Friday, August 7, 2020

Honeysuckle Vines and Bushes

By Vicki Barney

A Trumpet honeysuckle vine (Lonicera sempervirens), is growing on an arch trellis outside Creekside Restaurant in Steamboat Springs, and is currently in bloom with masses of pink flowers.  It has been there for many years and, like other honeysuckle species, enhances a lovely garden setting.

About 180 species of honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.) have been identified around the world.   Some species are vines and others are bushes, some more fragrant than others.  Usually they have oval, opposite growing leaves and produce flowers and berries in sets of two. They are fast growing and, once established, tolerate limited sun and water.  In some areas, certain non-native species grow too quickly and are considered invasive weeds. Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) is one such

species and is known to have invaded riparian areas in the Denver area.

I fear I have a Tatarian honeysuckle growing up along a wall in my yard.   The bush was planted more than 8 years ago and stands at least 14 feet tall.  Every summer it grows taller, producing bright green leaves, pretty pink flowers and small red berries. The flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds, and the berries feed the birds.  Fortunately, I have noticed no invasive behavior, likely due to an arid climate, a somewhat shady location, and no regular irrigation.

While honeysuckle plants are tolerant of drought conditions, they, like most plants, produce more flowers and more robust foliage when given regular water and more sunshine. Annual pruning may also keep a more attractive appearance.  Vining species need a trellis for support; some species, though, may be grown as ground cover.   Regarding shrubs, CSU Extension’s Fact Sheet on Deciduous Shrubs ( lists recommended species.

Colorado has one native species. Twinberry (Lonicera involucrata), a medium sized bush, grows along our trails and can be identified by its twin yellow flowers followed by twin dark berries in red bracts.  I have planted it in my yard to attract wildlife, and it flourishes in spite of limited sunshine.  More details about Twinberry and other native bushes may be found here: (

Our native honeysuckle is easy to grow and feeds our butterfly and bird populations.  Non-native species are almost as easy to grow, may produce more spectacular flowers, and are beneficial to our wildlife as well.  Nearly any variety of honeysuckle will add your garden experience.


Vicky Barney gardens for wildlife and is a member of the Master Gardener Class of 2011.

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