Maybe you remember sucking the sweet nectar from honeysuckle flowers as a child. More than likely, they belonged to the honeysuckle genus. It's long been a popular garden vine, and for good reason. It's tough, vigorous, and its flowers are abundant and often fragrant. Honeysuckle has many landscape uses and provides winter food and cover for wildlife.
Honeysuckle grows 20' to 30' high and spreads as far as it's allowed. It'll cover 150 square feet or more. It has a reputation as a "rampant" spreader, and will take over an area and smother adjacent plants if it's not pruned yearly.
The leaves are oval to oblong and about 2" long and 1" wide. They're smooth or hairy, with smooth margins and bluish-green undersides, carried opposite each other on the stems.
The flowers are trumpet-shaped and about 2" long. Some varieties are deliciously fragrant while others are not. They bloom in paired clusters at the branch tips, from May or June through the summer. Hummingbirds feed at the flowers, and the shiny black berries are popular with other birds.
- Key Tips: As a climber, they need a wall, trellis, net, or wire cage. These plants require little attention and grow in about any soil type. Heavy pruning in autumn after flowering encourages more robust and bushy growth, with more profuse flowers next spring. Under correct conditions, blooming begins in mid-spring and lasts well into fall.
- Shelf Life: Plant into the garden or larger pots and place outside immediately when night temperatures stay above 40°F.
- Plant Preparation: Remove the plastic bag and sleeve from around potted plant(s). Discard any packing material clinging to the leaves or soil. Pull away any yellow or brown leaves that may have occurred during transit. If you can't plant it into the garden or a larger pot within a few days, make sure it stays well watered.
- Potted Plants: Re-pot the plants at least 15" separately or together inside one larger container. As a climber, they will need a trellis, cage, or post to cling onto. During the growing season, pinch back vines from time to time to assure dense growth.
- Soil: Any type of soil works.
- Garden Preparation: Pick a sunny location near a wall or where you can add a trellis, net, or wire cage.
- Plant Spacing: If planting in the garden, space 3'–10' apart.
- Plant Height & Width: The first year, plants will grow to about 4'–6' tall and 2'–3' wide. By the end of the third season, they'll triple in size.
- Watering: Water upon planting. Their soil likes to remain damp during their growing season.
- Fertilizer: They respond to feeding with a high-bloom fertilizer. Twice a month is sufficient.
- Temperature Zones: Zones 5–9. When nights stay above 40°F, place your plants outside and leave them there. They can withstand winter temperatures to -20°F.
- Lighting: In the summer growing season, full sun is the absolute best. Otherwise, a half day of sun is sufficient.
- Blooming: Under correct conditions, blooming begins in mid-spring and lasts well into fall starting the second season.
- Dormancy: These plants may or may not lose all of their foliage in the winter.
- Pruning: Pruning isn't necessary. You may prune after flowering each season to about half the plant's current height. This encourages branching. In addition, if you prune some of the vines all of the way to the ground, more shoots will occur from the ground up next spring. Otherwise, let them grow to full maturity, about 10'–12' high or long.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Can honeysuckle grow in containers?
A: Yes. Re-pot the plants at least 15" separately or together inside one larger container. As a climber, they will need a trellis, cage, or post to cling onto. During the growing season, pinch back vines from time to time to assure dense growth.
Q: Do honeysuckle have thorns like most climbing vines?
A: No, they're thorn-less.
Q: Do honeysuckle have a fragrance?
A: Some varieties do have a fragrance while others do not. All of the varieties are filled with abundant nectar for hummingbirds.
Q: Why have I seen little growth in the honeysuckle shipped to me?
A: Depending on the season, your plant may ship as a dormant plant. While a dormant plant may appear to be dead, think of it as just being asleep or hibernating. Rest assured that the root system is very healthy. The arrival of warmer temperatures and longer days will wake the plant from its winter dormancy. Plant as soon as possible and be patient.