The winter honeysuckle begins producing generous quantities of beautiful blossoms in mid to late winter perfuming the cool air with its fabulous fragrance. Click to download a large version (800x600) of this image.
Winter honeysuckle is a bush, not a vine, but it has those familiar honeysuckle flowers and that sweet honeysuckle scent. Winter honeysuckle gets 6-8 ft (1.8-2.4 m) tall, and its irregular, tangled branches form a twisted labyrinth as much as 8-10 ft (2.4-3 m) across. The leaves are nearly evergreen in the South, but deciduous in cooler climes. They are borne in opposing pairs along the slender, arching stems. Flowering begins in late winter and lasts for several weeks, filling the air with fragrance when nothing else is blooming. The flowers are extremely abundant, creamy white, about a half inch (1.5 cm) long and arranged in pairs in the leaf axils.
Location Lonicera fragrantissima was brought into cultivation from wild plants found growing in eastern China.
Keep winter honeysuckle in bounds by pruning back once or twice a year. You can even cut it to the ground and it will send up new shoots. Light: Winter honeysuckle can tolerate partial shade, but will bloom more profusely in full sun. Moisture: Grow in a well drained soil and water deeply during periods of drought. Hardiness: USDA Zones 5-9. Winter honeysuckle is hardy to at least -13°F (-25°C). Propagation: Young, fast growing softwood shoots taken in spring are easy to root under mist. The seeds may require a period of dormancy before they will germinate. The arching stems sometimes take root where they lie on the ground and these can be removed to start new plants.
Unlike most other honeysuckles which are rampantly growing vines, winter honeysuckle grows as a shrub whose shape and size is easily controlled with occasional trimming.
I love my winter honeysuckle; it's so nice to have that sweet, lemony fragrance just outside the kitchen door in the middle of January, when everything else is whining about the cold! I have mine in a group of winter and early spring blooming shrubs including bright yellow forsythia, crimson red flowering quince and snow white popcorn spirea. Winter honeysuckle is often used in a mixed shrub border. Bring in some flowering branches in a vase for indoor enjoyment.
With more than 180 species and named cultivars, the honeysuckles are important garden plants, from twining climbers to bushy shrubs to rampant ground covers. Most are fragrant; all are easy to grow and all are cold tolerant. Birds eat the fruits. What's not to like about the honeysuckles?