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Lonicera (Honeysuckle)

Grow honeysuckle for a fragrant and visually captivating addition to your garden

Honeysuckle, Lonicera etrusca, Etruscan honeysuckle

Lonicera: Unveiling the Enchanting Beauty and Versatility of Honeysuckle

Lonicera, commonly known as honeysuckle, includes species native to various regions, including North America, Europe, and Asia. Their natural habitat varies depending on the species, ranging from woodlands and forest edges to open fields.

Plant Family:
Honeysuckle belongs to the Caprifoliaceae family, including plants like Abelia and Snowberry.

Description:
The Lonicera genus encompasses both deciduous and evergreen species, which can be shrubs or twining vines. These plants are best known for their tubular flowers and sometimes for their berries.

Growth Habit:
Depending on the species, honeysuckles can either grow as climbing vines that twine around supporting structures, or as upright, sprawling shrubs. Some species can be aggressive growers.

Size:
Honeysuckle plants exhibit a range of sizes, influenced by species and cultivars, spanning from 3 feet (90 cm) to an impressive 30 feet (9 meters) in height.

Flowers:
The flowers are often tubular in shape, and come in a variety of colors including white, yellow, pink, and red. Some species, like the Japanese honeysuckle, may have flowers that change color as they age. Some flowers are highly fragrant.

Foliage:
The leaves are generally simple and opposite, although their shape and size can vary. The color is usually a rich green, although some varieties may have variegated or lighter-colored foliage.

Blooming Season:
Most honeysuckles bloom in summer, although some species can have a longer flowering season extending into fall.

Hardiness:
The hardiness varies among species, but many are resilient and can survive in USDA zones 4-9. Some can even be grown in USDA Zone 10.

Uses:
Honeysuckles are often used for ornamental purposes, in hedgerows, and as ground cover. Some species have medicinal or culinary uses. The flowers of certain species are used to make teas or syrups.

Pollinators:
The fragrant flowers are a magnet for pollinators like hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees.

Toxicity:
While the berries of some species are edible and even medicinal, others can be toxic if ingested, especially to pets and children.

Deer and Rabbits:
Generally, honeysuckle is not a preferred food source for deer and rabbits, making it somewhat resistant to these garden pests.

Drought:
Some species are relatively drought-tolerant once established but perform best with consistent moisture.

Invasiveness:
Certain species are considered invasive in some regions and can quickly overtake native vegetation if not managed properly.

Fun Fact:
One interesting fact about honeysuckle is that its name originates from the tradition of children sucking nectar from the base of the flowers for a sweet treat.

Guide Information

Hardiness 4 - 10
Plant Type Climbers, Shrubs
Genus Lonicera
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Height 3' - 30'
(90cm - 9.1m)
Spread 3' - 30'
(90cm - 9.1m)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Alkaline, Neutral, Acid
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Native Plants United States, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, Rocky Mountains, Alaska, Southwest, Midwest, Pacific Northwest, Southeast, Northeast, California, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Utah
Tolerance Deer
Attracts Bees, Butterflies, Hummingbirds, Birds
Landscaping Ideas Arbors, Pergolas, Trellises, Patio And Containers, Wall-Side Borders, Beds And Borders, Walls And Fences
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Coastal Garden, Informal and Cottage, Traditional Garden
Lonicera involucrata (Twinberry Honeysuckle)
Lonicera japonica (Japanese Honeysuckle)
Lonicera hispidula (Pink Honeysuckle)

Invasive Honeysuckle

Invasive honeysuckle species can pose a significant ecological problem by outcompeting native vegetation, disrupting local ecosystems, and creating a monoculture that leads to reduced biodiversity. While honeysuckle is often admired for its sweet-smelling flowers and ability to attract pollinators, not all species are beneficial to the areas where they grow.

  • Lonicera japonica (Japanese Honeysuckle): This highly invasive vine is known for its rapid growth and ability to smother native vegetation. It has fragrant white and yellow flowers.
  • Lonicera maackii (Amur Honeysuckle): Another invasive species, Amur honeysuckle forms dense thickets and leafs out early, shading out native plants. Birds spread its red berries.
  • Lonicera tatarica (Tartarian Honeysuckle): This shrub species is native to Eurasia and has become invasive in North America. It produces showy pink to white flowers and red berries.
  • Lonicera morrowii (Morrow’s Honeysuckle): Originally from Asia, this invasive shrub also crowds out native vegetation and produces fragrant white to yellow flowers followed by red berries.
  • Lonicera fragrantissima (Winter Honeysuckle): While not as aggressive as some other invasive Lonicera species, Winter Honeysuckle can become invasive in certain areas. It produces fragrant white flowers in late winter or early spring and is known for its strong scent.

Native Alternatives: Consider planting native honeysuckle species, such as coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), which offer similar aesthetic and wildlife benefits without the invasive potential.

Consult Local Guidelines: Before planting any form of honeysuckle, it’s a good idea to consult with local experts or resources to ensure you’re not inadvertently introducing an invasive species.

Trumpet Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens

Red flowers of Lonicera sempervirens (Trumpet Honeysuckle)

Popular Native and Non Invasive Honeysuckle

Non-invasive honeysuckle varieties are a great choice for gardeners looking to enjoy the beauty and fragrance of these plants without the ecological concerns associated with some species. Here are some popular non-invasive honeysuckle varieties:

  • Lonicera periclymenum (European Honeysuckle or Woodbine): This deciduous climber has fragrant, creamy-white or pink flowers and is not invasive in most regions. Varieties: ‘Serotina,’ ‘Belgica
  • Lonicera caerulea (Honeyberry or Blue-berried Honeysuckle): Native to the Northern Hemisphere, this honeysuckle is grown more for its blue, edible berries than for its small, fragrant flowers. Varieties: ‘Blue Velvet,’ ‘Blue Moon
  • Lonicera flava (Yellow Honeysuckle): Native to the United States, this variety produces yellow flowers and is a good choice for native plant gardens.
  • Lonicera albiflora (White Honeysuckle): This is a native North American vine mainly found in the southern United States. This deciduous climber is distinguished by its trumpet-shaped, white to cream-colored flowers.
  • Lonicera x heckrottii ‘Gold Flame’: This is a hybrid with vibrant pink and yellow flowers and a lovely fragrance. It’s a popular choice among gardeners but check for invasiveness in your region.

When choosing a honeysuckle variety, it’s important to consult local guidelines or experts to confirm that the species or cultivar you’re considering is non-invasive in your area. Always choose native or non-invasive species whenever possible to support local ecosystems and biodiversity.

Lonicera albiflora (White Honeysuckle)
Lonicera ciliosa (Orange Honeysuckle)
Lonicera sempervirens (Trumpet Honeysuckle)

Why Should I Grow Honeysuckle?

Growing honeysuckle in your garden can offer a variety of benefits. Below are some compelling reasons to consider adding this versatile plant to your outdoor space:

Fragrance

Many honeysuckle species are known for their sweet, captivating fragrance. The scent is especially potent in the evenings, creating a delightful atmosphere in your garden.

Aesthetic Appeal

With their vibrant, tubular flowers and lush green foliage, honeysuckles can serve as beautiful focal points in the garden. Some species even offer berries that add another layer of visual interest.

Pollinator Attraction

The nectar-rich flowers of honeysuckle are highly attractive to pollinators such as hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. By planting honeysuckle, you’re providing a valuable food source for these beneficial creatures.

Easy to Grow

Honeysuckle is generally easy to care for, requiring little more than well-drained soil and some sun. Many species are drought-resistant once established and can thrive in less-than-ideal soil conditions.

Versatility

Honeysuckles come in a variety of forms, including climbing vines and shrubs, offering versatility in how they can be incorporated into your landscape. They can be grown on trellises, as ground cover, or as standalone shrubs.

Seasonal Interest

Many honeysuckle species have a long blooming season, providing color and fragrance from late spring into the fall. Some varieties, like the Winter Honeysuckle, even bloom in the colder months, adding interest when most other plants are dormant.

Wildlife Shelter

The dense growth of honeysuckle provides shelter for birds and small mammals, offering a safe space for nesting and protection from predators.

Screen and Hedge

The more robust shrub forms of honeysuckle can serve as natural screens or hedges, providing both beauty and privacy.

Naturalization

Some native species are well-suited for naturalized settings, contributing to local biodiversity without the risk of becoming invasive.

Considering these numerous advantages, honeysuckle can be a rewarding addition to nearly any garden setting. However, it’s crucial to choose a species that is appropriate for your specific region and garden conditions, especially given that some varieties can become invasive.

Lonicera japonica ‘Purpurea’ (Japanese Honeysuckle)
Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’ (Japanese Honeysuckle)
Lonicera nitida ‘Baggesen’s Gold’ (Box Honeysuckle)

Garden Design with Honeysuckle

Integrating honeysuckle into your garden design can add both aesthetic and functional value. Here are some ways to incorporate this versatile plant into various garden styles and settings:

As a Climbing Plant

  • Trellises and Arbors: Use honeysuckle vines to adorn trellises and arbors. This not only creates vertical interest but also serves as a focal point in your garden.
  • Pergolas: A pergola covered in honeysuckle provides dappled shade while filling the air with its fragrance.
  • Fences and Walls: Let honeysuckle climb and spread over fences and walls for a natural, romantic look.

In Mixed Borders

  • Back-of-Border Plant: Use taller honeysuckle shrubs at the back of flower borders to provide height and a green backdrop.
  • Companion Planting: Pair honeysuckle with other plants that have similar light and water requirements. Its bright flowers can contrast beautifully with dark-leaved plants like heuchera.

For Wildlife Attraction

  • Bird Gardens: The berries of certain honeysuckle species attract birds. Create a bird-friendly habitat by adding a water feature and birdhouses.
  • Pollinator Gardens: Plant honeysuckle near flowering plants that attract butterflies, bees, and other pollinators for a more vibrant ecosystem.

As Ground Cover

  • Slopes and Banks: Some types of honeysuckle make excellent ground cover, stabilizing soil on slopes and preventing erosion.

For Seasonal Interest

  • Winter Gardens: Some honeysuckle species, like Winter Honeysuckle, bloom in late winter or early spring, adding interest during otherwise bleak months.

For Privacy and Screening

  • Natural Screens: Honeysuckle shrubs can grow dense enough to serve as privacy screens. Plant them in a row along your property line to create a living fence.
  • Hedging: Pruned and maintained shrubs can serve as formal hedges.

Themed Gardens

  • Cottage Gardens: Honeysuckle fits perfectly into a relaxed, cottage-style garden filled with a mix of perennials and shrubs.
  • Mediterranean Gardens: Some honeysuckle varieties tolerate dry conditions well, making them suitable for drought-tolerant, Mediterranean-style landscapes.

Containers

  • Patio or Balcony: If you have limited ground space, many honeysuckle species grow well in containers. Ensure the container is large enough for the root system and has adequate drainage.

Keep in mind that some honeysuckle varieties can be vigorous growers and may require regular pruning.

Lonicera sempervirens ‘Blanche Sandman’ (Trumpet Honeysuckle)
Lonicera x italica ‘Harlequin’ (Honeysuckle)
Lonicera × brownii ‘Dropmore Scarlet’ (Honeysuckle)

Companion Plants

Companion planting can enhance your garden by combining plants that help each other in various ways, such as improving soil, deterring pests, or aiding pollination. When choosing companion plants for honeysuckle, consider factors like light, water requirements, and aesthetics. Here are some plants that make excellent companions for honeysuckle:

For Visual Interest

  • Clematis: Both honeysuckle and clematis are climbers and can be grown together for a lush, layered look with multi-seasonal interest.
  • Roses: The classic beauty of roses complements the wild appeal of honeysuckle, creating a romantic garden scene.

For Pollinators

  • Lavender: This aromatic herb attracts bees and butterflies, making it a great companion for the pollinator-friendly honeysuckle.
  • Salvia: Another pollinator magnet, salvia shares similar sun and water needs with many honeysuckle species.

For Ground Cover

  • Sedum: Low-growing sedums can provide ground cover below a honeysuckle vine, preventing weeds and adding interest at lower levels.
  • Hosta: In partial-shade areas, hostas can serve as a lush, low-maintenance ground cover under honeysuckle shrubs.

For Foliage Contrast

  • Heuchera: With its colorful foliage, heuchera offers a stunning contrast to the green leaves and bright flowers of honeysuckle.
  • Ferns: The delicate fronds of ferns add texture and can be a lovely contrast to the bolder leaves and flowers of honeysuckle.

For Seasonal Interest

  • Daffodils: Early spring bloomers like daffodils offer a burst of color before many honeysuckle varieties start flowering.
  • Asters: Late-season flowers like asters can take over the show when honeysuckle blooms start to fade.

For Supporting Wildlife

  • Butterfly Bush (Buddleia): Like honeysuckle, butterfly bushes are great for attracting a variety of pollinators, including butterflies and hummingbirds.
  • Milkweed: Essential for monarch butterflies, milkweed can be part of a wildlife-friendly garden that also includes honeysuckle.

Remember to check the specific needs of each plant to ensure they are compatible in terms of sunlight, water, and soil conditions. With the right companions, your honeysuckle can be part of a diverse, vibrant, and harmonious garden.

Companion Plants for Honeysuckle

Rosa (Rose)
Salvia (Sage)
Clematis
Lavandula angustifolia (English Lavender)
Hosta (Plantain Lily)
Heuchera (Coral Bells)
Sedum (Stonecrop)
Narcissi (Daffodils)
Aster novi-belgii (New York Aster)
Aster novae-angliae (New England Aster)
Asclepias (Milkweed)
Tulips

Growing Tips

Growing honeysuckle in your garden is generally straightforward, but success hinges on providing the right conditions and care. Here’s a step-by-step guide:

Choosing the Right Variety

  • Consult Local Guidelines: Some honeysuckle species can be invasive. Always consult local gardening guides or experts to select a variety appropriate for your area.
  • Match Conditions: Different honeysuckle species have varying light and soil requirements. Choose a species that suits your garden’s conditions.

Planting

  • Site Selection: Honeysuckle typically prefers a sunny location but can tolerate partial shade. Some species, particularly those native to woodland areas, may prefer more shaded conditions.
  • Soil Preparation: Although honeysuckle is tolerant of a range of soil types, it prefers well-drained soil. You can improve soil drainage and fertility by adding organic matter like compost.
  • Planting Time: The best times to plant honeysuckle are in the spring or fall.
  • Spacing: Keep 5 to 10 feet (1.5-3 meters) between each honeysuckle plant, depending on the species’ expected mature size.
  • Planting Depth: The hole should be just deep enough so that the plant sits at the same level as it did in its container.

Watering

  • Initial Watering: Water thoroughly after planting.
  • Ongoing Care: While established honeysuckle is relatively drought-tolerant, young plants and those in containers will need regular watering.

Fertilizing

  • Initial Feeding: You can add a slow-release, balanced fertilizer at the time of planting.
  • Regular Feeding: Apply a balanced fertilizer in the spring and then again in mid-summer for established plants.

Mulching

  • Apply Mulch: A 2 to 3-inch (5-7 cm) layer of organic mulch can help retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Pruning

  • Timing: Late winter or early spring is generally the best time for pruning. Some varieties may also benefit from light pruning after flowering.
  • Method: Remove any dead or diseased branches, and thin out as necessary to improve air circulation.

Pests and Diseases

  • Pests: Aphids, scale insects and powdery mildew can occasionally be a problem. Use insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils for aphids and fungicides for powdery mildew.
  • Disease: Leaf blight and rust can affect honeysuckle but are generally less of a concern if you’ve planted in well-drained soil and practice proper spacing for air circulation.

Additional Tips

  • Support: For climbing varieties, make sure to provide a trellis, fence, or other structure for the plant to climb.
  • Wildlife: Be mindful that honeysuckle berries may be toxic to humans but are often enjoyed by birds.

With these guidelines in mind, you’ll be well-equipped to grow and enjoy honeysuckle in your garden.

While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 4 - 10
Plant Type Climbers, Shrubs
Genus Lonicera
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Summer (Early, Mid, Late)
Fall
Height 3' - 30'
(90cm - 9.1m)
Spread 3' - 30'
(90cm - 9.1m)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Alkaline, Neutral, Acid
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy
Native Plants United States, New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Maryland, Massachusetts, Maine, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Connecticut, Rocky Mountains, Alaska, Southwest, Midwest, Pacific Northwest, Southeast, Northeast, California, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Washington, Idaho, Oregon, Alabama, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Virginia, South Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia, Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Colorado, Montana, Wyoming, Utah
Tolerance Deer
Attracts Bees, Butterflies, Hummingbirds, Birds
Landscaping Ideas Arbors, Pergolas, Trellises, Patio And Containers, Wall-Side Borders, Beds And Borders, Walls And Fences
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Coastal Garden, Informal and Cottage, Traditional Garden
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