There’s a direct relationship between the hardiness of plants and the amount of time a gardener gets to spend in a hammock. The tougher the plant, the more likely a gardener is to have a cool drink in one hand and a clean trowel in the other. Bush honeysuckle, for instance, will cover dry shade, eroding hills, and rocky outcrops with barely a nod from you. This hardy, low-growing native shrub has bronze-green leaves and fragrant yellow flowers in the summer and showy seed capsules and red to orange leaf color in autumn.
Common name: Bush honeysuckle, northern bush honeysuckle, dwarf bush honeysuckle
Botanical name: Diervilla lonicera
Plant type: Deciduous shrub
Zones: 3 to 7
Height: 2 to 4 feet
· Sun: Full sun or partial shade
· Soil: Average, well-drained. Tolerates most types of soil.
· Moisture: Medium to dry.
· Mulch: Three to six inches of organic mulch will help the soil retain moisture.
· Pruning: Pull suckers as needed.
· Fertilizer: None needed.
· Divide rhizomes.
Pests and diseases
· Bush honeysuckle is as pest-free as plants get. May occasionally get powdery mildew.
· Bush honeysuckle is a colonizer. It spreads by underground rhizomes, which send up suckers. If you don’t want the plant to spread, pull these out as they appear. On the other hand, if you have a large space that’s hard to fill, then this plant’s natural inclination to creep will work to your advantage.
· Dry shade (such as under a large tree) is one of the toughest spots for a shrub, but bush honeysuckle will tolerate spots like this. It also does fine in rocky ground or sandy soil.
· The new leaves of Diervilla ‘Copper’ are copper-red; they turn dark green in the summer and shades of bronze to orange in fall.
· Diervilla sessifolia ‘Butterfly’ is 3 to 5 feet tall, with dark green leaves that turn purple in fall.
All in the family
· Also in the Caprifoliaceae family are weigelas, a genus of shrubs that contains many popular species and cultivars.
· Don’t confuse the native Diervilla lonicera with Lonicera tatarica, L. maackii, and some other Lonicera species. These are also called honeysuckle, but they originate in Russia and Central Asia and have become invasive in some areas of the United States. The coral honeysuckle or trumpet vine (Lonicera sempervirens), however, is a well-behaved vine native to the United States, as are many other Lonicera vines and shrubs.
· In addition to D. lonicera, there are two other North American bush honeysuckles: Southern bush honeysuckle (D. sessifolia) and Georgia honeysuckle or mountain bush honeysuckle (D. rivularis).
(Text by Elizabeth Noll, photo of Diervilla ‘Copper’ courtesy of Missouri Botanical Garden’s Kemper Center for Home Gardening.)