Honeysuckle is a tough, woody, perennial vine that thrives in USDA hardiness zones 4 through 9. Beloved for its scent and clusters of tubular flowers that bloom in sun and partial shade, honeysuckle is a staple of butterfly gardens and trellis plantings. It's a fast-growing twining vine that can reach a length of 10 feet or more at maturity, and vigorous growth at the ends can shade and defoliate lower areas unless the vine is systematically pruned.
Autumn and Winter Pruning
The more moisture a honeysuckle vine receives, the faster it grows. In some areas, it's considered an invasive weed. Vigorous growth at the end of the vines shades lower branches, foliage and flowers, and they'll eventually die back without pruning. Many sources recommend dormant pruning of honeysuckle in fall and winter. When the vine isn't actively growing, it is less susceptible to injury. Cold weather also prevents insects, fungus and bacteria from entering pruning wounds.
Late Spring Pruning
Prune in late spring to accomplish the same task of letting light into the midsection and bottom of the honeysuckle plant. Avoid taking more than one-third of its length in any given year if you want it to continue flowering. Cutting a mature honeysuckle vine close to the ground will control its spread for several years and rejuvenate the plant, but it may not bloom for a year or so after severe pruning.
Pruning for Insect Control
Honeysuckle aphid can be a problem for mature vines. As the aphids feed, the leaves curl, creating a broom shape. Because aphids are a soft-bodied insect that doesn't climb well, aphids can be knocked off honeysuckle leaves with a hard spray from a garden hose. "Brooms" should be pruned away from the plant as they form and disposed of in sealed bags to kill remaining aphids and their eggs and larvae.
Pruning for Propagation
Take cuttings from mature honeysuckle vines when you want to propagate new ones. This type of pruning can be done with a sharp knife in early spring, when the shoots are still flexible, but dormant. Cut the shoot above a set of leaves, and again several inches below the set of leaves. Dip the lower end in rooting hormone, and stick it in a pot of moist soil. Keep the cutting in a warm, sunny room; keep the soil moist; and it will develop roots in as little as three weeks.
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