Native honeysuckle (Lonicera sempivirens) is a star of Chesapeake native plants. First, it is literally a hummingbird magnet. Second, new growth often begins in February. Third, it’s very durable – you can see it trained to climb a trellis on the High Line in New York City so sun and wind are no problem. Last, it is so versatile — grow it on a mailbox post, train it to cover a fence or let it climb a wall. If you can think of it, it will probably do it. At the same time, it is quite manageable with a little pruning from time to time. It is nowhere near as aggressive as its asian alternative, Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica).
Japanese honeysuckle, on the left above, is considered invasive. The Missouri Botanical Garden calls it a “dreadful weed.” Despite this, Japanese honeysuckle is widely sold as an evergreen perennial with fragrant flowers by major growers. If you have this, you should remove it because of its many invasive tendencies.
New growth on a native honeysuckle in February is covered with ice. The new growth is hardy and will continue to morph into beautiful maroons and dark pinks.
In April, the flowers really pop!
Native honeysuckle is widely available in quart sizes and will grow several feet the first year in full sun or part shade. To train it on a fence or railing, cut off side shoots near the base in spring so the plant pushes its energy into higher growth. Enjoy the hummingbirds and the view!
For more information:
About plant habit, wildlife value and more from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.