The delicate, distinctive scent of honeysuckle and the sight of its sprawling vines and bugle-shaped blossoms is one of the classic pleasures of spring and summer. Whether trailing along a fence or providing ground cover, this heat-resistant, hardy plant adds greenery and colour to gardens and yards, as well as attracting such welcome visitors as hummingbirds and butterflies. Honeysuckle vines are easy to grow and care for.
Make sure you buy one of the vining varieties of honeysuckle if you want the picturesque growth that drapes and spills over fences and arbors, and select for desired colour; honeysuckle comes in a wide range of hues. Plant common honeysuckle for a yield of white or pink flowers, Honeybelle honeysuckle for golden blossoms, Dropmore Scarlet for fragrant, brilliant red flowers, Gold Flame for daffodil-yellow blooms and Coral Trumpet honeysuckle for showy scarlet blossoms.
Caring for Honeysuckle Vines
Choose healthy-looking honeysuckle plants from reputable garden supply stores; reject any plants with whitish spots on leaves that would indicate powdery mildew. Plant the honeysuckle in early spring, when danger of frost has passed. To avoid risk of aphid infestation--more likely when honeysuckle is in shade--and to ensure profuse blooms, choose a spot that gets full sun. Cultivate the soil before planting, enriching it with good organic compost if necessary. Avoid damage to the vines by making sure that the supporting arbor, trellis, or fence is in place before you attempt to plant, and allow enough room for the honeysuckle to develop by placing the plants 6 to 12 inches from the structure, and allowing 2 to 3 feet between each plant. To make sure the vines twine along the support, attach them loosely with strips of old nylon stockings; the material is strong, yet flexible, and won't cut into tender stems. If you want your honeysuckle to provide ground cover, plant them 2 feet apart for best coverage. Water thoroughly, and provide regular soakings until you see new growth, showing that the vines have established themselves. Conserve moisture in summer and protect roots from freezing in winter by mulching your new vines heavily with leaves or other organic mulch. Once honeysuckle are well established, they don't require frequent watering, unless the weather is very dry. Every year, use an light application of a balanced fertiliser--10-10-10 NPK is optimal--at the beginning of the growing season, and again in the middle of the blooming season. Don't prune while the honeysuckle is blooming; after flowering has stopped, you can shape it up.
Tips and Precautions
Hall's honeysuckle, or lonicera japonica, can become invasive, and even strangle other plants; don't plant it too close to shrubs or small trees, and prune it deeply in winter. For many people, snapping off blooms and sipping the nectar from the bottom is a harmless custom, but the autumn berries of many honeysuckle plants are mildly toxic and should not be eaten.