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What is a Honeysuckle Bush?

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  • Written By: Helga George
  • Edited By: Michelle Arevalo
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2016
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A honeysuckle bush is usually one of a species of shrubs or twining plants in the genus Lonicera. They are generally grown as groundcovers, or as vines, and for their clusters of tubular, frequently fragrant flowers, which often attract hummingbirds and butterflies. The plants produce berries in the fall that are eaten by songbirds. There are a number of species and different cultivars that can vary greatly in their climate preferences. Some can be invasive and crowd out native plants.

Species of Lonicera are typically very easy to grow and are rarely bothered by pests or diseases, except for aphids. Honeysuckle bushes usually do well in sun or part shade, and require moderate amounts of water. Many of the species thrive in poor soil. Although generally grown along fences or on trellises or arbors, they can also be used for ground cover. The plants are also easily propagated by cuttings.

A commonly grown species is Lonicera japonica, the White or Japanese honeysuckle bush. This plant is native to Europe, but has been introduced to many parts of the globe. It grows quickly to form an attractive vine with many fragrant white flowers. Unfortunately, in many places, it is an invasive plant and will kill nearby shrubs and trees unless it is rigorously pruned in the winter. It has been referred to as a noxious weed by some gardeners.

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Another species that is widely grown, but can also be invasive, is the dwarf honeysuckle bush, a variety of Lonicera xylosteum with white or pinkish flowers. It is native to Europe, but is widely grown in the United States. The original species can reach 8 to 10 ft (2.4 to 3 m), but the varieties known as Clavey’s Dwarf or Claveyl tend to remain small. At 3 to 6 ft (0.9 to 1.8 m), they are generally used as hedges or foundation plantings in colder climates.

One prized species is the red honeysuckle bush, also known as the coral or coral red honeysuckle bush. Lonicera sempervirens is native to the United States and is not invasive. It generally has attractive red flowers that are not fragrant, but do attract hummingbirds. The plant prefers part shade and can grow to 18 ft (5.5 m) tall, making it a good plant to grow on a trellis or arbor. Pruning of this honeysuckle bush should be done in the winter to favor greater flower production.

One plant that is called a honeysuckle is the cape honeysuckle bush, or Tecomaria capensis. It belongs to an entirely different family and is not a true honeysuckle. The plant shares characteristics of an invasive shrub, with attractive red-orange or yellow flowers. It is a tropical shrub, however, and is native to southern Africa. In the United States, it is grown in the south and southwest regions.

At approximately 3 in (7.5 cm) long, the cape honeysuckle's flowers are much larger than those of Lonicera species, which are usually about 0.5 in (1.3 cm) long. The cape plant grows to between 6.6 and 9.8 ft (2 to 3 m) high, and should be pruned in late winter. This plant requires moderate to regular amounts of water and does well in sun or light shade. It may be best to confine it to a pot, since it can spread and take over whole yards. If desired, it is a good plant to use to cover banks.

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