Nothing quite beats the smell of fresh, fragrant honeysuckle flowers early in the spring. In my neck of the woods, they’re one of the first really prolific, fragrant flowers that blooms. When you can smell the honeysuckle flowers in the breeze, that’s when you know it is definitely spring. Growing winter honeysuckle is a breeze. In this article, we’ll be discussing how to grow this easy bush.
Growing Winter Honeysuckle
If you’re looking for a plant that will take over an entire fence, honeysuckle is the flower for you. This perennial fence eater can be pretty overwhelming if you aren’t pruning it aggressively – but that can be a good thing if you have a fence that you don’t ever want to see again! To ensure good success with growing this voracious bush, let’s break down the basics:
- Latin name: Lonicera fragrantissima
- Other names: fragrant honeysuckle, kiss-me-at-the-gate, sweet breath of spring
- Native to: China
- Invasiveness: Extremely Invasive
- Tenderness: Perennial
- Sun: Full sun or Part sun
- Water: 1 inch per week
- Soil: Well-drained soil
- Hardiness zone: 4-10
- Plant height: 6-10′
- Bloom period: Spring
- Container friendly: Yes
- Fertilizer: 10-10-10
- Toxicity: Not considered toxic
- Deer resistant: No
- Pest resistant: Yes
Winter honeysuckle, also called kiss-me-at-the-gate andsweet breath of spring, is a large, vining perennial plant native to China. Outside of its native range, honeysuckle can be extremely invasive, so plant with extreme caution and care. It grows in hardiness zones 4 through 10 and requires full sun with the ability to tolerate some sahde.
Winter honeysuckle is a thirsty plant, requiring about an inch of water every week in order to thrive. Once established, it can tolerate much longer periods without rain and water. It’s a large bush that grows up to 10 feet tall and 10 feet wide. It tolerates being grown in a container, which may be ideal given its tendency to be invasive outside its native area.
Winter honeysuckle needs liberal watering when it’s first getting established or if grown in a container. Once your bush has had a few years to get established, watering can be reduced drastically. Observe your bush for drooping or insufficient growth, it could be a result of not getting enough water.
Winter honeysuckle prefers full sun but can tolerate part shade. Planted in a sunny area, it will quickly reach its full size of 6 to 10 feet. In a shadier area, its growth may be slightly stunted.
Honeysuckle isn’t picky about its soil but it does prefer a well-draining soil that’s kept fairly moist. If planting in a container, a standard well-draining potting soil will be sufficient for growing your Winter Honeysuckle.
Honeysuckle is pretty hardy and doesn’t need a lot of fertilizing if planted in the ground. Potted honeysuckle could benefit from a balanced 10-10-10 organic fertilizer every few weeks during spring and summer. Winter honeysuckle planted in the ground will benefit from compost or rabbit manure applied to the soil near the base of the plant each year.
Winter honeysuckle is native to China and considered extremely invasive outside of its native range. Always plant with care when planting any non-native plant to your area, especially if they have the tendency to be invasive. Honeysuckle grows very large and will willingly spread, sending up new plants in the area in which it grows.
Growing Winter Honeysuckle in containers
Winter honeysuckle prefers to be planted in the ground, but given its tendency to be extremely invasive outside of its native range, the recommendation is generally to plant your honeysuckle in a pot where its ability to spread is somewhat stifled. You can use a basic well-draining potting soil for a potted honeysuckle. Bear in mind that your honeysuckle may not grow to full size when planted in a container.
Pruning winter honeysuckle
Winter honeysuckle is a hardy plant that requires little care, but pruning your honeysuckle bush will lead to stronger, denser growth. You may severely prune this plant back, cutting several feet of growth off the bush each winter. It will grow back rapidly in the spring. Liberally remove dead, diseased, and damaged portions of the plant when pruning.
You can also prune other times of the year, but wait until its spring flowering season has come to an end. Leave most of the pruning for the winter months.
Winter honeysuckle can fall victim to some pests but is considered to be an extremely hardly plant overall. The most common problems with this plant are leaf spots, powdery mildew, aphids, plant hoppers, and scale. Pruning back dead or diseased portions of the plant is appropriate at any point in the year and should be done so liberally if part of the plant has fallen ill.
Propagating Winter Honeysuckle
Winter honeysuckle is extremely easy to propagate. You can grow it by taking cuttings and rooting them in water or wait for the plant to send up new bushes through runners. Simply uproot these new plants and repot in a desired location.
Uses for Winter Honeysuckle
There are no known reliable medicinal uses for honeysuckle and it is not considered to be edible, but it is a dense growing bush that offers up a lot of privacy when grown at the perimeter of a property. The flowers are also extremely popular for their strong fragrance.
History of Winter Honeysuckle
Winter honeysuckle is native to China and has a storied history. It was taken from China and propagated in other parts of the world, in particular by Robert Fortune, a Scottish plant hunter. Fortune brought the plant to England in 1845, followed by the United States several years later. It was first made commercially available in the United States in a plant catalogue printed in 1860.