This week we are taking a peek into the world of Lonicera, commonly known as honeysuckle. There are many different types of honeysuckle, though the majority of species grown in gardens are climbing shrubs. If you’re curious about the name ‘honeysuckle’ it actually refers to delicious nectar which can be ‘sucked’ from the flowers, whereas the botanical name ‘Lonicera‘ is named after the German botanist Adam Lonitzer.
The cultivation requirements for Lonicera are very dependant on the type you are growing, whether that be a climber or a shrub. Climbing Lonicera enjoy humus-rich, fertile soil which is moist but well-drained. They will flower best with the top growth exposed to sunlight but they will also tolerate partial shade. Shrubby Lonicera are content in full sun or partial shade in any soil which is well-drained. Applying an organic mulch around the base can help reduce water stress in the warmer months of the year. This can be garden compost or well-rotted manure. Application of a seaweed feed or one of your own homemade nettle or comfrey liquid feeds will promote growth and flowering.
There are roughly 180 species of honeysuckle identified worldwide, with more varieties being cultivated by humans. Below is a small selection of the different varieties of honeysuckle available for growing in your garden.
Lonicera periclymenum (European Honeysuckle)
Features: This variety of Lonicera provides fragrant, deep red-purple flowers with creamy-yellow colour inside. These are accompanied by deciduous, lush, dark-green oval leaves. After pollination red berries can provide a feast for the eyes and the birds in your garden.
Pruning: Once flowering has ended this species should be pruned back by one-third in late summer.
Lonicera japonica (Japanese Honeysuckle)
Features: ‘Mint Crisp’ is a cultivar that provides not only fragrant, white and pale gold flowers for bees and butterflies to enjoy, but also wonderful marbled foliage with light and dark green makings. It’s semi-evergreen too, so depending on where you live you can expect to enjoy the wonderful foliage for most of the year.
Pruning: This species of honeysuckle does not require regular pruning, however you can manage its growth by pruning overlong shoots in spring. Be sure to also remove weak or damaged stems and reduce congestion of shoots.
Lonicera sempervirens (Trumpet Honeysuckle)
Features: Another lovely addition to the garden is this gorgeous Lonicera sempervirens. Its cheerful flowers with an orange-red exterior and yellow interior provide warm, summer colours accompanied by pairs of attractive, evergreen, blue-green leaves joined at the base beneath the floral display. Red berries follow pollination, providing food for the birds to enjoy.
Pruning: Much like L.periclymenum, this species should be pruned back by one-third immediately after flowering in late summer.
With its delicious nectar and berries to follow, Lonicera is a great plant for the wildlife garden. The nectar provides food for bumblebees, butterflies and moths while the berries provide food for bullfinches, warblers and thrushes. If L.periclymenum is pruned back hard, it also encourages the plant to thicken which creates an ideal nest and roost site for birds.
So whether it be for its sheer beauty or for the abundance of food it provides for insects and birds. Why not add a honeysuckle to your garden this year.