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. I am delighted to discuss here a little-known native Coral Honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, that you may make a nice home for in your own garden.
Growing Coral Honeysuckle
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 inches along a 7 ½-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.
Easy to Propogate, Easy to Share
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.
Pest- and Disease-Resistance
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 to 1586), and the species name, sempervirens, which directly translated from Latin means “always green”, is kind of a misnomer up north: it does behave deciduously.
Till our next horticultural excursion.
Barry Glick, a transplanted Philadelphian, has been residing in Greenbrier County, W.V., since 1972. His mountaintop garden and nursery at Sunshine Farm & Gardens is a mecca for gardeners from virtually every country in the world. Barry writes and lectures extensively about native plants and Hellebores, his two main specialties, and welcomes visitors with advance notice. Reach Barry at firstname.lastname@example.org and 304-497-2208. Read all of his MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.
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