Maybe it’s the eccentric blue-green leaves, each encircling the stem completely, like a small, smooth island around a single flagpole. Maybe it’s the cascade of miniature red and orange trumpets, each horn blaring a scent that’s irresistible to hummingbirds. Maybe it’s the exuberant stems, curling and reaching and climbing over each other in a gorgeous tangle. Maybe it’s the small red berries that call to the birds in autumn. If you have trumpet honeysuckle vine (Lonicera sempervirens) in your garden, you know there’s something otherworldly about this showy, sassy climber. Hard to believe it’s just a hometown gal, native to the eastern half of North America.
Common name: Trumpet honeysuckle, coral honeysuckle, woodbine
Botanical name: Lonicera sempervirens
Plant type: Perennial vine
Zones: 4 to 9
Height: 10 to 20 feet
• Sun: Full sun. Tolerates shade but as shade increases, flower display decreases.
• Soil: Average, well-drained
• Moisture: Average
• Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil.
• Pruning: Blooms mostly on old wood. If the vine needs to be trimmed, cut it back after it flowers.
• Fertilizer: None needed.
• By seed and cuttings
Pests and diseases
• Vulnerable to scale insects, leaf rollers, and aphids.
• Powdery mildew, blights, and leaf spots can be problems.
• Use trumpet honeysuckle to cover an arbor, post, or trellis. When it’s young, tie it to the post or screen to help support it. Once it gets started, it will twine and climb all by itself.
• The highly invasive Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) has given honeysuckle vines a bad name in some regions. But trumpet honeysuckle, though tough and aggressive, isn’t considered invasive. In fact, it’s a great substitute for Japanese honeysuckle or other invasive vines like Chinese wisteria, chocolate vine, or scarlet firethorn.
• Also contributing to the bad reputation of honeysuckle is Tatarian honeysuckle, which is a shrub. Native honeysuckle bushes (Diervilla spp.) are much better behaved.
• L. sempervirens ‘Alabama Crimson’ has bright red flowers.
• L. sempervirens ‘John Clayton’ has yellow-orange flowers.
• L. sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’ has red-gold flowers and is resistant to mildew.
All in the family
• Caprifoliaceae, the honeysuckle family, includes other familiar garden plants like weigela, beautybush, snowberry, and bush honeysuckle.
• The genus Lonicera contains about 180 species of shrubs and climbers.
Where to buy
• A Nearly Native Nursery, Fayetteville, GA, 770-460-6284, www.nearlynativenursery.com.
• Fieldstone Gardens, Vassalboro, ME, 207-923-3836, www.fieldstonegardens.com
• Great Garden Plants, Holland, MI, 877-447-4769, www.greatgardenplants.com (for L. sempervirens ‘John Clayton’)
(Photo of Lonicera sempervirens courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden’s Kemper Center for Home Gardening)