Honeysuckles are one of those lovely plants that both look great and smell even better. If you want to grow something that attracts wildlife, smells great, and adds color to your life, then honeysuckle is for you.
Honeysuckle is heat and drought tolerant and fairly easy to care for, making it an easygoing yet showy addition to your property. Before you can enjoy this wonderful plant, you must be able to choose the right one, plant it and make it happy.
Here’s everything you need to know about growing honeysuckle.
- All About Honeysuckle
- Best species and cultivars
- honeysuckle planting
- Caring for Honeysuckle
- Honeysuckle Growing Problems
- Sprinkle the sweetness of honeysuckle in your garden
All About Honeysuckle
Most honeysuckles are climbers, which means they need a support structure like a trellis or a fence. However, there are a few that have a bushy growth habit. Some types do well in a container, while others are better in the ground.
Typically, the flowers bloom in summer and produce bright colors of white, cream, orange, pink, red, salmon, and yellow (depending on the plant). When the sun hits the petals, you can really see how beautiful they are. Their delicate appearance is a classic choice for cottage gardens.
Plus, their nectar and scent attract local bees, hummingbirds and butterflies, which are always welcome in any garden.
Best species and cultivars
When it comes to choosing the type of honeysuckle you would like to grow on your property, there are a few things to consider.
There are tons of species and cultivars to choose from. Some types of climbing tend to grow tall and can take up a lot of space. Some are bred to stay a little smaller or to grow slender.
Bush honeysuckles are generally smaller and are good options if you’re looking to add some honeysuckle to your garden but don’t have a lot of space.
It is important to note that some species and hybrids are considered invasive.
The USDA Forest Service has identified a few varieties of honeysuckle as invasive in certain areas because they grow aggressively and establish strong root systems, making it difficult to eradicate.
Some honeysuckle plants can grow so tall and dense that they limit light exposure for other plants and prevent a healthy ecosystem. The invasive varieties of honeysuckle are:
- Honeysuckle of tomorrow (Lonicera morrowii)
- Amur Honeysuckle (L. maackii)
- Bell’s Honeysuckle(L.X Bella)
- Japanese Honeysuckle (L. japonica)
Try to avoid growing these honeysuckles unless you can devote yourself to making sure they don’t spread. In some areas this may not be possible. But in some areas, like the arid western states, you may be able to keep them under control.
If you don’t want to devote yourself to controlling your plant or you’re not sure you can keep it from invading the space around you, there are still plenty of options.
trumpet honeysuckle (L. sempervirens) is a native American that thrives in USDA growing zones 4-9. It is a popular choice, with large, showy flowers. There are many remarkable cultivars and hybrids of this species.
Scarlet Dropmore (Lonicera x brownii) has bright red flowers and is a vigorous grower without being overbearing. It thrives in zones 4-9.
Mandarin Honeysuckle (L ‘Mandarin’) features tangerine blossoms on a vigorous vine. Grow in zones 4-9.
Goldflame or American Beauty (Lonicera x heckrottii) bursts with multicolored pink, orange, salmon and yellow flowers on a 15 foot long vine. Perfect for areas that can use a little color in zones 4-9.
Common honeysuckle (L. periclymenum) is native to Europe and has small yellow flowers. It grows in zones 4 through 9 and can tolerate partial shade without sacrificing color.
Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla rivularis) remains compact with bush-like growth. It has yellow flowers and does well in zones 5-9.
Southern bush honeysuckle (D. sessilifolia) is closely related to bush honeysuckle and it looks quite similar. The bush never exceeds about five feet tall and wide, and it does well in zones 5-8.
Yellow honeysuckle (L Flava) has bright yellow and orange flowers on a vigorous vine that grows up to 20 feet tall. Plant in zones 4-9.
The first step in planting honeysuckle is finding the right location. The area will vary depending on whether you want to plant climbing honeysuckle or a shrubby variety.
For climbing honeysuckle, you need to choose a place where the roots can be kept in the shade and the stems can reach sunlight.
You should also be sure to check the health of your honeysuckle when purchasing it. Does it have strong stems? Is there any damage? They are often sold in pots with the stems wrapped around a support like a stick. A few broken stems may be enough, but the majority of the plant should look healthy and sturdy.
The last thing you want is to buy a plant that isn’t going to grow well.
Support is essential for vine honeysuckle, so an area with a fence, wall, arbor or trellis is ideal for growing this plant. You can also add a layer of wire against a fence or wall to provide additional support.
Bush types don’t need support, but they generally grow wider than vine types, so be sure to choose a spot with plenty of room.
Once you have chosen the perfect spot, you can think about planting them in the ground.
How to plant grafts
Keep vine types at least 18 inches apart and bush types even further. Put the support structure in place before you start planting. Leave a few inches away from the wall or fence so the vines have room to curl up behind the trellis or wire.
Dig a hole as deep as the container and twice as wide. Lift the plant out of the pot and into the ground. Fill abundantly with soil water.
Cut existing shoots back by two-thirds to encourage new stems and bushier growth. Then, tie the shoots to your support structure.
How to plant seeds
You can buy honeysuckle seeds to start new plants. Before you can put them in the ground, you must subject them to a period of cold stratification for about 12 weeks. Put them in moistened moss and sand and place them in the refrigerator.
Remove the seeds from the refrigerator and plant them in the garden after the last expected frost date. Plant the seeds about a quarter inch deep and keep them moist. Place the seeds about 18 inches apart.
How to plant cuttings
If a friend has a honeysuckle plant, you can take cuttings to start growing your own plants. Take your cuttings in the morning. To learn more about the process of taking cuttings, visit our guide.
Honeysuckle spreads easily by layering. This is when you bend the stem down to ground level and cover it with some soil. The buried part of the plant will eventually develop roots and you can remove it from the parent plant. Our guide has more information.
Caring for Honeysuckle
One of the most important parts of growing climbing honeysuckle is providing support. Otherwise, the plant will crumble to the ground and be susceptible to pests and diseases.
In spring and summer, during dry periods, you may need to water your plant. Otherwise, it will probably get enough moisture from the rain. Check the ground and see if it looks dry until your second knuckle. If so, give it a good deep soak.
Once the roots are established, you will only need to soak your plant occasionally during hot spells.
Fertilize once a year in the spring to give your honeysuckle the nutrients it needs to thrive and bloom for the upcoming growing season. Use a balanced fertilizer or a fertilizer specifically intended for flowers, such as JR Peter’s Jack’s Classic Blossoms Booster.
Honeysuckle also appreciates mulch such as garden compost or well-rotted manure. Adding mulch will improve soil quality, add nutrients and help retain moisture.
In addition to watering and fertilizing this plant, you can also prune it for general maintenance.
Pruning is key to keeping your plant healthy and producing tons of flowers. For late flowering types, you can prune in the spring. You can trim long shoots and lighten congested areas. Always start by removing weak shoots to give healthy shoots a better chance.
However, for early-flowering types that produce new growth on the previous season’s growth, you can cut off flowering shoots in late summer or fall. Remember to cut only a third of the shoot.
If you are looking to renovate your honeysuckle, you can prune the plant in late winter. Cut all stems about halfway and choose the strongest stems to create a frame. For congested honeysuckles, this is a great method to revive them.
Honeysuckle Growing Problems
Honeysuckle is quite a hardy plant, so you probably won’t have too many problems growing it at home. The main problem that can occur with this plant is powdery mildew. Normally, this disease affects the plant in hot weather during the summer months.
To find out how to identify and control powdery mildew, see our handy guide.
Sprinkle the sweetness of honeysuckle in your garden
All in all, honeysuckle is a fantastic plant to grow in your garden if you want something fragrant and beautiful to look at. As long as you choose a non-invasive variety and provide the right growing environment, you shouldn’t have too much trouble raising this plant at home.
As soon as you start seeing the flowers bloom, you’ll be glad you planted honeysuckle on your property!
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