How to grow honeysuckle: this fragrant plant is perfect for growing up walls, fences and pergolas

Find out all you need to know about how to grow honeysuckle in your garden and you’ll be in for a real treat when the vivid blooms burst open to drench the air with scent

how to grow honeysuckle
(Image credit: Alamy)

If you want to find out how to grow honeysuckle, you've come to the right place. With its exotic flowers, sweet scent and graceful trailing habit, it's a good choice for any garden. There are lots of different varieties to choose from and there’s one to suit every space. 

A great climber that wraps easily around a pergola or scrambles over a fence, honeysuckle will quickly become your go-to when it comes to softening boundaries and adding a touch of romantic planting. It’s a cottage garden classic that works equally well in modern gardens too.

Honeysuckle will perfume your garden in winter and summer alike, depending on the variety you opt for. Choose between the twining and climbing crimson and golden flowered ones with large luxuriously scented flowers or the fast-growing hardy bushes with smaller flowers but nevertheless equally delightfully fragranced. 

Honeysuckle (proper name Lonicera) is also a magnet for butterflies who love to drowse on their slender tubular flowers and foraging bees on the lookout for nectar, while birds like to nest in them too.

Keep reading for everything you need to know, then check out our guide to garden borders for more planting inspiration.

HOW TO GROW HONEYSUCKLE

climbing honeysuckle

Climbing honeysuckle will quickly scramble over trellis to soften the edges of hard landscaping with a riot of colour and fragrance

(Image credit: Alamy)

Learning how to grow honeysuckle is easy. This unfussy shrub is a happy-go-lucky plant that will slot into your garden design with minimum effort and maximum impact. It’s a prolific grower and will quickly fill out into a full and leafy shrub to hide ugly boundaries and smooth out the edges of our favourite pergola ideas.

Honeysuckle grows in any fertile, well-drained soil including chalk and clay. It thrives in sun or dappled shade or even full shade due to its woodland origins (honeysuckle is a native wild plant) but will only flower prolifically if it gets some regular sun. 

It’s hardy in even the coldest of winters and there are varieties that will survive in really low temperatures and still thrive.

WHAT IS THE BEST TIME OF YEAR TO PLANT A HONEYSUCKLE?

scented honeysuckle

Lonicera japonica var repens (also known as Creeping Japanese honeysuckle) is a vigorous evergreen climber covered with clusters of fragrant white flowers tinged with purple

(Image credit: Future)

Honeysuckle can be bought and planted all year round apart from if the ground is frozen or waterlogged. It’s best to plant the deciduous variety in late winter though, while spring or autumn are best for the evergreen types. 

Add a good layer of mulch to help keep the soil moist and provide the growing conditions honeysuckle loves best. Head over to our guide to mulching for more tips. 

Water regularly during the first spring and summer until the plant has become established, when you can ease off the regular checks.

WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO PLANT HONEYSUCKLE?

scented climbing honeysuckle

A sunny fence or wall is the ideal spot for honeysuckle

(Image credit: Alamy)

As honeysuckle just gets on with it choosing the right location isn't difficult. If you decide to plant it in a spot that isn't sheltered it won't be bothered. A warm wall or fence is great for encouraging flowers. If you want honeysuckle to scramble through trees or other shrubs, you may need to provide netting for it to get a grip. 

If you want to use honeysuckle as a way to add interest to your garden fence ideas or garden wall ideas, use trellis or wires arranged in horizontal layers about 45cm apart. Add vertical wires as well, spaced in the same way, if you really want to give your honeysuckle a head start. Make sure you leave a gap of at least 5cm between the wall and the support so the honeysuckle can wrap round it in a spiral. 

Remember honeysuckle needs space to grow and twine, and you may also need wiggle room to tie it up if it gets wayward.

WHAT TYPE OF HONEYSUCKLE SHOULD YOU GROW?

scented honeysuckle

Lonicera periclymenum 'Graham Thomas' is deliciously fragrant with large white, tubular flowers. It's ideal for training over walls, fences, pillars and pergolas

(Image credit: Future)
  1. In June, the rampant Lonicera periclymenum bursts into flower and will continue to bloom until September. It's a lovely source of scent and the insects will flock to it on sunny afternoons.
  2. Try 'Graham Thomas', an easy-to-grow and fast establishing honeysuckle with pale creamy yellow flowers and fabulous evening scent, or compact and highly fragranced 'Chic et Choc', with flowers tinged with slashes of dramatic purple.
  3. If you want a contemporary looking honeysuckle that will suit your modern garden ideas, opt for a climber like Lonicera sempervirens with its clusters of dangling tubular salmon-pink flowers or scarlet Lonicera x brownii 'Dropmore Scarlet'.
  4. If you want an easy honeysuckle shrub variety, opt for Lonicera xylostemon with its creamy white flowers in late spring and early summer.
  5. The semi-evergreen Lonicera standishii ‘Budapest’ is the longest flowering of all the winter honeysuckles, spangled with pretty pink flowers that emerge as early as November and will continue to flourish through until early spring.

WHAT PROBLEMS AFFECT HONEYSUCKLE?

These dependable plants are pretty trouble-free. If it’s a dry summer with too much sun this may lead to powdery mildew. If your soil lacks a protective mulch of well-rotted organic material this can aggravate the problem. Avoid this by mulching regularly to improve moisture retention. 

Aphids like tender shoots but are easily rubbed off. A spot that's too shady will often result in a lack of flowers too.

Need an alternative option for a shady corner of your corner? Head over to our guide to the best shade loving plants

HOW TO PRUNE HONEYSUCKLE

scented climbing honeysuckle

(Image credit: Future)
  • One of the lovely things about honeysuckle is that it rejuvenates itself every year. Keep it pruned and you will be rewarded with an abundance of new flowers in the following season.
  • Once your honeysuckle has finished flowering, cut off any dead wood and remove around a third of the plant by clipping the oldest stems to the ground (using the best secateurs is the ideal way to do this). Pruning will reshape it and generate new growth and fresh flowers, as well as getting rid of any unsightly bare stems. Your honeysuckle will respond with a healthy growth of new shoots.
  • Late-flowering varieties flower on the current season’s growth, and it’s best to prune them in spring. They only require the lightest of trims to tidy them up. If you go in hard this will reduce the amount of flowers you get later in the year. 
  • Early-flowering types produce flowers on side shoots that sprout on the previous season’s growth. It’s best to prune them straight after they’ve bloomed in late summer by cutting back flowered shoots by a third. 

CAN YOU GROW HONEYSUCKLE FROM A CUTTING? 

scented honeysuckle

(Image credit: Alamy)

There are two ways to stretch your honeysuckle and make some baby plants. Both are super easy to do. 

Layering method 

Simply bend a young, pliable honeysuckle vine down to the ground in spring, pin it in place with a metal plant peg so that it forms a 'U' shape, then cover it with soil leaving the tip above ground. A new plant will soon take root and spring into leaf.

Softwood and semi-ripe cuttings 

Choose healthy, disease-free stems to propagate from and take cuttings in spring when the plant starts to put on new growth. Choose a 10cm piece of stem and trim so that only one leaf node remains. Nip out the growing tip from the centre of the node. 

Make a soil mix up with last year's old spent compost and some gritty sand in a 50/50 ratio, and use it to fill to a small flowerpot. Then insert two or three cuttings round the edges of the pot. 

They're hardy plants so you can put them outside in spring. Remember to keep an eye on them so they don't dry out and cover them in the event of late frosts.

There's more advice on how to take cuttings from plants in our guide. 

How to care for honeysuckle 

scented honeysuckle

Lonicera periclymenum has long yellow and white trumpets tinged with deep red

(Image credit: Alamy)

Honeysuckles are not very demanding and can generally just be left to do their own thing. All they need is a feed in spring with a general fertiliser such as Growmore. They do love a yearly top up of mulch though to keep the soil moist.

WHERE TO BUY HONEYSUCKLE

Lonicera × tellmanniana honeysuckle flowers to attract bees

Lonicera x tellmanniana: this twining, deciduous honeysuckle stands out from the crowd with its unusual flame colouring.

(Image credit: Crocus)

You can honeysuckle as a plant from the garden centre, and they are also readily available by mail order in a variety of pot sizes.

Shop honeysuckle at the below suppliers, or keep scrolling for some of our favourite picks at the end of the article. 

Shop honeysuckle in the UK

Shop honeysuckle in the US

4 VARIETIES OF HONEYSUCKLE TO TRY IN YOUR GARDEN

Honeysuckle Lonicera x heckrottii American Beauty

Honeysuckle Lonicera x heckrottii 'American Beauty'

(Image credit: Gardening Express)

With so many wonderful colours and varieties to choose from you're spoiled for choice. Here's a round-up of some of our favourite honeysuckle varieties.

Lonicera periclymenum 'Rhubarb and Custard' from Thompson & Morgan
Produces a mass of large, powerfully scented flowers throughout summer and the bees love it. This is a top performer that's also compact, so ideal for smaller gardens or patio pots topped with an obelisk. Easy to grow and undemanding.View Deal

Lonicera periclymenum 'Heaven Scent' from Waitrose Garden
A robust, deciduous climber that is a cottage garden classic. From midsummer to early autumn produces very fragrant yellow flowers with tones of pinkish salmon that fade with age. They are then followed by bright, shiny red berries.
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Honeysuckle 'Belgica' from Thompson & Morgan
The white flowers gradually turn yellow with rich red streaks, and are followed by red berries. This vigorous climber flowers mainly during early summer, but will often produce a follow up flush of scented blooms in September and October.View Deal

Lonicera X Brownii Dropmore Scarlet from Suttons
Flowering over a long period from July to September, this vibrant honeysuckle has long, trumpet-shaped red-orange flowers, sometimes followed by bright red berries. Robust and semi-evergreen, it's excellent for rapidly covering walls and fences.View Deal