Honeysuckle is a perennial climbing vine or thick bush. It is considered invasive and aggressive and has the habit of growing suckers and offshoots. The plant is a favourite of hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. The sweet nectar is the genesis of the name and the cupped colourful flowers are prolific during the summer. Some varieties of honeysuckle grow wild in the UK but most are brought in for ornamental cultivation. Vines lose leaves in cool weather and revive in spring.
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Honeysuckle grows in full sun areas where the soil is well drained and richly organic. The vines can remain evergreen in warm conditions and grow all season long. In cooler regions, such as the UK, where a true winter occurs the leaves will begin to fall off in autumn and continue to fall through the season. Honeysuckle is drought tolerant after it is established and is a vigorous grower that can cover a trellis in just a couple of seasons.
Honeysuckle plants do not need special care in winter. Areas where temperatures routinely reach below freezing can cause the canes to die back. The plants should be heavily mulched in autumn to protect the roots of the plants from cold damage. The plant doesn't need to be covered in winter or cut back, but autumn pruning will prevent the canes from being exposed to the cold and will promote flowering.
Lonicera doesn't need pruning and should not be pruned until it is two years old. However, it is such a quick grower and invasive that pruning to maintain shape or take out sucker volunteers is appropriate in autumn or very early spring. Pruning should be done after the flowers are finished forming. Overgrown plants can be cut down to 60 cm (2 feet) from the ground to encourage flowering and bushing. Honeysuckles that flower on the current season's growth should not be cut down. Only those that flower off the older growth early in the season should be pruned back by one-third after flowering on an annual basis. The only thing that is cut to the ground is the suckers that appear at the base of the cine.
The shrub-like honeysuckle can be limbed up to make a tree shape. This means removing the growth at the base and even at the ground to encourage a trunk appearance. There are both evergreen and deciduous shrubs in the honeysuckle family. Deciduous shrubs should have old and weak stems cut away from the base to encourage new growth. Evergreen shrubs can be cut back within 15 cm (6 inches) of the ground in early spring to stimulate thick growth.
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