Nowadays when someone mentions “Honeysuckle”, they’re usually complaining about that sweetly fragrant, infuriatingly invasive thug from Asia, Lonicera japonica aka “Japanese Honeysuckle”, that’s taking over their woodlands. So when my esteemed editor, Ms. Jentz, handed me my monthly assignment I was delighted that she chose our little known native “Honeysuckle”, Lonicera sempervirens, for this months “Going Native” column.
I’ve been growing and propagating this very manageable vine for decades and it’s still on my favorites list. I have it planted every 24” along a 7 1/2 foot high deer fence, and the deer have not found it to their liking, never even nibbling on it. As an experiment, I tried growing it without support and found that the vine makes an interesting groundcover as it sprawls over the earth.
Although a woodland plant, I’ve concluded that the flowering is much more profuse when given some sun. On the pure species, the trumpet shaped clusters of long lasting flowers are a coral color and appear from May through June. Their beauty forgives their lack of fragrance, at least to us homo-sapiens that is. I’ve observed the flowers visited by a vast array of pollinators, including hummingbirds, butterflies and various species of bees. There are several named selections, “Nativars”, that range from bright red to bright yellow.
Should you find the need to prune it back, it’s best to wait until flowering has finished. And don’t you dare throw away those prunings as Lonicera sempervirens is a very easy plant to root and you know that all of your friends will want one after they see yours blooming. You can also preserve genetic diversity by propagating it from seeds.
If you have a trellis, arbor or fence begging for some color, this is the plant for you, or you could just let it run free, rambling over a rock wall or a berm.
Average soil moisture and texture suits Lonicera sempervirens just fine. If the weather gets droughty, give it a bit of water and keep it mulched. Lonicera sempervirens doesn’t seem to have any insect, pest or disease problems, in fact, I’ve never even seen aphids on it.
The genus Lonicera is named for the German botanist, Adam Lonitzer (1528-1586) and the species name, sempervirens, which directly translated from Latin means always green, is kind of a misnomer up north as it does behave deciduously.
Till our next horticultural excursion,
Barry Glick, a transplanted Philadelphian, has been residing in Greenbrier County, WV, since 1972. His mountaintop garden and nursery is a Mecca for gardeners from virtually every country in the world. He writes and lectures extensively about native plants and Hellebores, his two main specialties, and welcomes visitors with advance notice. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.sunfarm.com, or 304.497.2208.