Gerald L. Klingaman
Plant Common Name
Pretty, sweetly-scented honeysuckles are members of Lonicera, a genus containing about 180 species native primarily to China and other portions of the Northern Hemisphere. These woody shrubs and twining vines may be evergreen or deciduous, and are typically quite vigorous and adaptable. Many Asian and European species have escaped cultivation and become invasive in portions of eastern North America.
Honeysuckle leaves are usually simple (without lobes or indentations), with or without petioles (leaf stalks) and held in opposite pairs on the stems. The fragrant, tubular flowers have either two lips or five spreading lobes, and are borne in pairs at the leaf axils (joints between the leaves and stems), or in rounded clusters at the ends of the branches. Some produce a sweet, edible nectar. The blooms are followed by berries which are generally inedible to humans, but enjoyed by many birds, who subsequently spread the seeds about the landscape.
Popular cultivated Lonicera species include coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), a vigorous, woody vine native from Quebec to Florida. Its whorls of tubular, scarlet-orange flowers are borne in summer and fall, and are highly attractive to hummingbirds. Honeyberry (Lonicera caerulea var. edulis) is native to Eastern Europe and Asia, where it has long been grown for its delicious, edible, elongated blue fruits. Winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima), native to China, is a cold-hardy, fountain shaped, semi-evergreen shrub with small, intensely fragrant, snow-white flowers that bloom in the depths of winter. European, or common honeysuckle (Lonicera periclymenum) is a deciduous vine from Europe and North Africa with flaring, very fragrant, cream and yellow flowers in spring and summer. It has become naturalized in many parts of the United States. Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is an aggressive, semi-evergreen vine that bears fragrant, cream and yellow blooms with purple markings from spring to summer. Originating from eastern Asia, it has become highly invasive in many portions of the United States.
Specific cultural requirements vary among species, but most shrub honeysuckles prefer well-drained soil and full sun to light shade. Climbers should be grown full to part sun and fertile, moist soil with good drainage. All honeysuckles require pruning to control growth and shape the plants. Shrubby forms are suitable for hedges and mixed borders, while vining types are lovely trained on fences, trellised and arbors. For more detailed information concerning the invasive status of Lonicera species, go to http://www.invasive.org/browse/genus.cfm?id=Lonicera .