Honeysuckle Plant Care Guide and Varieties
There are numerous types of honeysuckles. Most are either large shrubs or twining vines that are noted for their colorful, trumpet-shaped flowers, sweet scent, and attractiveness to butterflies and hummingbirds.
About This Plant
Honeysuckle flowers are magnets for hummingbirds; flower colors include orange, red, yellow, and white, depending on the species and variety. Most shrub honeysuckles grow 6 to 15 feet tall and wide, while the vining types grow 10 to 20 feet tall. Honeysuckles bloom in spring to midsummer. Vining forms, such as trumpet honeysuckle (L. sempervirens), grow well on fences, trellises, and walls with support. Shrub forms, such as winter honeysuckle (L. fragrantissima), make good hedges, screens, and mass plantings. Honeysuckles tolerate shade and are often seen as an understory plant in the forest. Some species, such as tartarian honeysuckle (L. tatarica) and Japanese honeysuckle (L. japonica), are very aggressive and should be avoided.
Select a site with full sun to shade and moist, well-drained soil. The plants will flower more profusely in full sun.
Plant in spring or fall. Space plants 5 to 15 feet apart, depending on the expected mature size of the plant. Dig a hole only as deep as the root ball and 2 to 3 times as wide. If your soil is in very poor condition, amend the soil you’ve removed from the hole with a small amount of compost. Otherwise don’t amend it at all. Carefully remove the plant from the container and set it in the hole. Fill the hole half full with soil, then water it well to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets. Let the water drain, then fill the remainder of hole with soil and water thoroughly.
Apply a layer of compost around the base of the plant each spring, followed by a 2-inch layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds. Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. Prune shrubs and vines after flowering. Aggressive varieties can be pruned back to the ground in late winter to control growth.
Honeysuckles are great additions to a landscape as they bring a variety of birds and butterflies to the yard and add fragrance. Honeysuckle vines can be shrubby or trailing, depending on their cultivar. If you choosing honeysuckle varieties for your trellis, fence, or as a spreading ground cover, then pick ones that are designed for the soil type and lighting that is in your landscape.
Cape honeysuckle, Tecomaria capensis, is from the bignonia family. It is an evergreen vine that attracts hummingbirds. It has 6-inch long leaves and reddish orange to scarlet flowers in clusters in the fall through winter season. Cape honeysuckle can be pruned to a shrub form and grows 10 feet tall. As a vine, it can grow to 25 feet long. Plant this vine in full sun or light shade in well-drained soil. Propagate by cuttings and seed. It is USDA hardy in zones 9 to 11.
Coral honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, is also known as the trumpet honeysuckle and is from the honeysuckle family. It is an easy-to-grow vine that attracts songbirds, hummingbirds and butterflies. Coral honeysuckle has 1- to 3-inch smooth leaves and tubular flowers that are 2 inches long and red or orange (one cultivar has yellow flowers). Plant this vine in full sun or partial shade. Propagate coral honeysuckle via seed. It is USDA hardy in zones 4 to 10.
Winter honeysuckle, Lonicera fragrantissima, is also known as the bush honeysuckle and is from the honeysuckle family. It is a fragrant bush that grows 6 to 8 feet tall. Leaves are evergreen in the southern United States and deciduous in the northern United States. Flowers are white and ½ inch long. Plant a winter honeysuckle in partial shade or full sun in well-drained soil. Propagate this plant via softwood shoots. It is hardy in USDA hardiness zones 5 to 9.
Japanese honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica, is also known as gold-and-silver flower or Hall’s Japanese honeysuckle and is from the honeysuckle family. It is an easy-to-grow and fast-growing vine that is drought-resistant and attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds. This woody vine can grow to 30 feet long with elliptical leaves 2 to 3 inches long. Flowers are tubular, 1 ½ inches long, and white that will get yellow. This plant’s fruits are bluish-black berries. Plant Japanese honeysuckle in full sun to partial shade. Propagate this plant via seed or layering. It is USDA hardy in zones 4 to 10.