Tree that looks like honeysuckle

Habitats | Origin and Introduction | Identification | Impacts | Prevention and Control | New York Distribution Map

Several species of honeysuckle found in NY are characterized as invasive, including: Morrow’s honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii), Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica), Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), and Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica). To the non-botanist, native and invasive non-native honeysuckles appear very similar. One way to distinguish between native and invasive honeysuckles is by looking at the stems – native honeysuckles have solid stems while invasive honeysuckles have hollow stems.


All four species are successful invaders of a similar range of habitats, including: abandoned fields; pastures; early successional, open canopy, and planted forests; along the edge of woodlots; floodplains; highway, railway and utility rights-of-way; open disturbed areas; vacant lots; edges of lawns; and, gardens. L. japonica can also be found in agricultural fields. All four grow best in full sun; L. japonica is the most shade-tolerant of the four, with L. tatarica and L. maackii being semi-shade tolerant.

Origin and Introduction

L. tatarica is native to Central Asia and Southern Russia and is believed to have been introduced into North America for ornamental purposes as early as the 1750s. L. japonica, – a native of China, Japan and Korea – was introduced for horticultural purposes in 1806 on Long Island; it was widely distributed as a garden plant through the early-1900s when it was finally recognized as a weed. L. maackii, also native to China, Japan and Korea, was introduced as seeds to arboreta throughout the U.S. in the late-1800s to determine whether the plant would grow in North America. This species of honeysuckle was utilized as a soil stabilization and wildlife planning until the mid-1980s and is still available for sale on-line. L. morrowii, a native of Japan, was imported to Massachusetts in the 1860s and was later released as an ornamental. All four species have escaped cultivation and are easily spread by birds.


L. morrowii, L. tatarica, and L. maackii), are perennial shrubs; L. japonica is a perennial woody vine (although its leaves can remain green throughout mild winters). The shrub forms range from 6 to 15 feet in height, while vines can reach 30 feet in length. The egg-shaped leaves range from 1 to 3 inches in length and are arranged oppositely along stems. Invasive honeysuckles begin flowering from May to June and bear small (less than 1 inch long), very fragrant tubular flowers ranging from creamy white through various shades of pink to crimson. L. morrowii and L. tatarica produce ¼ inch red berries from mid-summer through early-fall; L. maackii’s dark-red berries don’t ripen until late-fall; L. japonica produces dark-purple or black berries in the fall. Stems of all four are hollow.


All three species can form very dense populations that can outcompete and suppress the growth of native plant species. These dense stands suppress the growth of other native species. L. maackii leafs out very early in spring, giving it a competitive advantage over native plants. L. japonica leaves are semi-evergreen allowing the plant to grow longer into the winter and giving it a competitive advantage over native vegetation. It shades out understory growth preventing the success of native understory plants and tree seedlings. Its vigorous vine growth covers native trees; the weight of the vine growth can bring down weak trees. By decreasing light availability to the understory, these invasive honeysuckles can alter habitats by depleting soil moisture and nutrients. The invasive honeysuckle berries do not contain the amount of fat and nutrients present in native honeysuckle berries; eating large amounts of the less nutritious invasive berries rather than native berries can have negative impacts on migrating.

Prevention and Control

Because these plants spread rapidly via birds eating seeds, control should be started in late-summer or early-fall before seeds are ready to be dispersed. In early stages of invasion, or in cases where populations are at low levels, hand removal of honeysuckle seedlings or young plants is a viable option when repeated annually. Systemic herbicides can be utilized in cases of heavy infestation. Specific state rules should be followed and the appropriate (low environment impact, legally labeled for control of these plants) herbicides should be used. For invasive honeysuckles growing in open habitats, prescribed burning may be an effective control alternative.

New York Distribution Map

This map shows confirmed observations (green points) submitted to the NYS Invasive Species Database. Absence of data does not necessarily mean absence of the species at that site, but that it has not been reported there. For more information, please visit iMapInvasives.

To love honeysuckle, plant the right one in the right spot

This undated photo shows trumpet honeysuckle in New Paltz, N.Y. Unlike some other species of honeysuckle, trumpet honeysuckle is sedate enough to make a good garden plant — and it blooms all summer long. (Lee Reich via AP) This undated photo shows trumpet honeysuckle in New Paltz, N.Y. Unlike some other species of honeysuckle, trumpet honeysuckle is sedate enough to make a good garden plant — and it blooms all summer long. (Lee Reich via AP)

Who couldn’t love a plant with a name that speaks of both sweetness and nurturing? Yet there are those who scorn honeysuckle. And — just as bad — there are those who shower honeysuckles with too much affection.

The key to experiencing honeysuckle’s sweet side is having the right plant in the right place. The name “honeysuckle” can refer to any of the almost 200 species in Lonicera, the honeysuckle genus, not to mention all the varieties within each species. They vary considerably in appearance, growth habit and, shall we say, exuberance.


Hall’s honeysuckle, deciduous in northern regions and increasingly evergreen as you travel south, is a vine that bears extremely fragrant, yellowish flowers pretty much all summer long. Although it was welcomed enthusiastically when it arrived here from Asia in 1806, it subsequently spread with equal enthusiasm, leading some gardeners to curse it. Especially where winter cold does not keep growth in check, this plant swallows up banks, rocks, trees and shrubs. If you plant Hall’s honeysuckle, keep a watchful eye on it.

Amur honeysuckle, which releases a sweet aroma each spring from yellowish or pinkish blossoms, is another invader that draws critics. This robust shrub will grow as much as 10 feet high and wide, and as its stems arch to the ground, they can take root to create whole new shrubs, which do the same. The shiny, red berries, paired along the stems later in summer, capture our attention because they look so tasty. Birds like eating them and contribute to this honeysuckle’s spread, mostly to abandoned fields and the edges of woods, where it often does battle with the multiflora rose, another invasive shrub.


Not all honeysuckles threaten to take over the world. And these more timid species still abound in qualities. Take, for example, winter honeysuckle, a plant most appreciated in late winter or early spring. Its flowers, though not particularly showy, emit a powerful, lemony fragrance over a long period of time.

One of my favorite honeysuckles — one of my favorite plants, in fact — is trumpet honeysuckle. The flowers, unfortunately, have no fragrance, but they make up for that in ostentatious beauty with their clusters of long, red trumpets joined at their bases.

Another favorite of mine is woodbine honeysuckle. Its flowers are more subdued, in pastel purple, pink, and yellow, but they flare wide open and, according to some people (not me), have a fragrance.

Both trumpet and woodbine honeysuckle are twining vines that burst into bloom in early summer, then continue the show at a more restrained pace for almost the rest of the season. To me, every bare telephone pole cries out for this vine. I’ve clothed two.

One honeysuckle that gets high marks all around is Sakhalin honeysuckle. It’s a reasonably sized, rounded shrub with large, red flowers that are followed by red berries. An especially nice feature of this honeysuckle is the golden yellow fall color of its leaves. Despite all the other honeysuckles in the landscape — and some are frighteningly exuberant — let’s make an opening for this relative newcomer, introduced in 1917.


Two more honeysuckles, honeyberry honeysuckle and bearberry honeysuckle, are worth mentioning because of their blue, edible fruits that ripen very early in the season, even before strawberries. These berries have long been harvested in China, Russia and Japan, and the plants have recently been introduced here.

I haven’t found the berries to be particularly tasty. Then again, this is a new fruit, at the same point in development now as the apple may have been 2,000 years ago, so I’m willing to wait and see. I’ll assume that the nectar — which gives honeysuckles their name — is at least as sweet as that of other honeysuckles.

Types Of Honeysuckle Plants: How To Tell Honeysuckle Shrubs From Vines

For many people, the intoxicating fragrance of honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.) conjures up memories of pinching off the base of a flower and squeezing a single drop of sweet nectar onto the tongue. In fall, the flowers are replaced by bright-colored berries that draw cardinals and catbirds to the garden. You’ll find many honeysuckle varieties to choose from, with long-lasting flowers that bloom in shades of yellow, pink, peach, red and creamy white.

Different Kinds of Honeysuckles

The different types of honeysuckle include both shrubs and climbing vines. The vines climb by twining themselves around their supporting structure, and can’t cling to solid walls. Most need spring pruning to keep them from growing out of control and becoming a tangled mass of vines. They regrow quickly, so don’t be afraid to give them a severe cut.

Honeysuckle Vines

Trumpet honeysuckle (L. sempervirens) and Japanese honeysuckle (L. japonica) are two of the most ornamental of the honeysuckle vines. Both grow in USDA plant hardiness zones 4 through 9, but trumpet honeysuckle grows best in the Southeast while Japanese honeysuckle thrives in the Midwest. Both vines have escaped cultivation and are considered invasive in some areas.

Trumpet honeysuckle blooms in spring in shades of red and pink. Japanese honeysuckle produces pink or red blossoms from summer through early autumn. You can train both species to a trellis, or let it ramble as a ground cover. Mow vines used as ground cover with the blades set as high as they will go in late winter to get rid of the dead undergrowth and control the spread.

Honeysuckle Shrubs

When it comes to honeysuckle shrubs, winter honeysuckle (L. fragrantissima) — grown in USDA zones 4 through 8 — is an excellent choice for informal hedges or screens. It also makes a nice potted plant for areas where you will enjoy the lemony fragrance most. The first, creamy-white blossoms open in late winter or early spring and the bloom season continues for a long time.

Sakhalin honeysuckle (L. maximowiczii var. sachalinensis) — USDA zones 3 through 6 — grows into shrubs similar in appearance and habit to winter honeysuckle, but the flowers are deep red.

Some people find the fragrance of honeysuckle too strong for more than a brief exposure, and for them, there is freedom honeysuckle (L. korolkowii ‘Freedom’). Freedom produces unscented, white blossoms with a blush of pink. Despite their lack of fragrance, they still attract bees and birds to the garden.

Bush Honeysuckle


Bush honeysuckles (Lonicera spp.) are shrubs that can grow up to 12 feet tall. They include Amur Honeysuckle, Morrow’s Honeysuckle, Tatarian Honeysuckle, and Bell’s Honeysuckle. Native to Asia and Europe, these honeysuckles were introduced as ornamental landscape plants. Their leaf shape and flower color are variable.

The Problem

These plants invade fields, field edges, and forests. They produce leaves earlier in the spring than most native species, which gives them a competitive advantage.

The Solution

Control seedlings and small saplings by hand pulling or repeated cutting or mowing. Application of a systemic herbicide to the freshly cut stump of larger plants is generally effective. Some species of bush honeysuckle may invade wetland areas subject to the Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act; before taking action, check with the local conservation commission, and only apply herbicides registered for use in wetlands. Always read and follow the directions on the label when using herbicides.

Weed of the Month: Bush honeysuckle—an ornamental gone wrong

Mandy D. Bish
University of Missouri
(573) 882-9878

Kevin Bradley
University of Missouri
(573) 882-4039

Published: September 24, 2015

Figure 1: Bush honeysuckle growing in the understory of a forested area.

Figure 2: The leaves attach to the stem opposite of each other and are usually dark grown on the upper surface.

Bush honeysuckle, also referred to as Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), was introduced into the U.S. as an ornamental for city landscapes in 1897. The plant was promoted for soil stabilization and reclamation programs in the 1960’s. Bush honeysuckle is a relative to the native and non-invasive honeysuckles of the U.S.; however, its ability to easily establish and grow in many environments such as lake and stream banks, floodplains, meadows, prairies, and forests (Figure 1) warrants concern. Bush honeysuckle is rapidly spreading through forests in the northern U.S.1 where it is displacing native annuals and perennial herbs and disrupting species diversity1. This invasive plant can be found from the east coast to Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, and North Dakota and has been introduced in Oregon; it is listed as a noxious weed in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Vermont2. The plant’s invasive ability may in part be due to allelopathic effects on surrounding plants, a rapid growth rate relative to desirable plants, and the ability to tolerate moderate shade and outcompete neighboring plants for the available sunlight. Recent work by researchers in Ohio has shown that bush honeysuckle can also outcompete neighboring plants for water with its fine root system. The scientists found that the majority of bush honeysuckle’s roots are located within the top 5 inches of the soil1.

Figure 3: Bush honeysuckle produces pairs of white flowers where the leaves branch off the stem.

Bush honeysuckle seedlings emerge in the spring; the cotyledons are ovate to oblong and have an indentation at the apex. This deciduous shrub grows upright and can reach heights over 6 feet. The plants’ stems and branches are usually hollow, which is a characteristic that can help distinguish bush honeysuckle from the native, non-invasive honeysuckles, which have solid stems. Leaves are attached opposite to each other along the branch and can grow up to 3 and 1/2 inches long and 1 and 1/2 inches wide. Each leaf blade tapers to an elongated tip (Figure 2). The upper leaf surface is usually dark green and has no to few hairs; the lower leaf surface is a lighter green and has hairs along the leaf veins.

Figure 4: The distinct, red berries are produced in the fall and attract birds and other animals.

Unlike the native honeysuckles, which produce yellow flowers, bush honeysuckle produces white flowers from May into June. These flowers are fragrant and turn to a creamy yellow color as they age. Bush honeysuckle flowers occur in pairs at the junction of the stem where the leaves branch out. Flowers are approximately ¾ to 1 inch long and have 2 lips (Figure 3). The five petals of each flower are fused together to form the honeysuckle tube. In early fall, bush honeysuckle plants begin producing distinct, bright red berries that are approximately ¼ inch in diameter and contain 2 to 3 seeds each (Figure 4). Birds and white-tailed deer have been shown to eat the berries and aid in the spread of the weed3. In mid to late fall, the plant’s leaves will turn yellow (Figure 5) and then drop off, leaving bare shrubs that can provide effective camouflage for deer during November.

Identification of bush honeysuckle seedlings and hand pulling the young plants in early spring can be effective in preventing or minimizing infestations of the weedy shrub. Controlled burning in the spring can kill seedlings and the new growth of established plants. However, bush honeysuckle can readily resprout, therefore one burning will not control mature plants. Research indicates that mowing is only marginally effective at reducing infestations given the plant’s ability to sprout from the crowns following the cutting.

Figure 5: Bush honeysuckle leaves turn yellow in mid- to late-fall, then drop as winter approaches.

Two of the most effective chemical options for bush honeysuckle control are triclopyr (Remedy Ultra, Pasture Guard) and glyphosate (Roundup, Touchdown). University of Missouri research has shown that foliar applications of these herbicides are generally more effective than either cut-stump or basal bark applications. For foliar sprays, apply a 2 percent solution of the active ingredient in water with a nonionic surfactant in early spring or in the fall prior to the leaves changing color. It is important to note that glyphosate is a non-selective herbicide and will kill or injure non-target plants, such as legumes and grasses, which it contacts. Applications may be easiest in the fall, when surrounding non-target plants have already gone to dormancy and while the bush honeysuckle leaves are still green. For a cut-stump application, apply a 20 percent glyphosate solution with a sprayer or brush, thoroughly coating the freshly cut stump. Always check the herbicide label for instructions and confirmation of herbicide use rates.

To read more about bush honeysuckle or check out other common Missouri weeds, visit our Web site:

For more information on the control of weeds in forages, pastures, and noncrop areas, order a copy of the latest version of IPM1031:

1Pfeiffer SS and DL Gorchov (2015) The American Midland Naturalist 173(1): 38-46.

2USDA-NRCS Plants Database:

3Castellano SM and DL Gorchov (2013) Natural Areas Journal 33(1): 78-80.


Major species

Perfoliate, or sweet, honeysuckle (Lonicera caprifolium) is native to Eurasia but has become established in North America. Its clustered night-blooming purple-white flowers are pollinated mostly by night-feeding hawk moths, because the flower tubes are too long for most other insects to reach the nectar. The fruit is a red-orange berry.

Another climbing species is the giant Burmese honeysuckle (L. hildebrandiana), with 15-cm (6-inch) deep green leaves, 17-cm (7-inch) yellow flowers, and green berries. The Japanese honeysuckle (L. japonica) of eastern Asia has become an invasive species in many areas by growing over other plants and shutting out light. It has fragrant yellowish white flowers and black berries. Trumpet honeysuckle (L. sempervirens) has oval, sometimes joined leaves and climbs high in forest trees. Its orange-scarlet spikes of 5-cm (2-inch) tubular five-lobed flowers and red berries are common throughout eastern North America.

Orange honeysuckle (Lonicera ciliosa).© Weerasiri Abeytunge Get exclusive access to content from our 1768 First Edition with your subscription. Subscribe today

Woodbine, or European honeysuckle (L. periclymenum), native to Eurasia, twines to 6 metres (20 feet). Its whorled many-flowered clusters of yellowish purple-tinged blooms are followed by red berries. Some of the garden varieties of woodbine are prized for their delicious fragrance.

honeysuckleHoneysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum).Sannse

Some of the more widespread shrub honeysuckles are Tartarian honeysuckle (L. tartarica), from southeastern Europe and Siberia, and four Chinese species—winter honeysuckle (L. fragrantissima), privet honeysuckle (L. pileata), box honeysuckle (L. nitida), and lilac-flowered honeysuckle (L. syringantha).

Horrible, Wonderful Honeysuckle

Forgive me, but I’m terribly conflicted. I just walked by a plant that I love to see and smell in spring and hate to see anytime else. Japanese honeysuckle.

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This rampant vine has probably engendered more fond childhood memories than any other plant. Remember when the sudden surprise of honeysuckle fragrance told you that spring was here? Remember pinching off the end of the flower, pulling the thread-like pistil through, and being rewarded with a drop of sweet nectar? No kid ever said anything bad about honeysuckle.

But kids grow up and then they see the real damage honeysuckle does. First sold in this country in 1823, Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) found the Southeast very much to its liking. It quickly escaped cultivation and spread into woods and countryside. It has blanketed our landscapes ever since. Growing fast as a Gulf oil slick, it coils around trunks, branches, fence posts, sleeping Congressmen, and anything else within reach. It smothers plants below it and strangles trees and bushes it climbs. Today, it’s not uncommon to see whole woods entangled in honeysuckle vines. Hope there’s some Congressmen in there.

Trumpet-shaped and sporting long, spidery stamens, the showy flowers emerge white and then turn yellow with age. I’ve always thought that flowers turned yellow to show they’d been pollinated, but I don’t know that it’s true.

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Because it is such a noxious weed, you’d probably think nurseries wouldn’t sell Japanese honeysuckle.You’d be wrong. I just looked in a plant catalog and found four varieties for sale, including a variegated one and a purple-leafed one. All of these varieties are just as roguish as the species. As I do not wish to contribute to planetary decline, I’m not telling which nursery it is.

You can kill this vine by spraying it according to label directions with Roundup, but you have to be careful not to spray any plant you don’t want to kill. One way to get around this is to cut the top off a gallon milk jug, and fill it with Roundup mixed according to directions. Then scrunch as many of the stems and leaves into a ball as you can without tearing them from the plant and plunge them into the milk jug. Leave them there for a week. The plant will slowly absorb the chemical and die.

But do the sentimental Grump a favor. Don’t dispatch honeysuckle while it’s blooming. It’s our childhood’s smell of spring.

Sweet and Safe Magnolia

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If you love the scent of honeysuckle blooms, then magnolia blooms are for you. The perfume is wonderful and the tree is well-behaved. To learn everything you’ve always wanted to know about growing this classic Southern tree, click here.

The story behind honeysuckle ​
Climbing and trailing plants are very popular, because they grow upwards and therefore do not take up much space even in smaller gardens. Honeysuckle (scientific name: Lonicera) is one of them. The plant has the botanical, natural look that is so popular right now, complete with exuberant flowering on a relatively modest size area, with the ability to climb upwards and to trail along a fence, pergola or drainpipe. The flowers have a lovely scent; the fragrance is particularly released in the evening when it attracts evening pollinators like the silver Y moth and the hummingbird hawk-moth. During the day the flowers attract insects including bumblebees and honeybees, so it’s a real benefit for nature in the garden and the surrounding area.

Honeysuckle is a member of its own honeysuckle family, and grows mainly in the northern hemisphere. There are some 180 species, of which 100 occur in China, where many poems have been devoted to the plant. Alongside the cultivated garden varieties, honeysuckle also occurs extensively in the wild, particularly on the edge of thickets where the plant can get plenty of sun. The plant has been known to humans for centuries. The strong, flexible vines were already being used as far back as the Bronze Age to make rope.

Honeysuckle flowers are spectacular: a group of tubular petals accompanied by stamens and a selection of tendrils that surround and hang from them like a fringe. The flowers are often dark pink and golden white, although they also occur in other shades such as deep orange and purple and yellow. After flowering the plant produces red, blue or black berries. Honeysuckle is available in climbing varieties and deciduous and evergreen shrubs, so check what suits the position best. The plant will reach a height of between one and four metres, depending on the species, and flowers from June to the end of September/beginning of October.

What to look for when buying honeysuckle​
• The pot size, the number of stems and supports in the pot and the height of the plant must be proportion, and honeysuckle must be firmly rooted.
• If the plant is offered in bloom, check the ripeness and look for wilted flowers. In the absence of flowers an attractive label on the plant or sticker on the pot helps reinforce the appeal. It should include information on whether the honeysuckle species is deciduous or evergreen, and what colour the flowers will be.
• Honeysuckle must be free of pests and diseases when purchased. Make sure that there are no aphids or mildew on the plant and that brown leaves have been adequately removed.

Care tips for consumers​
• Honeysuckle likes a spot where the roots remain cool and the flowering upper part gets sun. The more sun the more flowers.
• Because the plant can easily wrap itself around other plants, it’s important to think about its neighbours and whether a vertical green carpet is desirable or whether there should be some space left in the garden. In the latter case it’s best to place honeysuckle in a more spacious spot.
• The soil can be a bit damp. Placing attractive stones around the stems both helps to keep the roots cool and prevents the unnecessary evaporation of water. Planting a low bush in front of it also provides some shade on the roots.
• Adding some dried cow manure once a month during the growth period from March to May helps keep the flowering going.
• There’s no need to prune, but you can prune it if necessary. The plant will shoot during the next flowering period.

Sales and display tips
At the time of sale honeysuckle is not the world’s most appealing plant. You can use the official Garden Plant of the Month images to give an impression of how beautiful the plant will look in a couple of weeks’ time. Displaying a couple of larger specimens with flowers in an attractive pot with a bistro set helps to create a summer atmosphere. Adding an insect hotel helps make clear how important honeysuckle is for wildlife in the garden and beyond. And finally you can provide scent strips as inspiration for how honeysuckle smells on a lovely summer evening. Perfumes with a high honeysuckle content are Eau de Givenchy and Aerin Lauder Mediterranean Honeysuckle.

Images of honeysuckle
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Honeysuckle poster
You can also download the poster below.

How to grow Lonicera common name Honeysuckle

One of the main reasons for growing Honeysuckle is for its scent and so it is important to pick a variety with good scent as not all varieties are as sweet and powerful. There are varieties which look very attractive and will produce good berries, but are not scented such as Lonicera × brownii ‘Dropmore Scarlet’.

The best varieties of Honeysuckle to grow for scent are Lonicera japonica ‘Halliana’ AGM image left, evergreen or semi-evergreen and a vigorous climber growing to around 10 meters. Note it really is vigorous and in the right place will make a very large climber so best to make sure you have space for it. Many gardeners complain that this variety is more mildew prone.

Another climber is L. periclymenum ‘Graham Thomas’ AGM which is a good variety, H6 which means it is hardy everywhere in the UK, deciduous, with a good perfume. It is illustrated above right and will reach around 7 meters. This tends to be the most highly praised of Honeysuckle and a good all round choice. Lots of creamy flowers all summer followed by bright berries.

Lonicera periclymenum ‘Heaven Scent’ which is as the name suggests, is very scented, and a fast growing fully hardy climber. It is more compact reaching around 3 meters.

Of the shrubby varieties those with scent are L. fragrantissima, which is less hardy, requires a sheltered spot and flowers in late winter and early spring. Also L. × purpusii ‘Winter Beauty’ another winter flower variety. Both grow to around 2.5-3 meters.

All honeysuckles produce lovely berries which are picked off by the birds in the autumn and winter. The scent of a Honeysuckle is strongest at dusk and is attractive to moths. Ideas for plants which are attractive to bees butterflies and birds

Honeysuckle can be prone to aphids and given their attraction to wildlife it is a shame to spray them. If aphids are a real problem, I tend to use soap and water to wash off the aphids. If blackspot is a problem you can prune off the worst affected after flowering and healthy growth should come back the following year.

Looking for winter scent The Winter flowering honeysuckle, L. fragrantissima, has the sweetest perfume of all, tips and growing advice.

Ideas for more Climbing plants and scented plants

Curtains of color and fragrance, exuberant Honeysuckle gives a lavish display of delicate blooms on a tough, trouble-free climber.

The vines climb by twining and winding their stems around branches of other plants or supports, such as twine or rope, wire fencing of a trellis.

Clustered blooms are 4-5cm long in beautiful shades of red, pink, white or yellow. The oval to spade-shaped leaves, which grow up to 8 cm long, are deciduous or evergreen. The fragrant flowers are followed by red or yellow berries in autumn.

The most familiar Honeysuckle flowers are narrow, flared tubes. Hall’s Honeysuckle bears sweetly scented, white flowers that age to yellow on a rampant, spreading vine with dark green leaves.

The less aggressive Gold-net variety has similar flowers, but its green leaves are attractively veined and netted in yellow.

Other Honeysuckles have flowers shaped like trumpets. Unscented orange, red or yellow blooms with yellow stamens decorate the 6 meter Trumpet variety. In a mild winter, the vigorous vine will retain some of its leaves.

Pliable stems let you train plants in a variety of ways, making this versatile vine suitable for many areas.

Use the largest growing varieties as sweet-scented, flowering screens, to cover garden sheds, and to quickly provide leafy, overhead shade on pergolas.

Allow these luxuriant vines to blanket hillsides, where they will create fragrant ground-covers. Plant the smaller cultivars where they can become pillars of color on posts or tree trunks. Train them to decorate a wall, to create a flowering fringe along a fence top or beneath eaves, or simply let stems wind through a trellis.

Bountiful Honeysuckles can furnish color and fragrance behind, or twining among, plantings of other sun-loving shrubs and perennials.

The firecracker red flowered ‘Dropmore Scarlet’ variety makes a striking companion to the saucer-like, intense yellow blooms of shrubby St John’s Wort. Use this 4 meter showy perennial as a backdrop to a mass planting of Roses with blooms of cream and orange shades.

Bright gold forsythia, white and cool-colored Phlox and the azure haze of Caryopteris are lovely mates for a shower or the red and gold, fragrant blooms of either the Gold Flame cultivar or the variety ‘Firecracker’, which as bright red flowers.

The yellow-centered, purple flowers of L. periclymenum are striking in combination with orange-yellow Heliopsis ‘Patula’.


1. Install trellis. Dig a hole 30 cm from the trellis as deep as the plant’s rootball and twice as wide. Mix a shovelful of compost into the soil.

2. Remove the plant from its container and check the rootball. Lightly rough up its surface, loosening any circling roots.

3. Place in the planting hole so the top of its rootball is level with the soil surface. Fill in with compost-soil mixture.

4. Water the newly planted Honeysuckle to establish good root-soil contact. Apply a mulch of compost or Pine needles.

5. Secure stems with ties as the young plant grows. In time, stems will twine around and through the support provided.

To propagate plants, remove all but the upper leaves from a low stem. Bend the stem to the ground and cut at soil level. Bury 2cm deep; the new plant will root by next summer.

Buying tips

Buy container-grown evergreen Honeysuckles with healthy, green foliage. Purchase deciduous types with healthy buds and no leaves. Avoid plants that have outgrown their containers, as root-bound plants will take longer to establish.

Growing conditions

Full sun to partial shade is required. The best planting situation is where the roots are shaded, but where the stems can grow up into the sunlight. All varieties need average, well-drained soil. During dry periods, water thoroughly and regularly.

Training tips

To train Honeysuckle to climb a wall or other flat surface, provide sturdy string supports or a trellis for stems to twine around. The Lonicera japonica variety is very vigorous, and may become a problem unless routinely trimmed.

Seasonal tips

Late winter-early spring: Planting

Plant evergreen varieties as the weather warms up.

Summer: Watering and spraying pests

Water plants during dry periods. Hall’s variety will tolerate some drought. If necessary, spray aphids with insecticidal soap.

Autumn: Pruning

After plants have finished flowering, thin out tangled stems and prune out old, weak and excess growth.

Winter: Planting

In warm-weather areas, plant deciduous Honeysuckle varieties while the plants are still leafless.

Powdery mildew forms grey to white, felt-like patches on leaves, causing leaves to turn yellow and sometimes deforming flower buds. Remove infected leaves and branches. If infestation is severe, spray with a fungicide recommended for use on powdery mildew.


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The MANY Faces of Honeysuckle

Q. My wife had a black chain link fence installed to contain our two dogs. I think it looks God awful and want to cover it with something. My parents have been singing the praises of honeysuckle and just about had me convinced—until one of my coworkers rolled her eyes at me and explained that her honeysuckle had gone berserk and was now strangling all the other plants in her yard. So—who’s right?

    —Justin in Roxborough, PA

I grew up in Northern New Jersey in the 1950s; a friend grew up in eastern PA in the 1970s. We both remember a honeysuckle that, when you pulled off the flower & sucked the end, you got a drop of nectar. The dreaded L. japonica doesn’t look like what we remember; and I don’t recall “our honeysuckle” as being invasive. I remember the flowers being white & yellow. Do you have any idea which honeysuckle this could be? We both want to plant it. Thanks!

    —Karen, now in Perkasie, PA

A. The honeysuckle genus (Lonicera) is enormous, with 180 naturally occurring species and a dizzying number of hybrids. Most honeysuckles are vines, although a few are shrubs. Most are reliably winter hardy, although a few, like the prized giant Burmese honeysuckle, are purely tropical. Many are fragrant; some have no scent at all. The flowers can be white, yellow, a combination of white and yellow or a bright red that is among the best attractors of hummingbirds.

The honeysuckle that triggers intense childhood memories of fragrance and flower sucking, and the one that is by far the most invasive member of the family is L. japonica, the beloved and despised Japanese honeysuckle. Often referred to as “Hall’s honeysuckle” after the most famous cultivar, its flowers open up white, age to yellow and contain so much nectar that you can get a pretty good sugar rush sucking flowers during the blooming season. If you are overwhelmed by an outdoor fragrance in the early summer so heady it makes you weak in the knees, it’s probably Japanese honeysuckle.

And if you have sent me a panicked email or made a frantic phone call about a vine from hell taking over your entire neighborhood, it’s probably Japanese honeysuckle. This vine is a rampant grower, spreads both underground and above ground by shoots ‘tip rooting’ in the soil, and by producing berries that are very attractive to birds, who avidly consume and then replant them a while later. Oh; and look—they fertilized it too!

Many garden writers have a love/hate relationship with the plant, officially despising it while occasionally admitting that the fragrance and nectar are unparalleled. In the end, however, it is SO invasive that you have to tell people not to plant it. (Although you generally don’t have to actually plant it to have it; Lady japonica showed up on my backyard ‘dog fence’ a decade ago and persists despite my yearly cutting it back.)

But you can still plant ‘a honeysuckle’ to cover a fence; just choose one of the many, non-invasive species—some of which are nicely fragrant. Back when I was the editor of ORGANIC GARDENING magazine, writer Jeff Cox explained in an article on flowering vines that the “luscious woodbine” extolled by Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night’s Dream was actually the woodbine honeysuckle (L. periclymenum ), a sweet smelling European native that is much better behaved than its Asian cousin. There are a large number of named varieties, all of which are wonderfully ornamental.

In a classic book on the subject, “Armitage’s Vines & Climbers”, University of Georgia Professor Allan Armitage recommends Gold flame (Lonicera x heckrottii), a hybrid honeysuckle whose deep red flowers open to yellow, with a scent that is “pleasant, but will not knock you over”. He also likes the native American Trumpet honeysuckle (L. sempervirens ), whose red tubular flowers are legendary hummingbird magnets. Although a few gardeners have reported fragrance from this species (mostly in blogs on the Internet), Armitage and other experts say it is not fragrant—and the tireless researchers at the famed library of the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society agree. But Armitage (and many others) otherwise highly recommend it as a well-behaved and very ornamental flowering vine.

Italian honeysuckle (L. caprifolium) is heavily scented, its yellow flowers are tinged with pink, and the berries that follow are orange and highly ornamental. Lonicera x americana (in plant names an x in the middle defines a hybrid variety) would seem to be at least half native, but it’s actually a cross between two European varieties (go figure). Its heavily scented flowers are yellow flushed with a reddish purple.

And that’s just the tip of the honeysuckle iceberg. The short answer (as if I could ever deliver a short answer) is that the honeysuckle of remembered youth is probably japonica, and it is invasive. (Armitage, who greatly admires the look and scent, is finally forced to conclude that “there are too many reasons to stay away from this plant.” )

But that leaves dozens of well-behaved cousins with intoxicating color and/or fragrance and/or hummingbird attraction for you to choose from; just pick the non-invasive variety that has the characteristics you require.

And if you should happen to stumble onto a clump of Lady japonica in full bloom in the woods, feel free to suck all the sweet nectar you want. Just leave the pruners at home….

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