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The genus Daphne (or Dafne) has about seventy species of suffruticose herbaceous plants, and shrubs, originating in Europe, Asia and Africa, of which about ten are also present in the spontaneous Italian flora; two large groups can be distinguished, namely the evergreen daphne and the deciduous daphne; it is generally small bushes, ranging from alpine dwarf species, which do not exceed 10-15 cm in height, ground covering, up to the larger species, which constitute large shrubs, up to 100-150 cm high or even more . They have oval, alternate, evergreen and coriaceous, or deciduous leaves; some deciduous species produce flowers before leaves, which makes them very showy and decorative. The flowers are small, consisting of 4 sepals, of pink, yellow or greenish color, characterized by an intense and pleasant aroma; they typically bloom in racemes at the leaf axil, or in buds at the apex of the young branches; in some species the flowers bloom instead along the branches. Most species of daphne are very suitable for the rock garden, while the shrub species adapt to produce hedges (especially in the case of evergreen species) or as individual specimens. Cultivation is not difficult, especially as regards the species found in nature in our country, which are therefore well adapted to the climate of our peninsula.
Also called "fior di stecco", this dafne has deciduous leaves, and develops throughout Italy, at the edges of the woods, and also in uncultivated land, often at about one thousand meters above sea level; the name derives from the fact that the aerial flowers bloom at the end of winter, before the plant produces the leaves, directly on the stems of the previous year, which gives the plant the appearance of a dry shrub on which small ones have been glued deep pink flowers. The perfume of the flowers is very intense, and can be felt even at a great distance from the small shrub, which generally does not exceed one meter in height; the flowers are followed by lance-shaped, elongated, light green leaves, and the fruits: small, bright red, poisonous drupes. It prefers sunny places, with calcareous soil and quite cool and humid.
Evergreen shrub native to Asia, widely cultivated in China and Japan; it has oval, pointed, fairly coriaceous, dark green leaves; at the end of winter or early spring, at the apex of the branches, it produces large racemes, consisting of small, very fragrant pink flowers; the flowers of the plant are used in Japan to perfume linen, as is done in Europe with lavender. Plant resistant to cold, prefers semi-shaded places, and a very well drained, slightly acid soil. He does not like the strong summer heat, so in Italy it is advisable to place it in a fairly cool garden area, away from the hot sun rays of long July afternoon.
Evergreen shrub, native to the Caucasian areas and Turkey; produces large leathery leaves, dark green, lanceolate; in spring at the apex of the branches small star-shaped flowers bloom, of yellow-green color, gathered in roundish racemes. This daphne is very tolerant of shade, and can also be grown beneath conifers, with a strong shade. The flowers are very fragrant, and are followed by small drupes, which become black when ripe, in autumn. It prefers rich and fertile soils, not excessively dry, but fears water stagnation.
Evergreen shrub, which generally remains below 150 cm in height, originating in Europe and North Africa; it produces large, dark green leaves, and in spring small greenish, slightly perfumed flowers, followed by dark, poisonous berries for humans, but pleasing to birds. These plants prefer alkaline and clay soils, but develop in any soil, even if they do not like water stagnation. Resistant to the cold, it does not like the hottest and driest areas of the garden, especially in late spring and in summer.
Small, evergreen, covering shrub spread throughout Europe; it reaches a maximum height of 20-25 cm, with every single branch, arched or creeping, which can be extended up to 35-40 cm. Leaves lanceolate, bright green, shiny and leathery; in spring, at the apex of the small branches, numerous flowers of an intense pink color bloom, gathered in bunches, very fragrant. Unlike most daphne, cneoro loves arid and stony soils, with an excellent drainage, well sunny; It is very suitable in low maintenance gardens or in the rock garden. In Italy we find it in the hilly or mountainous areas, up to about 2000 m of altitude.
Small deciduous shrub widespread in southern Europe and Turkey; it has pubescent stems and foliage, the leaves are small, of a bright dark green color; the alpine daphne shrubs are small, roundish, dense, and generally do not exceed one meter in height; the flowers bloom in spring, gathered in bunches, at the apex of the branches, are white, or greenish, and give off a delicate and persistent aroma of vanilla. Very decorative plant, in Italy and throughout Europe it is a protected species, therefore difficult to find in nurseries; prefers limestone soils, with good drainage, and fairly sunny locations. Very similar to the oleoides variety, which has evergreen foliage.
Small ground cover plant typical of the Alpine flora, widespread in European mountain areas; it develops between the rocks, on the slopes, in the rocky areas of the Alps, well exposed to the sun; it does not fear the cold, but it does not tolerate the summer heat, especially if cultivated in pots or in very sunny flower beds. It produces small green leaves, slightly rough and leathery, lanceolate, and small, deep pink flowers, tubular at the base, very fragrant, which bloom in late spring or in summer.
Grow the daphne
Although there are several dozen species of Daphne, in the nursery we find few, in addition to some interspecific hybrid or some horticultural variety. There are those who say that dafne are among the easiest plants to grow, that instead they find their Achilles heel in place and cannot keep them alive for more than 3-4 years, or even fail to see them in flower. In fact they are certainly a shrub of easy cultivation in a cool and wet Japanese or British garden, while they can be a little more demanding in a sunny and dry Mediterranean garden. Most species that can be found in nurseries are evergreen, but there are also deciduous species; regardless of this characteristic, the cultivation requirements are very similar: these plants love a fertile soil, very well drained and fresh, quite humid, but without water stagnation; they prefer semi-shady positions, and in particular they behave like clematis: the head must be in the sun, the feet in the shade. The trick is to find the right balance between a good insolation of young branches and leaves, and shading for the base of the plant and for the delicate roots. It is because they have a very delicate root system, which does not like water stagnation, but neither drought; so much so that it is good for them to maintain a thick layer of mulch on the ground, which protects them from external climate changes. Their radical apparatus does not even like transplants, repottings, transfers of any kind; it is therefore advisable to find the most suitable place immediately, and leave the daphne for years. Each repotting or transplant may correspond to a two-year absence of flowers, or even the death of the shrub. If not, do not recommend growing in pots. Alpine species love rock gardens, with very well drained soil, and sunny locations, but avoiding the hot afternoon sun. For the whole vegetative season we water regularly, but only when the soil is dry, and avoiding stagnation or long periods of drought. Shrubs are not very large, so they generally do not need pruning, except for a light cleaning after flowering.
Propagate the daphne
These plants can be propagated by seed, collecting the seeds in autumn directly from freshly picked fruits; remove the pulp and leave the seeds in water for a few hours before sowing them; we place the seeds in a large vase, where the young plant will remain for a few years; let's water regularly and keep the pot in a sheltered and fairly bright place; daphne seeds are usually fertile, but germination can also occur in 16-18 months. We can also propagate these plants by cutting, taking the cuttings from the tips of the branches that do not carry flowers, in late spring or in summer. Unfortunately, it often happens that a young cuttings take years to flourish and also to flourish; so let us arm ourselves with patience and do not despair, even if after 2-3 years our cutting is still less than 30cm high. Once developed, the young plants will be planted, avoiding in any way to ruin the earthen bread that encloses the roots. After handling fruits, seeds, cuttings, let us remember to wash our hands thoroughly, because all parts of the plant are poisonous.
Pests and diseases
Usually these varieties of plants die for a few reasons, and generally they are not parasites; an abruptly performed transplant is one of the main reasons for the death of these delicious shrubs. Another problem is often the excessive summer heat, especially in very dry periods. The roots are very delicate, and the summer heat quickly dries them up, in addition to this, excess watering can favor the presence of root rot, which can be fatal for the entire plant. Sporadically these plants can be invaded by aphids, in spring, which nest above all on the tender shoots.
The Daphne plant honors also known as Daphne in winter, is a species belonging to the Thymelaeaceae family. A veg
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