The sucking on honeysuckle nectar to cherished memory pipeline is a short one. With its sweet scent, this garden favorite has about 180 species that grow throughout North America, Europe, and China. As vines or shrubs, fast-growing honeysuckle's trumpeted flowers bring a pop of whimsy to any backyard. We've got all the details on how to grow honeysuckle, care for its vines, and find the variety that makes your heart sing.
Get to Know Honeysuckle
If you're not a card-carrying plant parent, then you might only recognize honeysuckle by its sweet nectar. But, this large flowering bush can be a delightful addition to any yard or garden.
| Scientific name: Lonicera
Common name: Honeysuckle
Planting time: spring or fall
Bloom time: variable; usually spring
Uses: vine; shrub border or hedge
| Kingdom: Plantae
Species: L. sempervirens; L. nitida; L. fragrantissima
| Height: vines to 25 feet; shrubs to 10 feet
Spread: 2 to 10 feet
Growth rate: rapid
Flower: scented, bell-shaped
Seed: berries are red, blue or black, depending on species; most are poisonous
| Light Requirement: sun; some species tolerate light shade
Soil: average; some species tolerate alkaline soil
Drought Tolerance: usually good
Soil Salt Tolerance: some species are tolerant
Honeysuckle vines are impressive and can grow up to 25 feet long. This basic variety produces intricate nectar-scented flowers that grow up to two inches long.
On top of being lovely on the eyes, honeysuckle vines are a powerful magnet for all sorts of wildlife.
- Hummingbirds love to feed off honeysuckle flowers.
- Many other birds will visit to eat the red or black berries.
- Butterfly larvae will eat the leaves.
- Humans beware — some parts of the honeysuckle are poisonous if ingested!
If you're looking for a shrub, the bush-type honeysuckle grows from 3'-15' tall. Not only do they tend to form many branches at the base which can be perfect for birds to perch on, but they also have many other appealing aspects.
- They make excellent privacy hedges or screening plants.
- Folks love to use them as a shrub border.
It's a Landscaping Darling
For centuries, honeysuckles have been valued additions to ornamental gardens. From ground cover to hanging off fences, trellises, and arbors, honeysuckle plants are still a go-to for many landscape designers today.
Known for being fast-growing, honeysuckle is a perennial and often reaches its full blooming potential in three years.
Pollinators Love It
The sweet nectar from the tubular blossoms attracts butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, and moths. Expect to see a variety of birds chirping around the bush as well.
How to Plant & Care For Honeysuckles
Most honeysuckles can grow in zones 4 to 8. All varieties need full sun to partial shade and moist, well-drained soil. Easy for even the novice gardener, these plants aren't particularly fussy about what soil they're planted in, and they'll grow almost anywhere they can get enough sun.
- First, till the soil to a depth of 12-15 inches.
- Work three inches of compost into the soil.
- Next, dig a hole slightly larger than your honeysuckle's root ball.
- Remove the plant carefully from its pot, and place it in the hole.
- Fill the hole so that the top of the root ball is level with the top of the ground.
- Water thoroughly.
It may take you a minute to get used to honeysuckle's specific maintenance routine, but once you know what it likes best, you should see it thrive.
- Water: Water your plant once a week the first year after planting. After that, it'll only need water during a drought.
- Fertilize: Fertilize your plant with a balanced fertilizer (10-10-10) at the beginning of the growing season. Repeat halfway through the blooming season.
- Prune: Pruning times vary. If your honeysuckle develops blooms on new growth, prune in the winter when it's dormant. If the plant blooms on old growth, prune directly after the blooming stops, and only the areas that once had blooms.
Honeysuckle Varieties for the Garden
Honeysuckle — and all its varieties — is a beloved choice for gardens. These are some standouts we adore.
Common Vine (Lonicera periclymenum)
You can experience this honeysuckle's intoxicating scent on many country roads in early summer — especially since they grow wild in multiple zones. The scent alone makes it worth adding to your own garden.
With a bit of romantic flair, the common vine climbs fences, shrubs, trees, and posts. The blooms are white or pink. And if the flowers are white, they change to a delightful golden yellow as they age.
Dropmore Scarlet (Lonicera x brownii)
For a bit more drama, choose Dropmore Scarlet with its rich, crimson-red flowers. These florals last throughout summer (unlike the common variety) though their fragrance is lighter and less noticeable.
It's just as hardy, however, and grows well in zones 4-9. Like the common honeysuckle, it's a vine that needs a fence, trellis, or some other support for growth.
Gold Flame (Lonicera 'Gold Flame')
Gold Flame bears bright golden-orange flowers on a vine. This variety loves having plenty of room to spread out. If it's happy with its conditions, it'll stretch 15 feet or more and provide you with plenty of fragrant flowers.
It's hardy from zones 6-9 and like Dropmore Scarlet, it blooms all summer long.
Cape (Tecoma capensis)
The Cape variety's natural inclination is to grow and trail like a vine, but you can train it into a shrub-like form if you vigorously prune it each year. It's an evergreen, which makes it unusual among the honeysuckle family.
It produces pops of bright orange or reddish-orange flowers. This variety needs the warmth of deep south or tropical zones 9 or 10. If you leave it to grow as a vine, it'll grow 25' long or more, so give it plenty of space and room to climb.
Winter (Lonicera fragrantissima)
Winter is also an evergreen, but unlike the Cape variety, this one grows as far north as gardening zone 5 and as far south as zone 9. It also has a natural bush form, which makes it ideal for borders and privacy.
The Winter variety also has pretty white flowers that are about half an inch long and emit a soft and sweet fragrance.
You often find honeysuckle in tea, but it's also used as an essential oil and in many perfumes. It's even known to be a symbol of love and devotion in some folklore.
Colorful Honeysuckles to Consider
By including more colors and a variety of leaves, these honeysuckle-type plants offer beautiful hues. These honeysuckles can bloom from early spring on and are a great pick for any burgeoning garden.
- Goat Honeysuckle: With clustered flowers in yellow and blue, this vining variety has long tubes that are very fragrant. They bloom in May and June, followed by yellowish berries that develop in autumn.
- Lonicera Flava: This vine loves a sunny wall and has broad, oval leaves with a pale green beneath. Its gorgeous florals are clustered in a rich yellow.
- Chinese Honeysuckle: Preferring a bit of shade but moist soil, this perennial shrub-type variety is vigorous and hardy. You'll love the large yellow flowers it produces.
- Woodbine Honeysuckle: Numerous varieties of this species have sprung up either wild or under cultivation. There are a variety of floral colors that bloom brightly around midsummer.
Beware These Invasive Varieties
Several honeysuckle species were originally imported to North America to use as ornamental plants or to control erosion. But like pythons in Florida, these honeysuckle species have proven to be highly invasive, and shouldn't be planted in your garden.
- Japanese Honeysuckle or Hall's Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)
- Morrow's (Lonicera morrowii)
- Amur (Lonicera maackii)
- Lonicera standishii
- Lonicera tartarica
Turn Your Garden Into a Bevy of Activity
Honeysuckles are a beacon for activity. Kids love to pluck their petals and suck on them, birds can't get enough of their nectar, and little critters find shelter under their leaves. Bring your garden back to life by planting one of these beautiful honeysuckle bushes or vines.