Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.) is a large genus, comprising over 240 species of twining vines. It is therefore impossible to identify a habitat that will suit every single species. However, honeysuckles across the genus do share several common traits in terms of appearance, culture and preferred environment. Best of all, they’re a pretty, fragrant, low-maintenance ornamental that kids absolutely love.
Honeysuckles grow by twining their long tendrils around upright supports. In gardens this most often means a trellis or fence, though they will also grow along the ground in trailing, shrubby fashion. They bloom at different times of the year, depending on species, and come in a wide range of flower colors, including pink, yellow, red, white, orange and cream. Their fruits, which often attract birds, also display a range of colors, from red to blue to black or sometimes translucently white.
Honeysuckles are in the family Caprifoliaceae. While many of them are native to the United States, others are non-natives. Yellow honeysuckle (Lonicera flava), hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 8, and trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9, are both native to the southeastern United States. Fragrant honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima), however, is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 8 and originally hails from China. Many cultivars have been bred both here and abroad.
When you choose a site to plant honeysuckle, try to take into account not only its cultural preferences, but also the preferences of the things growing around it. Although honeysuckles will happily grow up trees, for instance, you shouldn’t let them, as their clinging vines may strangle and kill the trees. Also check in your area to see if honeysuckle is invasive there. If so, you should take precautions to keep it confined to its planting area, or else plant something else.
Honeysuckles are fairly cold-tolerant, though they do not grow as vigorously in cooler climates as they do in warmer ones. This may be a good thing, however, as a slightly cooler growing area tends to inhibit their invasive tendencies somewhat. They like full sunlight, though they also tolerate part shade well, and like moist, well-drained soil. Rich loams are their preferred soil type, though they will also grow in most soils. Their ideal planting area is in a somewhat informal garden, where their sprawling, breezy habit will be right at home.