What are honeysuckle vines

Japanese honeysuckle vines

Plus some non-invasive alternatives

Japanese honeysuckle is an attractive vine, but it can also be an invasive plant that poses problems in the yard. Learn which regions this plant is invasive to and why gardeners living elsewhere may want to include it in their landscaping.

Taxonomy and botany of the Japanese honeysuckle

According to Japanese taxonomy, Japanese honeysuckle is Lonicera japonica . Technically, there is a variety called "Hall's" (Halliana) that is botanically different from the plant species, but the two are similar enough to be treated as the same plant.

Japanese honeysuckle are flowering vines that are deciduous in the north, but evergreen or evergreen in the south. These plants are climbers. They lace themselves around vertical objects in order to climb. Some growers choose to train gazebos.

Properties of the vine

Leaves grow in what is known as an "opposite" pattern along the stem, facing each other. While some gardeners find their leaves reasonably attractive, there is no question about what Japanese honeysuckle vines are grown for: namely, their flowers. These vines have white flowers, but a pink color also often finds its way. In addition, the older white flowers tend to fade to a yellowish color even as new ones continue to appear. This means that Hall's flowers can be three colors at any time: white, pink and yellow.

Homeowners may also be tempted to grow it because of its shade tolerance.

Finding vines that do well in the shade can be a challenge, especially with flowering plants.

These fragrant flowers are followed by black berries. The grapevine blooms in a Zone 5 landscape in June. A poisonous plant, keep children away from it: the berries are poisonous when eaten.

The flowers attract hummingbirds.

In addition, these are plants that attract butterflies.

Where it grows, how it is used in landscaping

Japanese honeysuckle is native not only to Japan but also to Korea and China. Because of its invasive nature, it is also widespread in eastern North America after escaping from people's gardens and into the wild and naturalized. It is likely to be invasive in other regions outside of its home country with similar climates. Japanese honeysuckle can be used as a solitary in regions where it is not invasive.

Bush form where it is invasive

There are many plants called "honeysuckle" including some that are not vines. For example, there is an invasive honeysuckle bush found in the northeastern United States called "Morrow's honeysuckle". There are also other grape varieties.

This invasive plant can spread either underground (via rhizomes) or above ground (via wild birds that eat the berries and drop the seeds elsewhere).

It is listed as an invasive plant as high up on the east coast of the United States as the southern parts of New England. It is a real threat in parts of the country where the foliage is evergreen and therefore stronger. In the south, the Japanese honeysuckle grows so aggressively that it poses a danger to the trees when climbing into the treetops.

The plant can also damage shrubs and small trees by enclosing them.

In northern New England, Hall's Japanese honeysuckle is unlikely to spread aggressively. Sweet fall clematis is a pesky vine out there. Check with your local county extension about the invasive status of Japanese honeysuckle in your area.

A native, non-invasive alternative and other types

Growers in North America looking for a non-invasive alternative to Japanese honeysuckle could consider any of several types of Trumpet Honeysuckle ( Lonicera sempervirens ) plants. These Native Americans are generally cold hearted around planting zone 4. The downside is that their flowers aren't fragrant (or at least not as fragrant as their invasive counterparts). Grow them in full sun and in average soil. Depending on the species and conditions, these vines can grow up to 15 feet tall, with a maximum spread of about 1/3 of that.

If necessary, prune after flowering.

Examples of some of the colors and varieties available are:

  • Red: Alabama Crimson
  • Yellow: John Clayton
  • Orange: Magnifica

Do not confuse trumpet honeysuckle plants with trumpet tendrils, which are also hummingbird magnets (but very problematic as they are very aggressive spreaders).

Other types of Lonicera Vines include:

  • Lonicera capifolium
  • Lonicera x heckrottii
  • Lonicera x tellmanniana
  • Lonicera periclymenum