Honeysuckle vines and shrubs are one of those low-maintenance plants that keep on giving. In the spring, their delicious aromas not only attract pollinators but our noses too. Follow these tips to grow your own honeysuckle and help it thrive so you can taste the sweet nectar it’s known for.
When I think of honeysuckle, I remember being a child and sipping on the sweet nectar. One of spring’s sweetest smelling flowers, I could locate a honeysuckle bush just by sniffing it out. I’d pick the flowers and suck out all the nectar from the plant.
I should have known then I would one day be a gardener. Now, I have my own honeysuckle vine nestled in my yard that produces fragrant blooms every late spring and early summer. I swear the hummingbirds stop by around this time just to seek out the honeysuckle!
One of the more unique-looking plants out there, it’s a beauty on the eyes in addition to our other senses. I want you to grow your own so you too can take in the aromas and sweet taste!
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Meet the Honeysuckle Plant
Lonicera spp. is a perennial plant that includes 180 species of shrubs and vines. Native throughout North America and northern Eurasia, honeysuckle is hardy in zones 5-9. In colder areas, the plant grows deciduous but remains evergreen in warmer regions.
Honeysuckle flowers are characterized by their tubular shape and two-lipped petals. The colorful flowers come in pinks, oranges, yellows, and whites, that sit atop dark green foliage. After the plant flowers, honeysuckle produces red berries.
Honeysuckle gets its name thanks to its sweet-smelling flowers. A particularly strong smell, it has notes of citrus and honey, sometimes being compared to Jasmine. Filled to the brim with nectar, the hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees are always stopping by.
When you first plant your honeysuckle, it can take up to three years to get those spectacular blooms. However, you may get a few blooms as early as the first year. They grow fairly fast (which is where they get their invasive nature from) and can live an average of twenty years in the garden.
Types of Honeysuckle
Before you plant your honeysuckle, you will want to decide what type of variety works best for your garden. Here are the two main categories for honeysuckle plants.
This is the more ornate form of the plant, wrapping around a support and offering a slight groundcover. Trumpet honeysuckle (L. sempervirens) is one of the most popular varieties of honeysuckle vines, producing a flower with pink or red hues.
Another popular vining variety is the Japanese Honeysuckle (L. japonica). This variety can be very invasive and has white/yellow flowers. Some consider the Japanese honeysuckle a weed, especially in mild climates.
As the name suggests, honeysuckle shrubs have a bushier form and can even get to be the size of a small tree. They work as hedges and some varieties even grow in containers. Winter honeysuckle (L. fragrantissima) is the most common honeysuckle used for hedges and has white flowers.
The Sakhalin honeysuckle (L. maximowiczii var. sachalinensis) has a similar growth but with deep red flowers.
How to Plant Honeysuckle
Honeysuckle should be planted in early spring after the threat of frost has passed. Choose a location that gets plenty of sun and has well-draining moist soil. Honeysuckle plants can be tricky in the sense that they like to have their roots shaded but their stems in sunlight.
If you have a climbing variety, you will need to either plant the honeysuckle by a structure or add in support such as a pole, trellis, fence, etc. Set up your support before you plant the honeysuckle. The plant needs to be planted approximately 6-12 inches from the support.
Before planting, mix a good dose of compost into the soil. After planting, give the plant a deep watering focusing on the base of the plant.
Honeysuckles don’t require much effort once planted. But if you want plenty of blooms and a thriving plant, here’s how you’ll achieve it!
Honeysuckle prefers full sun, and is happiest with around six hours of sun a day. While they will tolerate partial shade, you won’t see as many blooms and could experience leaf loss. The scent is strongest in the sunlight too, so if you want to breathe in the heavenly aroma, choose the sun!
Honeysuckle vines like moist soil that still has adequate drainage. Since they will be against a structure, look out for blockage from fences or structures that don’t get any natural water. You can add a layer of mulch at the base of the plant to help retain water.
Organically rich soil will give you thriving honeysuckle. You can always add amendments to your soil to improve drainage and nutrients. Honeysuckle prefers acidic to moderately alkaline soil (which you can determine with a soil pH test).
Honeysuckle vines may need some initial encouragement to help them grow in a specific way. To get them up the trellis or pergola, gently tie the stems to the support with plastic tape. The stretchy material allows room for growth and won’t choke out the stems as they get bigger.
Honeysuckles require no specific pruning. You can prune your honeysuckle bush for shaping or anytime your honeysuckle vine stretches further than you want it. Pruning is best done in the fall when the plant begins dormancy.
Pests and Diseases
Like all of us, aphids also can’t get enough of honeysuckle. They prefer the sap from the leaves and the new shoots. You can typically control the aphid population by rinsing them away with a hose.
Besides aphids, you may also find spider mites, scale, and caterpillars (who can even chow down a whole plant). Keep an eye out as well for powdery mildew and various canker diseases.
How to Eat Honeysuckle
When our nose smells something so delightful, the instinct is to put it in our mouth! With honeysuckle, the nose won’t be wrong. Honeysuckle is filled with sweet nectar. It’s why the pollinators and birds love it so much!
To enjoy the nectar for yourself, pick the entire flower off the plant. Careful not to tip it over or you might spill the sweet nectar. Hold the flower close to your mouth and pinch the bottom to pull out the stamen. This floods your mouth with the nectar.
The leaves can also be eaten, but I assure you they won’t taste sweet like the flowers. As for the berries, skip those or you risk a trip to the doctor.
Frequently Asked Questions About Honeysuckle
Honeysuckle can grow either as a bush or a climbing vine. Honeysuckles are most identified by their tubular-shaped, two-lipped flowers that cluster at the end of the plant shoots. The flowers range in colour, often in shades of orange, pink, red, yellow, and white. They have oval-shaped leaves in dark green.
Honeysuckles vary in bloom times depending on the variety. Most often they bloom in the spring, ranging from March to May. Some continue into the summer and early fall.
Winter honeysuckle, as its name suggests, starts to flower as early as December.
Yes! The flowers are filled with nectar that you can tip into your mouth for a delicious treat. While the leaves are edible, most do not choose to eat them. Avoid the poisonous berries.
Enjoy the flavour of your new favourite flower! If you have any more questions about growing and caring for honeysuckle, leave them in the comments down below.