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How to Grow and Prune Honeysuckle

With an impressive number of species blooming in different colours of flowers at various times of the year, honeysuckle is one of the most versatile plants you can grow in the UK.

Most of us immediately think of climbing honeysuckle vines that decorate walls, fences and pergolas. However, honeysuckle also comes in bushy shrubs, which are the perfect addition to borders, hedging and even work well for topiary.

Why Grow Honeysuckle?

Low Maintenance

Of course, honeysuckle plants are attractive, but one of the main reasons to introduce one (or more!) to your garden is that they are so easy to grow. Choose the right spot and watch your honeysuckle thrive with minimal attention.

Scented Flowers

While all honeysuckles produce flowers, these blooms are highly fragrant in several species, with a sweet scent that permeates the garden. These scented flowers come in an array of colours, from pure white to vibrant orange, making honeysuckle a striking sight in the blooming season.

Wildlife

Honeysuckle is irresistible to wildlife. Bees and other pollinators are attracted to their nectar-rich flowers. Birds and small mammals will appreciate the berries that follow the blooms (but don't be tempted to eat these yourself as they can be toxic to humans).

Where is the Best Place to Plant Honeysuckle?

Sun and Soil

Honeysuckle likes its head in the sun, but its roots in the shade and thrives in places like borders, among other plants that will shade the bottom of the bush. It prefers moist but well-drained soil in a partially sunny spot. Add some quality garden compost or well-rotted manure to the hole before planting to get your honeysuckle off to the best possible start.

Honeysuckle needs sun to flower well, but its leaves can be scorched in full sun so avoid a south-facing spot where possible.

Support

Climbing honeysuckles obviously need something to grow up, whether a wall, fence, obelisk or pergola. If you're using netting or another form of support, make sure there is a gap of around 5cm behind it. This affords room for the vines to wrap themselves around.

Check the predicted growth and spread of your chosen variety and ensure the location you pick has plenty of room for the plant to mature.

Are Honeysuckle Plants Easy to Grow?

The short answer is yes. However, honeysuckles are vigorous growers that do require some TLC to maintain good health and an attractive appearance. An overgrown honeysuckle can look like nothing more than a tangled mess, so it's a good idea to prune your plant regularly (see below).

Even mature honeysuckles will need to be watered during dry spells, particularly if growing up a wall under eaves. They'll also benefit from mulching during the dormant phase to help retain moisture and survive harsh winter temperatures.

Honeysuckle can be prone to aphid attack and powdery mildew. But it is possible to prevent both of these with some care. Planting in partial shade rather than full sun will help negate these issues.

Honeysuckle pruning is best done in late winter or early in spring to promote a gradual rejuvenation

How to Prune Honeysuckle Bushes

Honeysuckle shrubs benefit from pruning after the flowering season. A light trim in late summer or early autumn will help the current season's growth. For deciduous honeysuckle bushes, more severe pruning should wait until late winter or early spring, when the plant is in its dormant phase. Doing this will promote new growth and a flourishing blooming season.

Overgrown honeysuckle bushes can be cut back to around a foot from the ground. Severe pruning is the easiest way to tidy up honeysuckle shrubs and remove a tangled mess of stems. Like other major pruning jobs, this is best while the plant is dormant. The honeysuckle bush will grow back quickly, but you'll find it won't flower the following spring.

Use sharp pruning shears to cut back honeysuckle vines.

Best Deciduous Honeysuckles to Grow

Deciduous varieties are an appealing option for those who aren't yet adept at pruning honeysuckle. Pruning can be completed during the dormant months when the plant is bare, so you can see what you're doing a little easier.

Tellmann's Honeysuckle (Lonicera Tellmanniana)

This attractive climber has been grown in Scotland and is well suited to the British climate. It boasts deep green oblong leaves with terminal clusters of coppery yellow flowers from spring to summer. With an ultimate height of up to 4m, a Tellmann's Honeysuckle looks amazing trained up trellises, fences and pergolas.

Dropmore Scarlet (Lonicera x Brownii)

Striking orange-red trumpet-shaped flowers make Dropmore Scarlet one of the most vivid climbing honeysuckles to grow. It is deciduous to semi-evergreen and flowers from mid-summer to autumn. This variety is easy to grow and requires little maintenance to flourish.

Best Evergreen Honeysuckles to Grow

Like all evergreen plants, these varieties bring winter love and colour to the garden. Both of our chosen species produce berries in deep purple or black. These attract wildlife, including birds, dormice and squirrels, and help maintain interest through autumn.

Henry's Honeysuckle (Lonicera Henryi)

Flowering from June to August, Henry's Honeysuckle is a vigorous climber that can reach an impressive 9m tall at full maturity. In late spring, this plant will produce fragrant flowers in glorious shades of yellow and red.

How to Prune Climbing Honeysuckles

As a general rule, climbing honeysuckle vines don't need much pruning. Simply use sharp pruning shears to cut away dead or faded growth and maintain a neat shape.

Thinning out the top of the plant helps improve air flow, which can help prevent diseases such as powdery mildew from taking hold. It will also increase light reaching the lower parts of the honeysuckle vine, preventing bare stems from appearing near the bottom.

Take care to prune stems behind a leaf node or as far back as where it joins another plant stem. Pruning honeysuckle climbing vines is relatively easy but can make a dramatic difference to the health and appearance of your plant.

A Henry's Honeysuckle plant blooms beautifully fragrant flowers all summer long

Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera Japonica Halliana)

This robust honeysuckle plant is a popular variety due to its abundance of fragrant flowers with a pleasantly sweet smell. These pretty blooms appear pure white in spring and turn yellow as they mature through summer. Japanese Honeysuckle is renowned for its vigorous growth and does require more pruning than other types. However, the number and fragrance of flowers produced make it worth the effort.

Honeysuckle is perfect for cottage gardens and creates a romantic feel in your outdoor space. The hardiness and versatility honeysuckle offers make it ideal for the British climate and it looks simply wonderful draped over fences. Its fast-growing nature, not to mention beautiful fragrant blooms, makes it a popular choice for adding height interest to the garden.

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