Honeysuckle (Lonicera) – The Complete Guide

Modesty is the trump card for the honeysuckle when it comes to caring measures. In contrast, the ornamental shrub offers a lot when it comes to flowering splendor and autumnal fruit decoration.

Planting Honeysuckle Properly

September and October are busy months in nurseries because now is planting time for the most beautiful ornamental shrubs.

If the honeysuckle gets into the ground at this time of year, the shallow roots will find perfect conditions for vigorous growth.

Follow these steps to succeed in planting honeysuckle:

  • Create spacious planting pits at intervals appropriate to the variety.
  • Enrich the excavation with sieved compost, leaf mould, and horn shavings.
  • Place a potted root ball in the center of each hole.
  • Fill with substrate so that it reaches just below the first pair of leaves.
  • Do not plant deeper than the honeysuckle was planted before.

Watering generously and spreading a mulch layer of leaves, grass clippings, or bark mulch will set the stage for vital rooting until the first frost.

Care Tips

Proper care for honeysuckle does not require extensive gardening knowledge. That’s how simple the care program is:

  • Water during summer drought and winter frost.
  • Start the season in March with an initial fertilizer application.
  • Then fertilize organically every 14 days until August with compost and horn shavings.
  • Prune the plant either after flowering or in late winter.

Young honeysuckles require winter protection in the year of planting by covering the young roots with leaves or brushwood.

Which Location is Suitable for Honeysuckle?

Settled in the right location, the maintenance requirements are reduced to a minimum. Although the honeysuckle thrives in almost all locations, it shows its best appearance under the following conditions:

  • Sunny, semi-shaded location to light shade.
  • Nutrient-rich, humus-rich, and freshly moist soil.
  • Loose, well-drained soil without waterlogging.
  • Slightly acidic, neutral or minimally alkaline pH.

Consequently, this ornamental shrub is an excellent choice when elongated hedges extend over a distance with varying light conditions.

The Right Planting Distance for Honeysuckles

The majestic honeysuckle with a height and width of up to 14 ft (4 m) requires a planting distance of 8-10 ft (2.5-3 m) to form an opaque hedge.

More graceful varieties do wonderfully with 1 plant per ft (0.3 m). The rather dwarf box honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida) forms a gapless row of plants when 2 to 3 specimens are planted per ft (0.3 m).

When is Flowering Time for Honeysuckle?

In the majority of cases, honeysuckle species and varieties derived from them present their pretty flowers from May to June.

Lonicera kamtschatica surprises with an extra early flowering from March, which subsequently provides edible berries already from June.

So that you do not have to do without decorative splashes of color in the garden during the cold season, the winter-flowering honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) is ready with a flowering period from December to April.

Pruning Honeysuckle Properly

Your cultivation intentions define the choice of the optimal time for pruning honeysuckle. We have compiled the key premises below for your guidance:

  • Prune immediately after flowering, when growth of the poisonous red berries is not desired.
  • Alternatively, prune the honeysuckle into shape in late winter, in time for new shoots to appear.

Each year, the lushly branching honeysuckle demands to be thoroughly thinned out.

Regardless of the time of pruning, we recommend cutting all deadwood at the base in February/March. At the same time, frozen back shoot tips can be shortened to healthy wood.

Watering Honeysuckle

Under normal weather conditions, watering cans or garden hoses are rarely used. Experience shows that the rainfall covers the water requirement for honeysuckle.

Only during very dry summer periods should you water the honeysuckle thoroughly in the early morning or late evening.

Overhead watering should be the exception, as the splashing water detracts from the beauty of flowers and fruits and promotes fungal diseases.

Fertilizing Honeysuckle

A regular supply of nutrients gives honeysuckles enough energy for brisk growth, opulent blooms, and numerous berries.

Mineral-organic start-up fertilization with a complete fertilizer in March gets the woody plant on track. Subsequent 14-day applications of compost and horn shavings ensure a constant supply of food for the roots.

Stop fertilizing in August so that the shoots can mature in time for winter.

Wintering Honeysuckle

For the most part, the species and varieties of honeysuckle are completely hardy. However, in the year of planting, we advise light winter protection for the young roots.

If you cover the ground with coniferous brushwood or foliage, frost and permanent winter moisture can not cause any damage.

After a severe winter, the tips of the shoots are often frozen back. Thanks to the first-class pruning tolerance, this shortcoming is corrected in the course of pruning.

Please keep in mind that some woody plants retain their foliage into late winter or thrive evergreen. Therefore, there is still a need for watering in the absence of rain and snow.

Propagating Honeysuckle

The uncomplicated care of honeysuckle is rounded off by the equally uncomplicated propagation. Without much fuss, you can simply grow more specimens with cuttings.

To do this, cut 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) long, half-woody shoots in summer. Defoliate them in the lower half, and then plant them in pots with a lean substrate.

Rooting proceeds rapidly if you keep them constantly moist in a semi-shaded, warm location. By fall, a cutting has transformed into a vigorous young plant and can be planted out.

Is Honeysuckle Poisonous?

Honeysuckles with berries in red or black color come across as poisonous beauties. Various toxic ingredients, such as saponins and alkaloids, are responsible for that.

Species and varieties with blue-colored berries serve as a useful alternative so that you do not have to do without the robust, easy-care flowering and fruiting shrub in the family garden.

These fruits are not particularly tasty. But at least, they do not pose a health hazard to humans and animals.

Beautiful Varieties

  • Tatarian Honeysuckle ‘Arnold Red’ (Lonicera tatarica): This variety comes with blue-red flowers and deep red berries. The growth height and width are up to 14 ft (4 m).
  • Dwarf honeysuckle ‘Clavey’s Dwarf’ (Lonicera xylosteum): A dense bushy variety with rounded stature, white-yellow flowers and red fruits. The growing height is 5-8 ft (1.5-2.5 m).
  • Winter-flowering honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima): An impressive rarity with creamy-white flowers from December to April. The growth height is 6-10 ft (2-3 m).
  • Box-leaved honeysuckle (Lonicera pileata): An evergreen creeping hedge, ideal for slope planting and as ground cover. The growth height is 20-32 inches (50-80 cm).
  • Blue honeysuckle ‘Polar Bear’ (Lonicera caerulea): A honeysuckle variety with edible, blue-colored berries and early flowering from March. It looks beautiful in containers. The height of growth is 40-60 inches (100-150 cm).