Honeysuckle is one of those plants that gardeners either love or consider a weed to be fought against at all costs. Most of the time, the fight is against the Japanese or Asian species because it has made such a pest of itself throughout all the temperate gardening zones.
Japanese, Korean or Chinese honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica, is spread when birds eat the black seeds that form in the fall. Once it takes hold, it can spread widely (and wildly), choking out all the native plants and tripping hikers.
But there are over 200 species of honeysuckle and some of them are useful on fences, in wooded areas, on stream banks and slopes.
Coral honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, in our yard
Coral honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, has many common names, including: Evergreen Honeysuckle, Trumpet Honeysuckle, Woodbine, Scarlet Trumpet, Red Honeysuckle, and Red Woodbine.
This one is an American native, twining, vine that grows well in its native range, reaching from Ontario Canada, across the eastern U. S. and into Oklahoma and Texas. In shade, Trumpet honeysuckle thrives in woods and along stream banks, but it becomes a garden plant in full sun. The blue-green leaves and red-orange flowers contribute dramatic beauty from late spring through fall.
Flowering vines add height and background to small gardens. Honeysuckle is favored by gardeners who want to provide nectar for insects, food for wildlife and shelter for nesting birds. In our yard, a Coral Honeysuckle vine is home to a nest of Thrashers every year.
American native plants are not as aggressive as the Asian imports, but require semi-annual pruning to keep them contained. Coral Honeysuckle prefers moist, well-drained soil and can be used to cover a shed, a rock pile or a trellis. Its flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds.
Honeysuckles can become infected with aphids or bacteria that harm their appearance but do not kill the plant. Putting them in a place where they receive adequate sun and air circulation will reduce the number of problems.
There are hybrids of Coral Honeysuckle. Tellmann honeysuckle, Lonicera x tellmanniana, also called Redgold honeysuckle, grows 12 to 16-feet in zones 6 to 8, and prefers part shade. The flowers are glowing yellow-orange.
Hall’s Honeysuckle, Lonicera japonica Halliana, is a Japanese honeysuckle hybrid that grows into a 30-foot tall twining vine with white-yellow flowers and black berries.
The shrub variety, Lonicera xylosteum, European fly honeysuckle, has long arching branches, grey-green leaves and white-yellow flowers. The berries are dark red. European fly honeysuckle shrub will grow 10-feet tall and wide but there are more compact hybrids available. All tolerate road salt, drought, and other urban insults. Emerald Mound or Nana grows 3-feet tall and gets the best recommendations for parking areas, sidewalk strips and other tough planting spots.
Tatarian honeysuckle, Lonicera tatarica, is a shrub variety with 2-inch long, blue-green leaves. The flowers are white to pink and the berries are red. The species is considered invasive but there are less aggressive, aphid-resistant varieties. The variety Arnold Red has red flowers, Freedom has white-tinged pink flowers and Honey Rose has rose-red flowers.
A hybrid of European fly honeysuckle and Tatarian honeysuckle, Clavey’s Dwarf, is a carefree, mid-size hedge plant that becomes 6-feet tall and wide.
Monrovia offers Berries Jubilee Woodbine Honeysuckle, Lonicera periclymenum Monul, that has European parents. It is also a vigorous grower. The new leaf growth is purple-red and the flowers are yellow-white with a pink tinge (www.monrovia.com). Look for Belgica, Graham Thomas, Honey Baby and Serotina.
All honeysuckles are in the plant species periclymenum. The name came from the Greek herbalist's term for surround, to describe its twining habit. The berries can be used for decorating and the vines are used in wreath making.