A Step-by-Step Guide to Pruning Daphne Shrubs

These shrubs are renowned for their richly fragrant flowers. People love the ones that smell great and bloom in late winter or early spring, when not many other plants are brave enough to do so. There are many species, for sun or shade, so there are choices to suit most locations.

Daphne is a gorgeous flowering shrub beloved for its extremely fragrant blooms that perfume the garden in late winter or early spring. With its shiny green foliage and compact form, daphne makes a beautiful addition to borders, rock gardens, and foundations.

However to keep your daphne looking and performing its best the shrub needs occasional pruning. Proper pruning encourages new growth, maintains a shapely form, and removes dead wood. It also ensures plenty of flowers by preventing the plant from becoming overgrown and woody.

When and how you prune a daphne depends largely on the variety, so it’s key to understand the specific needs of your shrub. Here is a complete step-by-step guide to pruning daphne plants successfully.

When to Prune Daphne

Timing is critical when pruning daphne, as the shrubs bloom on old wood – last year’s growth. Pruning at the wrong time removes flower buds and compromises next season’s bloom.

For winter and early spring blooming varieties like D. odora and D. mezereum, prune immediately after flowering. This is usually late winter or early spring. Deadheading spent blooms also helps promote continual new flowering on some types.

For later blooming types like D. cneorum and D. × burkwoodii, prune in summer after the spring flowers have faded. Mid to late summer is ideal, but avoid pruning after mid-July as this can reduce flower production the following year.

Pruning daphne more than once a year is not recommended, except to occasionally trim errant shoots. Focus on maintaining the shrub’s natural shape.

How to Prune Daphne Shrubs

Follow these simple steps for pruning daphne plants successfully:

1. Remove Dead Wood

The first step is to remove any dead or dying branches. Look for wood that is gray, brittle, or split. Cut it back to just above healthy growth. Removing dead wood prevents disease and encourages new growth.

2. Cut Back Overgrown Shoots

Next, look for any overgrown shoots sticking out beyond the natural shape of the plant. Use bypass pruning shears to trim these back about halfway.

3. Thin Out Inner Growth

To maintain a shapely form, selectively thin out some of the oldest branches growing from the interior of the shrub. This stimulates new growth within the center to fill out bare patches.

4. Tip Prune Leggy Growth

Prune leggy growth sticking above the main shrub back by about a third to shape and contain the plant. Make cuts above an outward facing bud or leaf.

5. Renew Overmature Shrubs

On neglected, overgrown daphne plants, you may need renewal pruning to rejuvenate them. Cut 1-2 of the largest, oldest stems down to the ground in early spring. Continue removing a few old canes each year until the shrub is renewed.

6. Clean Tools

Disinfect your pruning tools before and after using them on daphne to prevent transmitting diseases between plants. Use isopropyl alcohol or a diluted bleach solution.

Additional Daphne Pruning Tips

  • Always use clean, sharp bypass hand pruners or loppers when pruning daphne. Never prune with hedge shears or electric tools which can damage branches.

  • Make cuts at a 45 degree angle just above an outward facing bud, branch, or leaf to direct growth away from the center of the plant.

  • Avoid leaving stubs by cutting back to the base of a branch or main stem.

  • Disinfect tools between plants to prevent introducing disease.

  • Remove pruning debris from the area to eliminate pests or disease overwintering in the cut stems.

  • Avoid fertilizing after mid-summer, which can trigger tender new growth susceptible to winter damage.

  • To limit heavy pruning, trim daphne lightly each year rather than shearing severely every few years.

Problems to Watch for When Pruning Daphne

While daphne enjoy pruning at the right times, be aware of potential issues like:

  • Flower bud removal – Pruning at the wrong time of year removes next season’s flower buds on old wood. Always prune immediately after flowering.

  • Stress – Overpruning can stress daphne. Never remove more than 30% of the plant when pruning. Renewal pruning is the exception.

  • Disease transmission – Daphne are prone to diseases like leaf spot and blights. Disinfect tools between plants or plants to avoid spreading pathogens.

  • Bleeding sap – Cutting into live wood may cause sap to bleed from the wounds. This is unsightly but not harmful.

  • Lack of blooms – Renewal pruning eliminates some flowers for one season. The trade-off is a rejuvenated, healthy plant.

  • Dieback – Harsh pruning in cold weather can injure branches. Time pruning during the shrub’s active growing season.

When to Prune Other Popular Daphne Species

  • Daphne bholua – Prune after flowering in spring
  • Daphne cneorum – Summer bloom, prune mid to late summer
  • Daphne × burkwoodii – Summer bloom, prune mid to late summer
  • Daphne genkwa – Prune after spring flowering
  • Daphne laureola – Prune soon after spring flowers fade
  • Daphne odora – Prune in late winter after flowering
  • Daphne pontica – Prune soon after spring flowering
  • Daphne retusa – Prune after spring or summer flowering

How to Care for Daphne Year-Round

Proper care is just as important as correct pruning in keeping daphne healthy and flowering. Follow these seasonal tips:


  • Apply an all-purpose fertilizer or slow-release shrub fertilizer after blooming is finished.
  • Prune immediately after flowering is completed for spring bloomers.
  • Cut back any dead growth and shape overgrown shoots.
  • Water regularly if rainfall is lacking.


  • Prune summer flowering daphne varieties once blooms fade, before mid-July.
  • Water shrubs weekly if rainfall doesn’t provide 1 inch per week.
  • Mulch around the base to conserve moisture and suppress weeds.


  • Discontinue feeding after mid-summer so growth hardens off before winter.
  • Apply fresh mulch before winter to insulate roots.
  • Wrap burlap around containers to protect from hard freezes if growing daphne in pots.


  • Water whenever soil thaws and dry spells occur to prevent desiccation.
  • Check for rabbit or rodent damage and apply protective wire cages if needed.
  • Remove heavy snow loads which can damage branches.

Common Problems With Daphne Plants

While generally tough, healthy shrubs, daphne are prone to a few issues to be aware of:

  • Failure to bloom – Caused by too much shade, overpruning, overfertilizing, or improper timing when pruning.

  • Leaf spots – Fungal diseases encouraged by wet conditions. Improve air circulation and use drip irrigation.

  • Root rot – Soggy soil causes roots to die back. Improve drainage and avoid overwatering.

  • Poor growth – Usually the result of too little light. Place in a spot with at least partial sun.

  • Browning leaves – Can indicate drying out from insufficient water, fertilizer burn, or cold damage.

  • Pests – Aphids, scale, and spider mites may appear. Control with horticultural oil or insecticidal soap sprays.

How to Propagate Daphne from Cuttings

An easy way to get more daphne plants is by taking stem cuttings in summer. Choose healthy shoots around 4-6″ long, cutting just below a leaf node. Remove the bottom leaves, dip the cut end in rooting hormone, and stick into a potting mix. Enclose in a plastic bag or propagator to maintain humidity as roots form. Keep the soil evenly moist.

Enjoy the Fragrant Charm of Daphne Shrubs

When pruned properly and cared for correctly, daphne shrubs are long-lived garden gems known for their sweet fragrance and unique habit of blooming in late winter. By following best pruning practices for your variety and providing ideal growing conditions, you can maintain a shapely, vibrant daphne for years of enjoyment. Soon your garden will be filled with the heavenly scent of this ornamental star greeting each new spring season.

All you need to know Before you get started

Daphnes are shrubs with highly fragrant flowers. They bloom at various times of year, depending on the species. Most of them are either evergreen, which means they keep their leaves all year, or semi-evergreen, which means they lose some leaves in the winter, especially in cold places. They are usually fairly compact, slow growing and need little ongoing maintenance.

Many animals can find shelter in evergreen shrubs all year long. Early in the season, birds use them as good places to nest.

Daphne (Odora) Care – Hints and Tips #daphne #pruning

How do you prune a Daphne plant?

Pruning involves cutting back specific parts of the plant to encourage growth, improve its appearance, and remove dead or diseased branches. In this guide, we’ll take an in-depth look at how to trim daphne plants. The best time to prune your daphne plant is during the late winter or early spring when it is still dormant.

When should you prune a Daphne plant?

Daphne plant pruning is generally to remove broken or errant branches. Trimming the shrub is not part of annual plant care for daphne. The best time to do any cutting is after the plant flowers, so you avoid cutting off the buds. This would be early spring when pruning winter daphne and late spring for other varieties.

Should you cut back a Daphne plant?

If your daphne plant has become overgrown, you may need to cut back some of the branches to maintain its size. Cut back the branches to just above a healthy bud or leaf. This will stimulate new growth and keep the plant healthy. After pruning your daphne plant, clean up any trimmings and dispose of them properly.

Why do Daphne plants need to be pruned?

Pruning daphne plants is essential for various reasons. First, pruning helps remove any dead or damaged branches, which can affect the overall health of the plant. It also helps stimulate new growth and promote better air circulation, which reduces the risk of diseases.

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