Honeysuckle 101: Growing and Tips for Plant Care
Honeysuckle carries a name that is very suitable for its beautiful flowers and sweet scent. Honeysuckle, or Lonicera, is one of the most popular garden plants due to its versatility and resistance to heat. There are over a hundred varieties of honeysuckle that are spread throughout the United States. In warmer regions especially, honeysuckle is evergreen and its beautiful yellow flowers attract all kinds of birds and butterflies. It’s a great addition to any garden and caring for it is quite easy. So, in this article, we’re going to look at tips on how to grow and care for honeysuckle and what mistakes to avoid so that you can enjoy everything the plant has to offer.
How to Plant Honeysuckle
Keep in mind that there are two types of honeysuckle: the most common is the climbing variety and then there are the shrubs that can do well in containers as well. However, it is best to offer it some support or have the container hung so the vines spread naturally and won’t be constricted.
It’s important to remember that honeysuckles prefer the sun. They will tolerate partial sun and some light shade. However, don’t be afraid to place them in the sunniest spot of your garden. If the summer is very dry, then you will have to be careful with watering them moderately.
Generally, the honeysuckle will tolerate any type of soil but the best option is to plant them in a soil that is well drained and mixed with organic matter. Plant them at an 18 inches depth. You can also mulch the roots with leaves to protect them during winter and keep them moist in the summer.
Also, before buying fertilizer, be sure to check the label. Honeysuckle does best with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer applied at the beginning of a growing season and once more in the middle of the blooming season. Excess fertilizer will damage the flowering so try to keep the pH between 6.1 and 7.8.
Use a Trellis
Help the vines grow nicely by supporting your honeysuckle against a trellis. It will grow and cover it in no time. However, leave a 6 to 12-inch space between them to let the honeysuckle develop. You can use nylon fibers to tie the vines to the support as they can stretch and not cut into the stems. Cross the material between the support and the vines to avoid the stems rubbing together.
Be sure to check the lower portion of the vine and see if it’s gotten dry and woody. Due to the fact that it grows larger and lusher, it might shade the roots. You can thin out the top half of the vine to keep the entire plant healthy. Or you can use a pole as support or let the honeysuckle grow against the fence.
Some varieties of honeysuckle do well in containers too. Be sure to water them regularly and apply the 10-10-10 fertilizer at the beginning of growing season. A small trellis for support is a good addition. Or you can hang the container and the vines loose.
Pruning is a very good practice to keep your honeysuckle under control. Because it grows so easy so quickly, it might become invasive in your garden. Don’t be afraid to give it a good clipping if you feel it’s taken too much space. The vines will grow right back in spring. Keep in mind not to jump too quickly into action. Honeysuckle vines should be left to grow for two years before pruning.
Pruning is best done out of the blooming season, in fall or winter. It’s good if it becomes an annual practice as it keeps the vine within the boundaries you’d like. Other than that, caring for honeysuckle vines is not very difficult.
When it comes to pruning honeysuckle, look for the stems that are dead or diseased. Cut them from the point where it joins another stem or just beyond a leaf node to shorten them. You can also remove stray stems or stems that grow into the wrong direction.
If you neglect to prune your honeysuckle, it will overgrow and tangle. Plus, the shade from the top half is going to affect the base. If the case calls for a severe pruning, it’s better to do it so that the plant will rejuvenate in time and not leave a gap in your garden.
Severe pruning refers to cutting the honeysuckle back to only a foot from the ground. This should be done in winter, out of the blooming season. Keep the soil moist to help the plant regenerate better. Keep in mind that it will not bloom the following spring as it takes some time to rejuvenate so don’t lose hope, honeysuckle is a very sturdy plant.
Tips on Winter Honeysuckle
Winter honeysuckle is not as colorful but the wonderful fragrance is still there. It does very well in full sun, of course, but it will tolerate partial shade as well. A well-drained soil works just as well.
Winter honeysuckle can grow to 6 or 10 feet tall so don’t be afraid to prune it heavily. This time, the best time to prune it is right after flowering. Also, be careful when planting winter honeysuckle shrubs as it might be considered invasive. The birds and tiny animals that it attracts might carry the seeds to other places where they will take root.
A good option is to plant winter honeysuckle indoors. You can cut the stems after the flower buds have grown and place them in a container with water. Forcing honeysuckle into bloom indoors is not a difficult task as the plant is very adaptive.
Tips on Japanese Honeysuckle
Japanese honeysuckle is considered an invasive plant that can be damaging to the environment. It spreads quickly regardless of the environment, but northern temperatures keep them in check. In Midwestern or southern states, they are always a problem so it’s best to avoid this variety.
Japanese honeysuckle is entirely dark green with hollow stems and dark purple berries. Be sure to differentiate it from your usual variety before you try and control it.
Cut the vines as close to the ground as possible and treat the ends with undiluted glyphosate concentrate. If you have a larger portion to deal with, you can spray the ends with 5% solution of glyphosate. Make sure to concentrate only on the Japanese sprouts as the solution is very toxic and might kill other plants in your care.
How to Transplant Honeysuckle
Whether you plan on transplanting honeysuckle bush or vine, it can be done. However, timing is of importance here. If you live in a cooler environment, the plant will go dormant in fall and that is the ideal moment to act. In warmer environments, transplanting might go well at any time, except summer days with extreme heat.
When it comes to transplanting honeysuckle, you need to root prune the plant. To do this, you need to decide on the space you want to leave around the root and cut it in a circle with a spade. This way, you will sever the long roots and the shorter ones will go with the rootball. Keep in mind that in the case of the vine, you need to cut back the honeysuckle by about one-third to avoid transplant shock.
Before moving the rootball, make sure the new location fits the need of the variety of honeysuckle you have. The hole you dig needs to be a little larger than the rootball and you need to mix the extracted soil with compost. Then fill the hole with water and let it drain before transplanting the rootball. After you place the rootball, use the mixture of soil and compost to fill in around it and water it slowly. Be sure to water it several times a week.
3 Tips to Avoid Mistakes When Planting Honeysuckle
- Try to avoid planting them too late into the season. They thrive best in early spring after the final frost is over.
- Honeysuckle needs plenty of water to grow when you first plant it. However, make sure you reduce the amount, even in the summer. It will only do harm if you overwater them. It’s important to keep the soil moist. Adding mulch is a great step in maintaining the roots healthy.
- Honeysuckle is prone to powdery mildew so it needs proper ventilation. Open air is the best space for it to grow. However, be careful of aphid attacks. In that case, the plant is better to be destroyed to avoid the disease from spreading.
Overall, honeysuckle is a beautiful fragrant flower that will fill your garden with color and wildlife. There are many varieties to choose from, both vines and shrubs and taking care of them is quite easy. Remember that moisture is very important to the roots and pruning helps them rejuvenate and grow just the way you want them to. Help them by giving them a supporting structure and your garden will have a beautiful new addition.