Honeysuckles are usually hardy twinning climbers or shrubs with scented flowers. Choose from evergreen and deciduous forms.
Climbing honeysuckles produce scented flowers, followed by red berries that are eaten by birds (the berries are poisonous to humans).
Shrubby honeysuckles are often used to create hedges. If you have had problems with box blight then Lonicera nitida makes a sensible alternative. For winter flowers and scent, the deciduous winter honeysuckle, Lonicera fragrantissima, is unbeatable.
How to grow honeysuckle
Grow climbing honeysuckles in moist but well-drained soil in partial shade, ideally with the roots in shade but the stems in sun, such as at the base of a west-facing wall or fence. Give them a sturdy frame to climb up, such as a trellis or wire frame. Water plants in dry spells and feed with a general purpose fertiliser in spring.
How to prune honeysuckle
Prune honeysuckles after flowering, cutting back side shoots to maintain a neat shape. If your honeysuckle is overgrown, renovate it in late winter by cutting it back hard. In this vintage clip from Gardeners’ World, Joe Swift demonstrates how to prune honeysuckle growing on an obelisk:
Growing honeysuckle: jump links
- Planting honeysuckle
- Caring for honeysuckle
- Propagating honeysuckle
- Growing honeysuckle: pests and problem solving
- Where to buy honeysuckle
- Honeysuckles to grow
More on growing honeysuckle:
- How to take cuttings from honeysuckle
- Carol Klein’s favourite berries
- 12 key plants for a cottage garden
Where to grow honeysuckle
Climbing honeysuckles are woodland plants, so have evolved with their roots shaded by trees and shrubs, but their climbing tendrils growing into the light. Mimic these growing conditions if you can – climbing honeysuckles do better when their roots are in shade and their stems can reach sunlight. A west-facing wall is ideal for this, but a north-facing fence can work well, ideally if some or all of it is slatted, so light can reach the leaves.
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.
Climbing honeysuckles can be grown in containers but they will never grow as well as in garden soil. All will grow in most soil types but like many other plants prefer a well-drained, humus rich soil.
Shrubby honeysuckles, such as winter honeysuckle, Lonicera fragrantissima, requires a moist but well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. Plant it near a bench or path so you can enjoy its wonderfully fragrant blooms as you walk past.
How to plant honeysuckle
When planting the evergreen shrub, Lonicera nitida, consider buying bare-root plants in autumn or winter. For a dense hedge plant five small plants per metre. Dig in well-rotted organic matter before planting.
Climbing honeysuckles 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 bamboo cane. Water plants in well and feed with a general purpose fertiliser in spring.
How to care for honeysuckle
Prune deciduous shrubby honeysuckles, such as the early summer flowering Lonicera tatarica, after flowering. In this clip from Gardeners’ World, Monty Don prunes a winter-flowering honeysuckle, showing where and how much to cut in order to generate new shoots that will carry fragrant blooms next winter and early spring:
Trim evergreen honeysuckles, such as Lonicera nitida, in summer.
Climbing honeysuckles don’t require much pruning as they flower on the current season’s growth. However you may need to renovate overgrown honeysuckles as demonstrated in Joe Swift’s video, above.
Cut back wild honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum, by a third after flowering.
Climbing honeysuckles can be propagated from their berries. Simply extract the seed from the berries and sow them straight away in pots of garden soil. Leave the seeds to germinate in a cold frame or put the seeds in the refrigerator over winter, then bring them back out in spring – a temperature of 15°C is required before the seeds will germinate.
Growing honeysuckle: problem solving
Honeysuckle aphid can be a real problem for climbing honeysuckles. 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 are more prone to infestation. Prune out very badly infested shoots, or apply an insecticide.
Advice on buying honeysuckle
- There’s a wide range of honeysuckles to grow, including climbers and shrubby plants. Make sure you choose the right one for your garden
- Bear in mind that specialist nurseries may offer more buying choices than garden centres
- Always check your plants for signs of disease and damage before buying or, if you bought them online, before planting
Where to buy honeysuckle online
Great honeysuckle varieties to grow
- 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 above) – 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