How To Grow And Care For Winter Honeysuckle

When it blooms, Lonicera fragrantissima emits a sweet, springlike fragrance.

Blooming delicately along leafy vines or profusely on branching shrubs, honeysuckle in all forms is a longtime fixture in Southern gardens, in no small part due to its sweet fragrance. Winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) is an early-blooming honeysuckle that brings blooms and springlike fragrance to the garden in late winter and early spring.

Also known by the evocative names "kiss-me-at-the-gate," "January jasmine," and "sweet breath of spring," winter honeysuckle is a deciduous shrub that's semi-evergreen in the South. It gets its name from its perfume—"fragrantissima" points to the strong fragrance of the shrub's small blooms. It's an early-flowering and long-blooming bushy shrub that's considered invasive in many states because it's fast-growing and develops into thickets that can restrict native plant growth. (That's why gardeners are encouraged to consider planting native plants instead—check your local extension office before planting in your area. Honeysuckle is considered mildly toxic to pets.

Winter Honeysuckle
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Plant Attributes

  • Common Name: Winter honeysuckle, winter-flowering honeysuckle, kiss-me-at-the-gate, January jasmine, sweet breath of spring
  • Botanical Name: Lonicera fragrantissima
  • Family: Caprifoliaceae
  • Plant Type: Perennial, Shrub
  • Mature Size: 6–10 ft. tall and wide
  • Sun Exposure: Full, Partial
  • Soil Type: Well-drained average or loamy soil
  • Soil pH: Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline
  • Bloom Time: Winter, Spring
  • Flower Color: White, Pink, Cream
  • Hardiness Zones: Zones 4-8 (USDA)
  • Native Area: Asia
  • Toxicity: Mildly toxic to animals

Winter Honeysuckle Care

The New Southern Living Garden Book recommends that gardeners "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."


Winter honeysuckle thrives in full sun (at least six hours of direct sunlight a day) but will also grow in partial shade (two to six hours of sun each day).


This honeysuckle will adapt to just about any well-drained soil regardless of pH. Winter honeysuckle is especially happy in moist, loamy soils, but does not do well in wet conditions.


This plant can tolerate occasional dryness, but prefers a moderately moist soil. Water during longer dry periods.

Temperature and Humidity

Considered hardy in USDA zones 4–8, winter honeysuckle is unlikely to thrive in the hottest climates such as Southern Florida and the Coastal South.


Winter honeysuckle adapts to soils with average fertility. As always, you can amend your soil with organic material if it is especially poor.


According to The New Southern Living Garden Book, L. fragrantissima has been "a longtime favorite of Southern gardeners, with arching, rather stiff growth to 8 feet tall and at least as wide. It has oval, 1- to 3 inches-long leaves are dull dark green above, blue-green beneath." The shrub "can be used as a clipped hedge or a background plant; bring budded branches indoors to bloom."

If you'd like to keep this shrub to a more manageable size, winter honeysuckle can be pruned yearly to fit into smaller landscapes. The shrub blooms in winter or early spring on growth from the prior year. Clip into a hedge or cut back close to the ground right after flowering.

Propagating Winter Honeysuckle

Winter honeysuckle can be propagated with softwood cuttings. Take cuttings in summer after green growth has appeared by following these steps:

  1. Fill small pots with damp, lightweight potting soil.
  2. Remove a flexible section of stem (from this year's growth) with your pruners.
  3. Cut stem into 6-inch sections, just above one set of leaf nodes and below another. Remove the bottom leaves, allowing one pair of leaves to remain at the top of each section.
  4. Dip the bottom end of each stem section into rooting hormone, and then insert the bottom of each stem into a pot.
  5. Cover each pot with a clear plastic bag. Place pots in bright, indirect light in a warm room.
  6. Mist with water if the soil begins to dry. After a couple of weeks, begin to harden cuttings gradually by taking them outdoors before transplanting.

How To Grow Winter Honeysuckle From Seed

Winter honeysuckle produces red berries after flowering. Seeds are usually dispersed by birds eating the fruit and do not germinate until the following year. A warm period followed by cold stratification is required for winter honeysuckle to grow from seed. You can mimic this process by burying the seeds under 2 inches of leaf litter or soil, marking the spot where you planted, and watching for sprouts to appear the following year.

Common Pests & Plant Diseases

Winter honeysuckle has no serious disease or pest problems. If your plant is infested by aphids, scale insects, sawfly, whitefly, loopers, plant hoppers, flea beetles, or webworm, remove pests manually with a strong stream of water, or spray with insecticidal soap. Leaf spot, blight, and powdery mildew are unlikely to harm the plant, but can be treated with fungicide.

How To Get Winter Honeysuckle To Bloom

When it blooms in late winter and early spring, winter honeysuckle typically produces creamy white flowers tinged with yellow or pink. They emit a sweet fragrance that's one of the first intimations of spring in Southern gardens. According to the Missouri Botanical Garden, "Flowers are a harbinger of spring. Budded branches may be cut for an early, fragrant, indoor arrangement."

For the best flowering, provide plenty of sunshine and limit pruning to right after the shrub flowers.

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