By Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
Halls Japanese Honeysuckle
An outstanding mountain vine with fragrant yellow flowers that loves blooming in the summer heat. Wind, drought, deer, Javelina are no problem. Ideal at growing up fences, walls, or as a groundcover. An excellent solution for a fast-growing screen, even in the poorest of soil. Summer is the preferred planting time for this heat lover.
Japanese honeysuckle is a climber that twines thickly around any vertical structure like a trellis, even the base of trees. The vines bear fragrant butter flowers, dipped in pink, attracting butterflies and hummingbirds from late spring into fall. The flowers gradually fade to yellow, and it is not uncommon to see white, pink, and yellow colors all at the same time. The flowers often produce blackberries that are mildly poisonous to humans. The vine is commonly planted because it does well in shady locations and in crusty dry soils.
Botanical Name – Lonicera japonica
Common Name – Japanese honeysuckle, golden-and-silver honeysuckle
Plant Type – Perennial flowering vine
Mature size – 15 to 20 feet in length, with a spread of 3 to 6 feet
Sun Exposure – Full sun to part shade
Soil Type – Prefers average, well-drained soil
Bloom Time – Late spring to fall
Flower Color – White, maturing to yellow
Hardiness Zones – 4 to 9
Native Areas – Eastern Asia including China, Japan, and Korea
How to Grow Japanese Honeysuckle
Although Japanese honeysuckle prefers moist, loamy soils, these ideal conditions can cause the plant to grow too vigorously. It does well in dry conditions, which help check its rampant growth. Plant it in full sun to part shade; shadier locations will both reduce the amount of flowering and also inhibit the plant’s growth.
Only one plant is needed per post or trellis. Arches should have a plant on each side of the arch. Fencelines and step embankments should be planted at 8′ foot centers, closer for really fast coverage. When planted as a ground cover, use two or three plants for each square yard of ground. Ground cover plants should be sheared back with a lawnmower or hedger in later winter to control growth and remove any dead undergrowth.
This is an adaptable plant that does well in full sun to part shade. A shadier location helps keep its growth under control.
Japanese honeysuckle does well in average soil that drains well. Dryer soils limit the rampant growth of the vine that adapts well to heavy mountain soils.
For best growth, keep Japanese honeysuckle well-watered (one inch per week) and protect the soil with a layer of Watters Premium Mulch. If the plant becomes too dry, leaves yellow and turn brown, then fall off, though the vine itself rarely dies. Withholding water is a good way to limit the growth of this vine each in summer.
Temperature and Humidity
Japanese honeysuckle thrives in diverse conditions throughout its hardiness zone range. It is deciduous during cold winters, and evergreen through milder winters, but always extremely vigorous.
Feed with Watters 7-4-4 All Purpose Food 3 times per year (March, July, and October) for best blooms and dense foliage that screens and cuts the wind.
Propagating Japanese Honeysuckle
This plant is easily propagated by planting seeds from the berries, or by splitting off sections of its spreading rhizomatous roots.
Varieties of Japanese Honeysuckle
The variety of Japanese honeysuckle most often planted for landscape purposes is ‘Halliana,’ commonly called Hall’s honeysuckle.
Toxicity of Japanese Honeysuckle
Many species of honeysuckle are toxic to one degree or another, and this includes Japanese honeysuckle. This plant contains carotenoids in the berries and glycosides in the stems and vines. These are considered mildly toxic, and symptoms can include stomach pain, diarrhea, irregular heartbeat, and vomiting. But the effects are usually mild and occur only when vast quantities are ingested. You should not plant this vine where children are around, but the plant does attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Rabbits, Deer, and Javelina rare eat from this vine. Birds enjoy eating the berries.
Major pruning should be done January, February, or March. Pruning usually aims at shortening the plant and keeping its size in check. Vines grown on a trellis, arch, or fence should be sheared back close to your structure. Plants grown as ground cover should be mowed down in the early spring with a mower set at maximum height.
There are many other forms of honeysuckle that offer similar benefits but without the fast growth habit of Japanese honeysuckle. They include:
- American honeysuckle is hardy in zones 6 to 10 and grows to 25 feet. It has scented yellow flowers tinged with red, pink, or purple from late spring into fall.
- Dropmore scarlet honeysuckle is hardy in zones 3 to 9. It is a smaller vine, growing to 12 feet, and produces fragrant bright red flowers from late spring through mid-summer.
- Goldflame honeysuckle is a deciduous vining plant that is hardy in zones 5 to 9. Growing to 15 to 20 feet, it has fragrant flowers that are hot pink with yellow throats, blooming from late spring through mid-summer.
- Henry’s honeysuckle is hardy in zones 4 to 10. It grows to 30 feet and has red or yellow tubular flowers through spring and summer.
- Trumpet honeysuckle is a semi-evergreen vine that is hardy in zones 4 to 10. It grows to 12 feet and has bright orange, red or yellow, tubular flowers from late spring to mid-summer.
- Winter honeysuckle is a semi-evergreen shrub form that grows to 10 feet tall with a similar spread. It is hardy in zones 4 to 8. It has pairs of small, creamy white, fragrant flowers from late winter through mid-spring.
Pest and Diseases
Japanese honeysuckle is large without severe insect and disease problems. The main problem with Japanese honeysuckle is controlling the plant or eliminating plants that escape cultivation and naturalize where they are unwanted.
Companion Plants with Honeysuckle for a Stunning Backyard
Portulaca tolerates the blazing sun, where the neon flowers attract butterflies. Available in red, orange, violet, white, and pink. Great for containers, rock gardens, between sunny stepping-stones, or any hot, dry garden space where nothing else grows. The brighter, the better!
Sunburst Honeylocust – This mountain native cheerfully shouts, “Hello, Spring!” with its glowing yellow leaves. As summer heats up, it settles down to a naturally cool green, only to turn gold again in autumn. This Watters exclusive casts a dappled shade perfect for reading a book or sharing an outdoor meal. Take the sun and wind, yet easy on your time, water, and maintenance, even the fall cleanup is a piece of cake! Impervious to deer.
Gilt Edge Silverberry – Varigated leaves of bright gold and blue provide interest every month of the year. Growing to head high, she screens out the most obnoxious neighbor while standing up to blistering heat and wind. The super sweet flowers are utterly animal proof, even javelina and deer don’t like the taste of this local shrub. Best planted in the heat of summer for faster growth.
Moonshine Yarrow – A fuss-free, heat-loving bloomer with large clusters of canary yellow flowers held above ferny, grey foliage, just stunning. Sunny borders and rock gardens are perfect or planted in a mass to create a bold band of color throughout summer. Mountain tough, you can’t kill this perennial that only blooms better year after year. Javelina and rabbit detest the summer blooms.