Most honeysuckles are valued for their clustered or paired, often fragrant flowers. Blossoms are tubular in form. Some have two flaring, unequal lips; others are trumpets or straight tubes, sometimes flaring at the mouth into five equal lobes. Flowers attract hummingbirds, and the red or purple berries that follow provide food for many other kinds of birds. Blossoms typically deepen in color after opening, so clusters contain both pale and darker blooms. Vining species climb by twining and need staking until they are tall enough to reach a trellis or other support. As they grow, they may need to be tied to the support here and there to distribute the branches well.
Provide good drainage. Honeysuckles typically need some thinning; ideal time for the job is after bloom. Cut old, straggling honeysuckles to the ground before spring growth begins; they will regrow rapidly. Generally free of serious pests, though aphids sometimes infest them.
L.x brownii. SCARLET TRUMPET HONEYSUCKLE. Deciduous vine. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. Represented in nurseries by its superior selection 'Dropmore Scarlet', which climbs to 910 ft. Unscented, bright red flowers that look like trumpets bloom from late spring or early summer until frost. Pairs of triangular blue-green leaves to about 3 in. long appear to be joined at the bases.
L. fragrantissima. WINTER HONEYSUCKLE. Deciduous shrub, semievergreen in Lower South. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. From China. Longtime favorite of Southern gardeners, with arching, rather stiff growth to 8 ft. tall and at least as wide. Oval, 1- to 3-in.-long leaves are dull dark green above, blue-green beneath. Creamy white, -in.-long, two-lipped flowers bloom in late winter, early spring; they are sweetly fragrant but not showy. Berrylike red fruit. Can be used as a clipped hedge or a background plant; bring budded branches indoors to bloom.
L. xheckrottii. GOLD FLAME HONEYSUCKLE. Deciduous vine or small shrub, semievergreen in Lower and Coastal South. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Vigorous grower to 1215 ft., with oval, 2-in., blue-green leaves. Blooms profusely from spring to frost. Clusters of coral-pink buds open to 1-in.-long, two-lipped, slightly fragrant flowers that are bright coral-pink outside, rich yellow within. Train as espalier or on wire along eaves.
L. japonica. JAPANESE HONEYSUCKLE. Evergreen to semievergreen vine. Zones US, MS, LS, CS, TS; USDA 6-11. From eastern Asia. Beloved for its fragrant spring flowers, which yield drops of sweet nectar for children's tongues, but reviled for its invasive natureif unchecked, it tangles its way through woodlands and throttles small trees.
Deep green, oval leaves to 3 in. long are held on reddish brown stems. Two-lipped, 1-in.-long blossoms age from white to yellow; they are followed by small black berries. Birds eat the berries and spread seeds everywhere. Grows very quickly, especially in the Southeast, and can twine its way to 30 ft.
Several selections are cultivated. 'Halliana', the most widely available, resembles the species and is every bit as weedy. It is sometimes used as a bank and ground cover in the Southwest, where it is somewhat less aggressive. 'Aureoreticulata' features green leaves netted with yellow. 'Purpurea' offers purple-tinged green foliage and flowers that are purple-red on the outside, white inside.
Although Japanese honeysuckle does a great job of hiding chain link fences, it is seldom appropriate for home gardens. L. xheckrottii and L. periclymenum are just as pretty and far better behaved.
L. nitida. BOX HONEYSUCKLE. Evergreen shrub, deciduous in Upper South. Zones MS, LS, CS; USDA 7-9. Native to southwestern China. To 46 ft. tall, with densely leafy branches. Tiny (-in.), oval, dark green leaves. Attractive bronze to plum-colored winter foliage. Late spring or early summer flowers are straight tubesfragrant, creamy white, in. long. Translucent blue-purple berries. Grows fast and tends to get untidy but is easily pruned as hedge or single plant. Takes salt spray. 'Baggesen's Gold' has golden foliage in sun. 'Lemon Beauty', to 46 ft. tall and wide, has dark green leaves edged in shades of lemon and chartreuse. 'Red Tips', to 46 ft. tall and wide, has deep raspberry-red new growth that ages to dark green with red-tinted tips and edges. 'Silver Beauty', 34 ft. tall and wide (possibly up to 6 ft.), has bright silver leaf margins.
L. periclymenum. WOODBINE HONEYSUCKLE. Deciduous vine, semievergreen in Lower South. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to Europe and the Mediterranean region. Grows 1020 ft. tall; resembles L. japonica but is less rampant. Whorls of 2-in.-long, fragrant, two-lipped flowers in summer, fall. Blooms of 'Serotina' are purple outside, yellow inside. 'Berries Jubilee' has yellow flowers followed by a profusion of red berries. Heavy-blooming 'Belgica' is less vining, more bushy than most, with purple-flushed white flowers fading to yellow; flowers and red fruit come in large clusters. 'Graham Thomas' has white blossoms that age to copper-tinted yellow. 'Peaches and Cream' is a vibrant, two-tone flower that provides lots of fragrance. 'Scentsation' produces showy yellow flowers that bloom from mid-spring to late summer.
L. pileata. PRIVET HONEYSUCKLE. Evergreen to semievergreen shrub. Zones US, MS, LS; USDA 6-8. Native to China. Low, spreading plant to 3 ft. tall, with stiff, horizontal branches. Dark green, 1-in. leaves resemble those of privet (Ligustrum). Small, fragrant, tubular white flowers in late spring; translucent violet-purple berries. 'Moss Green' is a low-growing to 2 ft. high and 3 ft. wide. Good bank cover with low-growing euonymus or barberries (Berberis). Does well at the seashore. Give part or full shade in Lower South.
L. sempervirens. TRUMPET HONEYSUCKLE. Deciduous twining vine, semievergreen in Coastal South. Zones US, MS, LS, CS; USDA 6-9. Old-time favorite, native to eastern and southern U.S.; can climb 1020 ft. tall but is shrubby if not given support. From late spring into summer, bears showy, unscented, orange-yellow to scarlet flowers in whorls at branch ends. The trumpet-shaped, 1- to 2-in.-long blooms are followed by scarlet berries. Oval, 1- to 3-in.-long leaves are medium green above, bluish green beneath. 'Cedar Lane' (known by the name coral honeysuckle in Florida) is a vigorous selection with deep red flowers. 'Alabama Crimson' also has dark red blossoms; 'Magnifica' bears big scarlet flowers marked yellow inside. 'Major Wheeler' is a generous bloomer with good mildew resistance. L. s. sulphurea (L. s. 'Flava') produces yellow flowers in late spring. 'John Clayton' is more retrained (612 ft. high) and known for its prolific bloom of yellow flowers and abundant berries.