Honeysuckles are one of those lovely plants that both look beautiful and smell even better. If you’re interested in growing something that will attract wildlife, smells fantastic, and adds some color to your life, then honeysuckle is for you.
Honeysuckle is heat and drought-tolerant and quite easy to care for, making an easy-going yet showy addition to your homestead. Before you can enjoy this wonderful plant you need to be able to choose the right one, plant it, and make it happy.
Here is everything you need to know about growing honeysuckle.
All About Honeysuckle
Most honeysuckles are climbing plants, which means they need a support structure like a trellis or fence. However, there are a few that have a bushy growth habit. Some types do well in a container, while others are best in the ground.
Typically, the flowers bloom in summer and produce vibrant white, cream, orange, pink, red, salmon, and yellow colors (depending on the plant). When the sunshine hits the petals you can really see how magnificent they are. Their delicate appearance is a classic choice for cottage gardens.
Plus, their nectar and scent attracts local bees, hummingbirds, and butterflies, which are always welcome additions to any yard.
Best Species and Cultivars
When it comes to picking the type of honeysuckle you’d like to grow on your property, there are a few things to be aware of.
There are tons of species and cultivars available for you to choose from. Some climbing types tend to grow large and can take up lots of space. Some are bred to stay a bit more petite or to have a slender growth habit.
Bush honeysuckles are usually more petite and are good options if you’re looking to add some honeysuckle goodness to your yard but don’t have a ton of space.
It’s important to note that some species and hybrids are considered invasive.
The USDA forest service has identified a few varieties of honeysuckle to be invasive in certain regions because they grow aggressively and establish strong root systems, which make it difficult to remove them.
Certain honeysuckle plants can become so big and dense that they limit the light exposure for other plants and prevent a healthy ecosystem. The invasive varieties of honeysuckle are:
- Morrow’s Honeysuckle (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 dedicate yourself to ensuring that they won’t spread. In some regions, this might be impossible. But in some areas, like arid western states, you might be able to keep them under control.
If you don’t want to dedicate yourself to controlling your plant or you aren’t sure you can keep it from invading the space around you, there are still lots of options.
Trumpet Honeysuckle (L. sempervirens) is a US native that thrives in USDA Growing Zones 4-9. It’s a popular choice, with large, showy flowers. There are many noteworthy cultivars and hybrids of this species.
Dropmore Scarlet (Lonicera x brownii) has bright red flowers and is a vigorous grower without being invasive. It thrives in Zones 4-9.
Mandarin honeysuckle (L. ‘Mandarin’) features mandarin orange blossoms on a vigorous vine. Grow in Zones 4-9.
Goldflame or American Beauty (Lonicera x heckrottii) bursts forth with multi-colored 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 features petite yellow blossoms. It grows in Zones 4-9 and can tolerate partial shade without sacrificing color.
Bush honeysuckle (Diervilla rivularis) stays compact with a bush-like growth habit. It has yellow blossoms and does well in Zones 5-9.
Southern bush honeysuckle (D. sessilifolia) is closely related to bush honeysuckle and it looks fairly similar. The bush never grows larger than about five feet tall and wide, and it does well in Zones 5-8.
Yellow honeysuckle (L. flava) has bright yellow and orange blossoms 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 shrub variety. <ost honeysuckle plants grow in well-draining, humus-rich soil.
For climbing honeysuckle, you want to pick a spot where the roots can be kept in the shade and the stems can reach sunlight.
You should also make sure to check the health of your honeysuckle when buying it. Does it have strong stems? Is there any damage? They’re often sold in pots with the stems wrapped around a support like a stick. A few broken stems might be ok, but the majority of the plant should look healthy and robust.
The last thing you want is to buy a plant that is not 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 vining types, so be sure to choose a spot with plenty of room.
Once you’ve decided on the perfect spot, you can think about planting them in the ground.
How to Plant Transplants
Keep vining types at least 18 inches apart and bush types even further. Put the support structure in place before you begin planting. Leave a few inches of distance from the wall or fence so the vines have room to twine behind the trellis or wire.
Dig a hole that is as deep as the container and twice as wide. Ease the plant out of the pot and into the ground. Fill in around with soil water thoroughly.
Cut back the existing shoots by two-thirds to encourage new stems and bushier growth. Then, tie the shoots to your support structure.
How to Plant Seeds
You can purchase honeysuckle seeds to start new plants. Before you can put them in the ground, you need to put them through 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 fridge and plant in the garden after the last projected frost date has passed. Plant the seeds about a quarter-inch deep and keep moist. Place 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 about the process of taking cuttings, head to our guide.
Honeysuckle propagates easily by layering. This is when you bend the stem down to the soil level and cover it with a little 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 collapse on the ground and be susceptible to pests and diseases.
During spring and summer during dry periods, you may need to water your plant. Otherwise, it will probably receive enough moisture from rain. Check the soil and see if it feels dry up to your second knuckle. If it does, give it a good, deep soaking.
Once the roots have been established you will only have to soak your plant occasionally during the hot times.
Fertilize once a year in the spring to give your honeysuckle the nutrients it needs to thrive and bloom during the coming growing season. Use a balanced fertilizer or one that is specifically targeted at flowers, such as JR Peter’s Jack’s Classic Blossoms Booster.
Honeysuckle also enjoys mulch such as garden compost or well-rotted manure. Adding mulch will improve the 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 essential to keep your plant healthy and produce tons of flowers. For late-flowering types, you can prune in spring. You can cut back any long shoots and thin out congested areas. Always start by removing the weak shoots to give the healthy ones a better chance.
However, for early-flowering types which produce new growth on the previous season’s growth, you can cut back the flowered shoots in late summer or fall. Just remember to only cut one-third of the shoot.
If you’re looking to renovate your honeysuckle you can prune the plant in late winter. Cut back all the stems to about half and choose the strongest stems to create a framework. For honeysuckles that have become congested, this is a great method of reviving them.
Honeysuckle Growing Problems
Honeysuckle is quite a resilient plant, so you likely won’t encounter too many problems when growing it at home. The main issue that can occur with this plant is powdery mildew. Normally, this disease affects the plant in warm weather during the summer months.
To learn about how to identify and control powdery mildew, head to our handy guide.
Sprinkle Some Honeysuckle Sweetness Into Your Garden
Overall, honeysuckle is a fantastic plant to grow in your garden if you want something sweet-smelling and beautiful to look at. As long as you pick 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 happy you planted honeysuckle on your property!