How To Identify, Grow, And Care For The Honeysuckle Vine

If you’re looking for unusual flowers that provide gorgeous color and fragrance and attract many pollinators, you cannot go wrong with honeysuckle. It gives a romantic look to any planting scheme, and softens any landscape.

Honeysuckles are usually vines, but you can get shrub types too, which make the perfect hedge. 

Not sure if honeysuckle would be right for your garden? Here’s everything you need to know about climbing honeysuckle, from how to recognize it, where to grow it, how to prune it, how to propagate it, and more.

At A Glance: Everything You Should Know About The Honeysuckle Vine

All honeysuckles belong to the Lonicera genus, and there are just under 200 different species, native to northern parts of North America and Eurasia. 

This means that there are many types to choose from, and there’s bound to be one suitable for your garden, especially when you consider that more hybrids are being created all the time.

Most honeysuckle varieties are suitable for gardens in USDA zones 4 to 9, but you do have to be selective. 

Not just because different species are more suited to different conditions, but also because some varieties are classified as invasive in some areas.  

The most recognizable feature of the honeysuckle is the flower it is famous for. On honeysuckle vines, the flowers appear on the apex of the stems, usually in groups between 2 and 5. 

Exactly how many flowers appear depends on the growing conditions and the cultivar you go for.

The flowers are tubular, with a double-lipped corolla. Typically, the honeysuckle flowers appear in red, pink, yellow, orange, or white, but there are others available, too.

You’ll see the flowers usually in summer, the blooming season lasting for just under a month.

Climbing honeysuckles may lose their leaves in winter or can be evergreen, depending on the species you choose. 

It’s worth knowing that those that do drop their leaves in winter tend to have more impressive flowering displays, with larger flowers that are more prolific.

Evergreen honeysuckles do have smaller and fewer flowers, but they still provide structure and color to any vertical surface in their foliage.

Flowers are soon followed by red or yellow berries, which are a great food source for the wildlife in your garden.

You can also get shrub-type honeysuckles, which look perfect as hedges or topiary.

How To Grow Honeysuckle

Evergreen honeysuckles can be planted in spring or fall, otherwise, other honeysuckles should be planted in the last few weeks of winter.

Before planting, put some organic mulch into the hole, this will help give the plant a boost with some goodness.

Sunlight And Position

Most varieties of honeysuckle prefer their roots to be in shade, with the stems being in sunlight. This is true of a lot of flowering climbers, such as clematis and jasmine.

It’s also worth knowing that the fragrance of honeysuckle is stronger when you grow the plant in a warm position.

Some varieties of honeysuckle can be grown in containers, if you prefer. You will need to give the vining honeysuckle something to climb up, such as an obelisk, wall, or fence. 

To get honeysuckle to thrive, keep the soil moist but well-draining, otherwise, they will grow in any kind of soil, making them very versatile.

When To Water Honeysuckle

Water honeysuckle just after you plant it. When established, most honeysuckle plants will take care of themselves, but they will benefit from a drink in prolonged dry spells.  

Should You Feed Honeysuckle?

It’s not absolutely necessary to feed honeysuckle. 

If you do want to give the plant a helping hand, or the soil isn’t great to start with, use a general fertilizer in spring, which will help boost the plant’s growth and flower production.

You won’t need to feed it after spring, as the plant has a vigorous growth habit already.

How To Care For Honeysuckle

Honeysuckle isn’t particularly difficult to care for, but it’s worth giving it some attention when you’re trying to get it established. 

You will need to train honeysuckle up some kind of support unless you are growing the shrub-type honeysuckle. 

They do cling to plants and surfaces themselves, but before they are established they need tying in to encourage the plant to climb where you want it to. 

Propagating Honeysuckle

Propagating honeysuckle can be done in three ways. You can layer honeysuckle, by bending a stem to the soil level or a container of soil, pinning it to the surface, and it will grow roots.

You can also take semi-ripe cuttings in summer when the stems are bendy but firm, potting them up before fall, keeping it in a greenhouse until spring. 

This is a good way of ensuring that you have a back-up plant in case your honeysuckle does not survive winter. 

If you prefer, you can propagate honeysuckle using their berries. Remove the seeds from the berries, and sow them immediately into damp soil. Or, you can store the seeds in the fridge over winter, sowing when the temperatures are higher in spring.

Problems To Watch Out For When Growing Honeysuckle

Powdery mildew can be an issue in growing honeysuckle, but as long as you grow it in partial shade, and mulch around the base of the plant, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Too much shade will cause fungal disease and fewer flowers, so if you can get the planting position right from the get-go, you can prevent a lot of problems. 

Honeysuckle aphids are also something to watch out for. They can decimate climbing honeysuckles quickly, so you need to be vigilant. 

The foliage becomes distorted, curling in on itself as the aphids feed on the plant’s tissue. 

It doesn’t help that these pests also produce honeydew, which can cause disease. The best defense is to keep your honeysuckle as healthy as possible, as ill plants are more likely to get pests.

If you see signs of infestation, use the hose to get the aphids off, and prune any badly-affected shoots, destroying the debris responsibly so the disease and pests can’t spread to your other plants.

Honeysuckle Not Flowering

If your honeysuckle has stopped flowering, it’s usually because pruning has been done at the wrong time of year. See the section on pruning to make sure you don’t have this problem.

Other reasons why a honeysuckle might not flower include too much fertilizer, which encourages foliage growth rather than flowers, soil with no nutrients, not enough sunlight, or soil that is too dry.

Honeysuckle vines can also take up to three years to bloom, as they need to produce enough foliage, roots, and stems to support the flowers. So you may just need to be patient! The wait is worth it.

Honeysuckle Cultivars You Should Consider Growing

There are many types of honeysuckle to choose from, and picking the right one for your garden can be tough, or even overwhelming. 

Here are just a few of the many possibilities to get you started, and give you an idea of what you want.

Lonicera periclymenum ‘Strawberries and Cream’ 

A fairly new cultivar is ‘Strawberries and Cream’, featuring flowers in light yellow and pink.

It’s not a climbing variety, and will work perfect at the front of a border, or in a container as a small shrub.

‘Strawberries and Cream’ will reach 2 feet tall at maturity, keeping compact and manageable even in the smallest of spaces.

Lonicera fragrantissima ‘Winter Honeysuckle’

If you prefer white and fragrant flowers, Lonicera fragrantissima ‘Winter Honeysuckle’ is the one to go for. As you might imagine, it flowers in winter, and as this plant is deciduous, it flowers on the bare branches from January until March.

It also helps that this plant will withstand tough winters.

Lonicera close ‘Orange Trumpet Honeysuckle’

If you’d prefer a honeysuckle variety that will withstand the cold, but will flower in early summer, the orange trumpet honeysuckle might be the one to go for.

It will grow in shade, and blooms in shades of orange and yellow. The flowers are followed by red berries, which provide plenty of food for the birds.

Lonicera x heckrottii ‘Goldflame Honeysuckle’

For a much longer blooming season, the ‘Goldflame Honeysuckle’ flowers all summer long. It also helps that this hybrid has bigger and showier flowers than some types.

The buds start off brilliant red, and mature to a light pink, with pale purple and sunny yellow tones too.

It is worth noting that this particular hybrid is classed as invasive in Illinois, and it’s worth checking to make sure it isn’t the same in your area.

Lonicera sempervirens ‘Coral Honeysuckle’

‘Coral Honeysuckle’ is a beautiful species, growing striking clusters of honeysuckle flowers in shades of coral and yellow.

It’s worth knowing that this particular species is a favorite of hummingbirds, and attracting as many pollinators as possible can only be a good thing.

Landscaping With Honeysuckle

If you choose evergreen honeysuckle, it can make a great privacy screen in most areas, especially where fences don’t provide a lot of cover. 

To get the best out of these plants, situate them near a seating area, patio, or window where you can enjoy the fragrance of these flowers the most, 

It looks particularly beautiful when grown alongside other similar climbing plants, such as clematis and jasmine.

Potential Invasiveness

Some species of honeysuckle are invasive in some areas, in particular Lonicera japonica, which is considered harmful not only to plants native to North America, but also South America, parts of Europe, Africa, and Australia. 

It’s very important that you make sure you choose the right kind of honeysuckle for your garden, and keep on top of the honeysuckle’s growth, so it cannot escape to the surrounding landscape.

Other Things To Consider

Can You Eat Honeysuckle Flowers?

Honeysuckle nectar is edible and tastes like honey, hence the common name! However, it’s not advisable to eat the berries or the flowers, as they are not considered edible.

Do You Prune Honeysuckle?

You should prune honeysuckle. Exactly when you should depends on the type you choose. 

For those that flower in the first few weeks of summer, you should cut back the plant by a third once the flowering season has finished.

Avoid removing dying flower heads so that the berries can form.

Mid to late-flowering honeysuckle should be given a trim in spring. It’s worth remembering that these plants do flower on the current growth, so don’t be too heavy with the clippers.

Final Thoughts

Honeysuckle is a beautiful plant that adds a lot of color and fragrance into any garden. 

It is worth being choosy about what variety you pick, however. This is not just because you want to match or contrast your existing planting scheme, but also to make sure that the species you choose isn’t classed as invasive in your area.

It would do more harm than good to get one that is invasive, and not only does it have the potential to escape to the surrounding environment, this will also get you in trouble, too.

Climbing honeysuckle can be grown up trellises, walls, obelisks, and any other vertical surface that you can think of, making it a very versatile plant. 

If vining plants aren’t for you, you could try a honeysuckle that grows as a shrub instead. If you pick the right species, it will even live in a container without any problems, and stay compact.

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