Lonicera periclymenum 'Scentsation'

Honeysuckle - Grow Guide

Find out everything you need to know about growing shrubby and climbing honeysuckles.

Honeysuckles (Lonicera) are largely hardy twinning climbers or shrubs with scented flowers. Choose from evergreen and deciduous forms.

Climbing types produce scented flowers followed by red berries that are very appealing to birds - but poisonous to humans.

Shrubby types are often used to create hedges. If you have had problems with box blight, Lonicera nitida is a sensible alternative and can be clipped into shapes. For winter flowers and scent the deciduous Lonicera fragrantissima is unbeatable. 

Here's all you need to know about growing honeysuckles.

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Planting position

Both shrub and climbing types prefer a position of light shade or full sun. Climbing types are happy with their roots in a shady, cool place as long as their climbing stems can get to sunlight. In the wild they are woodland plants that enjoy the shade and protection of deciduous trees and shrubs – try and mimic this. A west-facing wall is ideal for the climbing types. Climbers can be grown in containers but they will never be as prolific as in garden soil.

It is the flowers carried at the top of plants that need sun and warmth. Ideally place the plants so that the perfume can be easily enjoyed.

All honeysuckles will grow in most soil types but like many other plants prefer a well-drained, humus rich soil. 

Planting technique

When planting the evergreen shrub, Lonicera nitida, consider buying plants bare root in autumn or winter. For a dense hedge plant five small plants per metre. Dig in well-rotted organic matter before planting.

Climbers are self-clinging but require a helping hand when young. If growing against a wall use galvanised wires on the wall and lead the plant to these by guiding stems with a garden cane. Water plants in well and feed with a general purpose fertiliser in spring. 

Propagation

Climbing types produce berries that carry the seed. If you can get to them before the birds remove the seed from the berries – a messy job. Sow fresh and leave the seeds to germinate in a cold frame or put the seeds in the refrigerator over winter. Mix the seed with compost and leave in the refrigerator for 12 weeks before sowing at a temperature of 15 degrees C. The seeds need a period of cold to initiate germination.



Troubleshooting

Honeysuckle aphid can be a real problem for climbing types. Leaves become distorted and curled as the sucking insects feed on the plant. Aphids excrete honeydew which then leads to sooty mould. Plants that are in poor health will be more prone to infestation. Prune out very badly infested shoots, or apply an insecticide.


Care

Deciduous shrubby types, such as the early summer flowering Lonicera tatarica, should be pruned after flowering. Evergreen types that are often grown as topiary or tight hedges, such as Lonicera nitida, can be trimmed in summer.

Climbers do not require pruning as they flower on the current season’s growth. The wild honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum, can be cut back by a third after flowering. All climbing types can be cut back in spring if they have outgrown their space.

Bee

How to get the best scent

The scent of climbing honeysuckle is stronger when plants are grown in a warm spot. This scent attracts pollinating bees in the day and moths at night. The flower colour of honeysuckle changes slightly once pollinated.

Lonicera 'Mandarin'
Lonicera 'Mandarin'

Honeysuckle varieties to try

  • Lonicera nitida ‘Baggesen’s Gold’ – a dense evergreen shrub with white flowers in spring. Yellow foliage – ideal for topiary or a dense, low-growing hedging. Height 1.5m
  • Lonicera 'Mandarin' (pictured) - a new variety with striking orange flowers that have no scent
  • Lonicera periclymenum 'Serotina'– flowers with creamy white petals with dark purple tops from July to October. A deciduous climber with impressive scent. Reaches 5m
  • Lonicera x tellmanniana  – orange, yellow flowers from May to July. A deciduous climber with wonderful scent. Reaches 5m
  • Lonicera fragrantissima – known as the winter honeysuckle this deciduous shrub offers white scented flowers from January to March. Fully hardy. Reaches a height of 1.5m
  • Lonicera periclymenum ‘Graham Thomas’ – scented white flowers that turn to yellow from July to September. Red berries in late summer. Deciduous climber reaching 5m

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