Lonicera japonica: Japanese honeysuckle

Family: Caprifoliaceae
Common name: Japanese honeysuckle, Chinese honeysuckle, Gold-and-silver honeysuckle, Hall’s honeysuckle, Honeysuckle, Gold-and-silver flower

Japanese honeysuckle is a twining vine plant that is native to East Asia but has become a cherished ornamental plant in gardens around the world. Famous for its fragrant and delicately-colored flowers, this beautiful plant can transform landscapes with its beautiful blooms.

Japanese honeysuckle is a vigorous, deciduous or semi-evergreen vine that can climb, trail, or sprawl, depending on where it grows and the availability of supporting structures to climb on. The plant can reach impressive heights of 10 meters or more, making it an ideal choice for covering fences, trellises, and arbors.

The young stems are deep red in color, whereas the older stems are brown and partially hollow. Its rapid growth and ability to form dense thickets have made it popular for creating natural screens and green walls, although they are considered invasive in some parts of the world. This rapid growth allows the plant to form thick mats of foliage over other plants smothering them.

The leaves of Japanese honeysuckle are opposite and roughly oblong measuring 2 to 5 cm in length. The first leaves of the growing season can be serrated and lobed, whereas the older leaves have smooth edges. They are glossy green above and paler beneath, adding to the plant’s visual appeal.

Japanese honeysuckle flowers are beautiful, fragrant and intricate. Adding to the beauty is their unique characteristic of being white when they are young and turning yellow as they mature. The tubular, two-lipped blossoms typically appear in pairs and are creamy white in color gradually turning yellow so that the plant has bunches of white and yellow flowers blooming at the same time.

Each flower measures approximately 2-4 cm in length with a delightful fragrance that intensifies in the evening, attracting nocturnal insects. The abundant multi-colored blooms make Japanese honeysuckle a gardener’s delight, covering the garden with sweet-smelling flowers throughout summer and autumn.

The plant also produces small, spherical berries that ripen from green to dark purple or black, and are 5-8 mm in diameter, containing numerous tiny seeds. While these berries are visually appealing, it’s important to note that some varieties of Japanese honeysuckle are non-native and invasive in certain regions. In such cases, it is advisable to remove the berries to prevent the spread of the plant into natural habitats.

Japanese honeysuckle plants thrive in full sunlight, at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily can encourage abundant flowers. The soil should be kept consistently moist but not waterlogged. Mulching around the base of the plant can help retain moisture and suppress weeds.

Regular pruning is essential to keep the rampant vines in check and prevent it from becoming overly aggressive. Providing a sturdy trellis, arbor, or other support structure will help the plant to grow with some discipline.

In traditional herbal medicine, Japanese honeysuckle is used in the treatment of cough, cold, sore throat, inflammations, skin ailments and fever. The flowers are edible for humans and is also eaten by hummingbirds, deer, rabbit and small animals.

Propagation is through seeds, stem cuttings or layering.