Honeysuckle is a popular garden plant known for its fragrant blossoms and can be found in many gardens throughout the UK. Everyone recognises the wonderful scent of a honeysuckle vine and the delicious taste of its nectar. It belongs to a genus of about 120 evergreen, deciduous shrubs and twining climbers. That’s why it is both a climbing plant and a shrub.
You may already have heard of this plant since it is widely used on garden arches. Honeysuckle is simple to cultivate, but only in the appropriate location, as it is picky about where it is placed. But when is the right time to prune such a plant? Keep on reading as we show you when and how to prune your honeysuckle.
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Honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.) is a heat-tolerant plant that may thrive in a variety of conditions. They grow as far-reaching vines or arching shrubs, with dark green to blue-green foliage and sweet-smelling flowers. The flowers come in a variety of colours, including vivid pinks, oranges, yellows, and whites, and some types have a two-colour flower.
The nectar-rich flowers attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and bees, while the little red berries that appear after flowering are enjoyed by many kinds of birds. These flowers can bloom repeatedly throughout the growing season if you properly deadhead the plant. Here are the most common varieties:
1. Lonicera Nitida (Baggesen’s Gold)
It is a dense evergreen shrub that blooms in the early spring. Yellow foliage makes a great topiary or low-growing hedging plant. It is about 1.5 m tall.
2. Lonicera Mandarin
It is a new variety with bright orange blossoms that are fragrance-free.
3. Lonicera periclymenum Serotina
From July to October, it blooms with creamy white petals and dark purple tips. It is a deciduous climber with a strong fragrance and it can reach a height of 5 m.
4. Lonicera tellmanniana
It blooms with orange and yellow flowers from May to July. It is a fragrant deciduous climber with a lovely smell and can reach a height of 5m.
5. Lonicera fragrantissima
From January through March, this shrub, sometimes known as the winter honeysuckle, produces white aromatic blooms. It is hardy to the core and can grow to a height of 1.5 m.
6. Lonicera periclymenum (Graham Thomas)
The fragrant white flowers become yellow from July to September. Late summer brings red berries. This climbing honeysuckle can reach a height of 5 m. Give it a sturdy and firm frame to climb up in places such as a trellis.
When is the right time to prune honeysuckle?
The right time to trim such a plant always depends on the exact type you are dealing with. Honeysuckle bushes should be cut in the spring, while vines can be trimmed lightly any time of year. When pruning vines, do so in the autumn or winter for a more gradual rejuvenation of the plant.
Stems that grow in an unfavourable direction should be cut too. If the plant has become woody, trim the stems back in the late spring to encourage new growth.
How to prune your honeysuckle step-by-step
1. Prune the shrub between April and June
To guarantee that the branches are generating blooms, wait till after the flowering season has passed. Look for branches that haven’t produced any leaves or flowers after the plant has bloomed.
Trim the plant during the flowering season to avoid stunting growth and premature wilting of the blooms. To prevent the spread of pests and diseases, disinfect your pruning shears with rubbing alcohol or bleach before using them.
2. Remove dead, damaged, or sick branches first
Look around the shrub for any dead branches that don’t have any leaves or haven’t bloomed. Make a note of any branches that have snapped or bent.
Also, look for any branches with bugs on them or wilted leaves at the bottom of the plant. Then, remove all of them so that you can “shape” the shrub by trimming the healthy branches.
3. Cut at a 45-degree angle
Cutting at an angle allows water to drain off the end of the stem, reducing the risk of stem rot. If you cut a branch straight across, water will pool on the surface, killing the rest of the branch and inviting vermin to crawl into the branches.
To avoid microscopic cracks in the branches, always use sharp pruning scissors, sharpened shears or long-handled loppers.
4. Cut the branches
Allowing a small portion of the old branch to remain will encourage regeneration. Look for a bud where a leaf or another branch meets the branch you wish to cut.
This is a place where there is a lot of development so cut the branch back to a healthy main branch in the heart of the bush, often known as a “parent branch,” if any part of it is severely damaged or infected.
5. To maximise light and airflow, remove a few branches from the middle
Select a few of the bush’s long, healthy stems in the middle and trim them to a bud in the bush’s centre. This will allow more sunlight and air to permeate the bush’s middle and lower sections, promoting additional healthy growth.
If your bush has a lot of long branches at the top, you may wish to cut some of them to the shrub’s centre.
1. Lightly trim the vine to shape it late in the summer
During the blooming season, vines can grow swiftly and spread out quite a bit. Re-shape the plant to a more manageable size once the season is through.
Avoid pruning more than 1/3 of the stems throughout the first few years of a vine’s life. Cutting the plant’s stems too many times can cause extreme damage.
2. Before trimming, remove or clip any wilting blooms
Before you start shaping the vine, remove any leftover brown leaves or blooms with your hands or pruning scissors.
This can help you get a better sense of the size and shape of your vine, as well as point out areas where it needs more water, sunlight, or ventilation.
If a section of the vine has a lot of dead leaves, cut around it with your scissors to encourage light and airflow.
3. Remove any tangled stems from the vine’s top
Cutting off stems from the top of the vine, which is more knotted than the bottom, promotes development later in the season. Only cut the tangled mess, and work your way down the vine slowly.
Trim more off one side of the plant to encourage growth in the opposite direction if you wish to divert the vine. Trim any stems from the bottom of new plants if possible, as this “old growth” helps to maintain the plant. The vine can die if it doesn’t have it.
4. Trim just above a leaf node with a pair of sharp pruning scissors
The section of a stem where the leaf begins to form from a “parent stem” is known as the leaf node. Make a clean cut all the way across the stem by holding your scissors at a 45-degree angle at the node.
Use this technique to keep aphids and pests from invading the vine no matter where you’re cutting.
1. Prune in the winter
Bushes and vines are dormant in the winter and so more severe pruning will not harm the plant. To prevent the flowering process, trim in the early winter, but late winter trimming is also fine as long as the plant has no new growth.
Because the branches can recover completely before blooming, pruning in the winter tends to improve flowering in the following years. Honeysuckle should not be severely trimmed more than once every 2 to 3 winters. Pruning too much can harm the bush.
2. Cut severely overgrown plants within 0.30 m of the ground
Trim all of the stems with a handsaw or loppers until only 0.30 m of growth remains. The plant will continue to develop, but flowers will not appear for another 1 to 3 years.
Even the oldest and thickest branches can be trimmed in this circumstance. They will make up the majority of the remaining bush and produce new growth in the years to come.
3. Remove the branches so that the plant will flower
Start at the top of the bush and work your way down, for a more progressive renewal of the plant. In the spring, the plant will still produce flowers from its remaining branches.
As such, you will have to cut the branches every winter for the next three years, until the bush is at a manageable size.
How to care for your honeysuckle
Although this plant loves dappled light, it will grow in full sun to partial shade. Provide a comparable setting to the plant’s natural habitat. Shade the roots and allow the honeysuckle plants to climb towards the sun if possible.
Any fertile, rich, well-drained soil will be fine for such a plant.
Water new plants on a regular basis. Maintain an even moisture level in the soil until the plant displays symptoms of rapid growth. It will be drought tolerant once established.
Only water if summer droughts extend two weeks or more, and at least 2 cm of water per week is available. Water will not evaporate if you add an organic mulch around the plant’s base.
It tends to grow best in temperate locations with cooler summers. Place the plant in a shady area if the weather happens to be particularly hot.
Honeysuckle will grow vigorously without any fertiliser if planted in rich soil. Apply a low-nitrogen fertiliser in the spring to increase blooming. Too much nitrogen encourages leaf growth.
Such “flushes of leaf growth” may increase the plant’s vulnerability to pests. To give each plant exactly what it needs, always make sure to fully read and understand the fertiliser labels beforehand.
Pruning honeysuckle is a good way to keep your plant healthy. Follow our gardening tips above and always remember to trim the plant after it starts flowering to maintain a neat shape!