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 very appealing to 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.
More on growing honeysuckle:
Find out more on growing honeysuckle, below.
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.
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.
How to grow 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.
Climbing honeysuckles can be propagated from their berries. 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 will be more prone to infestation. Prune out very badly infested shoots, or apply an insecticide.
Caring for honeysuckle
Deciduous shrubby honeysuckles, 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.
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.
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