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Honeysuckle (Lonicera)
Honeysuckle (Lonicera)

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Moderate

Lonicera

Honeysuckle
Caprifoliaceae
Deciduous, Shrubs, Vines, Decorative fruit or berries

Most honeysuckles are valued for their clustered or paired, often fragrant flowers. Blossoms are tubular in form. Some have two flaring, unequal lips; others are trumpets or straight tubes, sometimes flaring at the mouth into five equal lobes. Flowers attract hummingbirds, and the red or purple berries that follow provide food for many other kinds of birds. Blossoms typically deepen in color after opening, so clusters contain both pale and darker blooms.

Lonicera fragrantissima
Lonicera fragrantissima

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Lonicera fragrantissima

From China. Arching, rather stiff growth to about 8 ft. high and wide. Oval, 1–3-in.-long leaves are dull dark green above, blue green beneath. Creamy white, half-inch-long, two-lipped flowers from late winter to early spring; blossoms are richly fragrant (like Daphne odora) but not showy. Red berries. Can be used as a clipped hedge or background plant. Bring budded branches indoors for bloom.

Lonicera hildebrandiana
Lonicera hildebrandiana

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Lonicera hildebrandiana

From China. Fast-growing vine to 30 ft., with 4–6-in., oval, glossy dark green leaves on ropelike stems. Bears fragrant, 6–7-in., two-lipped, summer flowers that open white, then turn yellow to dull orange; blossoms are slow to drop. May bear dark green berries. Thin out older stems occasionally and remove some of the growth that has bloomed. Striking along eaves or on an arbor or wall. Needs sturdy support.

Lonicera japonica

This vine is evergreen in mild-winter climates, semievergreen or deciduous in colder areas. Native to eastern Asia. Can reach 30 ft. Rampant (even invasive) plant that can become a weed, since birds spread the seeds; consider planting the similar but less aggressive L. periclymenum. The basic species has oval deep green leaves and sweet-scented, two-lipped, purple-tinged white flowers from spring to fall. ‘Aureo-reticulata’, goldnet honeysuckle, with leaves veined in yellow, is better behaved than L. japonica; variegation is especially strong in full sun. ‘Halliana’, Hall’s honeysuckle, is the most vigorous and widely grown variety, with pure white flowers that age to yellow and attract bees. ‘Purpurea’ (probably the same as L. j. chinensis) has leaves with purple-tinged undersides and flowers that are purplish red outside, white inside.

Of those mentioned, ‘Halliana’ is the most commonly used as a bank and groundcover and for erosion control in large areas; as a groundcover, set plants 2–3 ft. apart. Unless curbed, it can smother less-vigorous plants. Hard annual pruning keeps undergrowth from building up and becoming a fire hazard. Train as a privacy or wind screen on chain-link or wire fence. Takes drought well when established; tolerates poor drainage.

Lonicera nitida

Evergreen shrub. Native to southwestern China. Grows to 11 ft. tall and 10 ft. wide. Branches are densely clothed in tiny, egg-shaped, shiny dark green leaves that may turn an attractive bronze to plum color in winter. Late-spring or early-summer flowers are straight tubes—fragrant, creamy white, 1/2 in. long. Translucent blue-purple berries. Grows fast and tends toward untidiness but is easily pruned as a specimen plant or hedge. Tolerates salt spray. ‘Baggesen’s Gold’, to 4–6 ft. tall and wide, has foliage that is golden in sun (though very strong sun may burn leaves), chartreuse in shade. ‘Lemon Beauty’, to 4–6 ft. tall and wide, has dark green leaves edged in shades of lemon and chartreuse. ‘Red Tips’, to 4–6 ft. tall and wide, has deep raspberry red new growth that ages to dark green with red-tinted tips and edges. ‘Silver Beauty’, 3–4 ft. tall and wide (possibly up to 6 ft.), has bright silver leaf margins.

Lonicera periclymenum (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Lonicera periclymenum (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

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Lonicera periclymenum

Evergreen or deciduous vine. Native to Europe and the Mediterranean region. Grows to 10–20 ft. tall. Resembles L. japonica but is less rampant. Whorls of 2-in.-long, fragrant, two-lipped flowers in summer and fall. Most varieties have flowers in the purple-yellow-white range.

Lonicera sempervirens (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Lonicera sempervirens (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

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Lonicera sempervirens

Native to the eastern and southern United States. Can climb to 10–20 ft. tall but is shrubby if not given support. Showy, unscented, trumpet-shaped flowers are 1 1/2–2 in. long, orange-yellow to scarlet, and carried in whorls at branch ends from late spring into summer. Scarlet fruit. Oval, 1/2–3-in.-long leaves are medium green above, bluish green beneath.

Lonicera x brownii ‘Dropmore Scarlet’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)
Lonicera x brownii ‘Dropmore Scarlet’ (photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries, Inc.)

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Lonicera x brownii

Represented in nurseries by its superior selection ‘Dropmore Scarlet’, which climbs to 9–10 ft. Unscented, bright red flowers that look like trumpets bloom from late spring or early summer until frost. Pairs of triangular blue-green leaves to about 3 in. long appear to be joined at the bases.

Lonicera x heckrottii
Lonicera x heckrottii

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Lonicera x heckrottii

This vining shrub grows to 12–15 ft. tall, with 2 1/2-in., oval, blue-green leaves. Free blooming spring to frost. Clusters of coral pink buds open to 1 1/2-in., slightly fragrant, two-lipped flowers that are bright coral pink outside and rich yellow within. Train as an espalier or on a wire along the eaves.

Lonicera ‘Mandarin’

Hybrid between a Chinese species and L. x brownii ‘Dropmore Scarlet’. Fast growing, as much as 6 ft. per year, to 15–20 ft. at maturity. Foliage emerges coppery in spring, deepens to glossy green; accented by young stems of deep purplish brown. Appearing in late spring to midsummer (and sometimes again in fall) are deep red buds that open into 2–3-in.-long flowers that are orange red outside, golden yellow within. Flowers are not particularly fragrant, and they are not followed by fruit.

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