous. The coleus is ‘Mariposa’.

Daphne mezereum is easily started from seed–that’s why Deborah had seedlings to share–and is being monitored in some areas for potential invasiveness. You may wish to check with local authorities to see if it is problematic in your area.

I can hardly wait until my little seedling puts on some size and has enough flowers that the scent wafts on the air. What a treat for so early in spring!

Opening photo copyright Deborah Banks and used with permission.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In its own way, frost may be one of the most beautiful things to happen in your garden all year . . . Don’t miss it. Like all true beauty, it is fleeting. It will grace your garden for but a short while this morning. . . . For this moment, embrace frost as the beautiful gift that it is.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

Comments on this entry are closed.

Johan May 6, 2014, 2:47 pm

It’s such a shame that it’s so hard to find February Daphne in europe. It looks to be doing pretty well in your garden!

Laura @ Raise Your Garden May 2, 2014, 6:59 am


You sold me when you said the fragrance was amazing. It’s a done deal!!

commonweeder May 2, 2014, 6:58 am

I am so happy to know about February daphne. I want to find more hardy spring FRAGRANT bloomers.

Kathy Sturr of the Violet Fern April 28, 2014, 8:10 am

Okay, you’ve convinced me! I need it in my garden. That was easy.

AmyO April 27, 2014, 7:31 am

My Daphne mezereum is also in full bloom now and has grown into a nice little shrub. I also got mine as a small seedling at the Vermont Hardy Plant Club’s annual plant swap. I’m hoping for some seed this year, but I don’t know if it is self pollinating or not.
The fragrance is wonderful!!

Sam April 27, 2014, 3:03 am

Wonderful plant, Kathy. Thanks for a very interesting blog post. I will sure to keep this in mind the next time Winter shows its face. Thanks for sharing also that the daphne berries are poisonous. A lot of people are not aware of this.

Great blog! Happy spring!

Deborah Banks April 26, 2014, 8:42 pm

I just found a nice article with interesting information on several cultivars of Daphne mezereum that I have never heard of, as well as more details on culture:

Deborah Banks April 26, 2014, 8:55 am

I have Daphne mezereum shrubs doing fine here that already looked ancient when we moved here in 2000. In my experience it is not at all difficult; the only big one that has died on me was in reaction to a serious disturbance of its roots when I dug up another one that was intertwined with it. I haven’t had any luck moving mature daphne shrubs; plant it where you want it. But if you plant it when it’s still a young shrub and pick a spot it likes, you’ll have it for years.
What it likes: good drainage and little sun. I have many daphnes in partial to mostly shade. These get not much more than 3 feet tall, and just get wider with age not taller. My biggest one is approaching 4 feet tall; it’s on the east side of our house, in front of some rhoddies. So with a little more light they grow a bit taller. Note though that I planted one about 3 yards away from it that died; it was on the east side of the house but close to the corner and got too much of that southern exposure.
We have many problems with deer here, and most of my daphnes are outside the fence. The only winter that they noticed my daphnes was the winter of 2012-2013. They browsed lightly on the couple shrubs most accessible to them (including my little white one). But that was a hungry year for deer; there were few acorns and no apples due to very late freezes that spring. I have never seen deer bother daphne any other time.

Charlie@Seattle Trekker April 25, 2014, 9:47 pm

I planted a very small Daphne mezereum last year and it still flowered this spring…I really appreciated your photo of the more mature shrub.

Frank April 25, 2014, 8:44 pm

Geez, another plant I need. You sure do make a great salesperson, early color, fragrance, easy from seed…. Maybe if I keep my eyes open I’ll come across some seed.
I’ve always heard that daphne are unpredictable and a little difficult. Have you ever experienced that?

Kathy Purdy April 25, 2014, 10:11 pm

This is my first spring with this daphne, and I haven’t grown any others in the genus. I have heard as a genus they can be unpredicatable, but I have no experience of it myself.

Jane Rutkowski April 25, 2014, 5:15 pm

What a gorgeous shrub! The color is beautiful. Do you happen to know if it is deer resistant?

Kathy Purdy April 25, 2014, 5:24 pm

Jane, Deborah told me she has a white-flowering one that is still small because deer browsed on it. But if memory serves, she has some both inside her deer fence and outside her deer fence, so perhaps once it is established it can take some browsing. I will ask her to comment here as well.

Kerri April 25, 2014, 9:49 am

That’s a lovely plant, Kathy. I’ve added it to my wish list. Thanks for sharing the info. Early color in the garden is a sight for cold climate winter-weary eyes. And the lovely fragrance is an added bonus.

Kathy Purdy April 25, 2014, 10:27 am

Exactly, Kerry. It could easily go in a cabin fever bed, but I think it’s even better as a lure-you-out-into-the-garden plant.

Cindy, MCOK April 25, 2014, 9:25 am

Wow, Kathy, that is a gorgeous shrub! May it thrive in your garden!

Kathy Purdy April 25, 2014, 10:27 am

Thanks, Cindy!