Here's to the Honeysuckle Vine!

The plant of the week is the trumpet honeysuckle vine (Lonicera sempervirens). If you have one in your garden, you know there's something otherworldly about this showy, sassy climber. Hard to believe it's just a hometown gal, native to the eastern North America.

Maybe it's the eccentric blue-green leaves, each encircling the stem completely, like a small, smooth island around a single flagpole.

Maybe it's the cascade of miniature red and orange trumpets, each horn blaring a scent that's irresistible to hummingbirds. Maybe it's the exuberant stems, curling and reaching and climbing over each other in a gorgeous tangle. Maybe it's the small red berries that call to the birds in autumn.

If you don't have trumpet honeysuckle vine (Lonicera sempervirens) in your garden, here's what you need to know in order to grow it.

common name: Trumpet honeysuckle, coral honeysuckle, woodbine.

botanical name: Lonicera sempervirens.

plant type: Perennial vine.

zones: 4 to 9.

height: 10 to 20 feet.

family: Caprifoliaceae.


growing conditions

  • sun: Full sun. Tolerates shade but as shade increases, flower display decreases.
  • soil: Average, well-drained.
  • moisture: Average.

care

  • mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil.
  • pruning: Blooms mostly on old wood. If the vine needs to be trimmed, cut it back after it flowers.
  • fertilizer: None needed.

propagation

  • By seed and cuttings.

pests and diseases

  • Vulnerable to scale insects, leaf rollers, and aphids.
  • Powdery mildew, blights, and leaf spots can be problems.

garden notes

  • Use trumpet honeysuckle to cover an arbor, post, or trellis. When it's young, tie it to the post or screen to help support it. Once it gets started, it will twine and climb all by itself.
  • The highly invasive Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) has given honeysuckle vines a bad name in some regions. But trumpet honeysuckle, though tough and aggressive, isn't considered invasive. In fact, it's a great substitute for Japanese honeysuckle or other invasive vines like Chinese wisteria, chocolate vine, or scarlet firethorn.
  • Also contributing to the bad reputation of honeysuckle is Tatarian honeysuckle, which is a shrub. Native honeysuckle bushes (Diervilla spp.) are much better behaved.

cultivars

  • L. sempervirens ‘Alabama Crimson' has bright red flowers.
  • L. sempervirens ‘John Clayton' has yellow-orange flowers.
  • L. sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler' has red-gold flowers and is resistant to mildew.

all in the family

  • Caprifoliaceae, the honeysuckle family, includes other familiar garden plants like weigela, beautybush, snowberry, and bush honeysuckle.
  • The genus Lonicera contains about 180 species of shrubs and climbers.

where to buy

Have you had luck in attracting hummingbirds to your honeysuckle?