Gardening for Health

Native Honeysuckle Brings Color and Visitors to the Garden  

Our native honeysuckle, Lonicera sempervirens, is a wonderful plant to grow if you want to guarantee hummingbirds visit your garden.   

Being a vine, honeysuckle contributes well to the layering effect that is so important in a balanced garden. Vines add unique opportunities to add color where you normally can’t reach. They can be used for screening and privacy if grown vertically.  

Trumpet honeysuckle can also be grown horizontally on a fence for a big splash of orange-red color. Trumpet honeysuckle can take up little space at ground level and provide a sense of enclosure depending on what you train it on. The more sun it is exposed to, the deeper red the flowers become.   

I’ve been enjoying the honeysuckle that I trained up one side of an arch interspersed with climbing roses and vining clematis, throughout April and May. The flowers have not opened yet but will be a brilliant orange-red. Once the main flush is over, it will continue to bloom all summer and that’s when the hummingbirds come. This honeysuckle’s long trumpetlike flowers are typically coral-red but yellow varieties are also available. Don’t confuse those with the wildly invasive Japanese honeysuckle which is good for honeysuckle sipping.  

Trumpet honeysuckle, whose twining vines reach up to 20 feet, grows in moist well-drained soil in sun to partial shade. The simple leaves are one to three inches long with dark bluish-green above and white waxy below. In summer the fruit is a round, red berry. The flowers are an excellent source of nectar for hummingbirds.   

The ruby-throated hummingbird is the only hummer species that regularly nests east of the Mississippi River. It’s better to provide nectar-rich plants for these birds as opposed to feeders with sugar water.   

Trumpet honeysuckle also produces pollen for bees and butterflies. It makes a splashing display when planted with ornamental clematis in shades of blue.