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Yellow Honeysuckle (Lonicera flava)

Jim Lakin MD, Dakota County Master Gardener

One benefit of climate change is that it allows us to grow plants that have previously been out of our growing zone. One of those plants is Yellow Honeysuckle (Lonicera flava). A Zone 5 plant, Yellow Honeysuckle is likely to grow well in the southern part of Minnesota. As Master Gardener Jim Lakin explains in this article, Yellow Honeysuckle is a beautiful, vining plant that you should consider for your garden.

Yellow Honeysuckle (Lonicera flava)

Although Lonicera flava is not usually native to Minnesota, it does grow wild in Illinois and Iowa.  With climate change, it would be well worth your while to give this beauty a go.  Yellow honeysuckle should do well in the southern part of the state which is rapidly becoming USDA region 5.  In the Twin Cities, planting in a fairly sheltered area would be prudent.  You folks up in Duluth probably are doomed to disappointment.  Once established, Lonicera flava is a hardy fellow through Zone 5 and should give years of spectacular yellow flowers in the mid to late spring.

Yellow honeysuckle is a long-lived native perennial.  It does best in full sun but will tolerate partial shade.  Beware, however.  This sunlight reduction will reduce the number and intensity of blooms.  As the vine grows some 10 to 20 feet upwards, you will want to plant it adjacent to a trellis, fence or other sturdy support.  A three to six foot spacing between plants is recommended.   

For the first season after planting, you will want to keep the plant moist although subsequently Lonicera flava is moderately drought resistant.  A good covering of mulch helps a lot.  Speaking of mulch, it is a good idea to mulch yellow honeysuckle heavily in winter especially in more northerly regions.  Don’t heap the mulch around the stem, however, to avoid encouraging rot.  The vine also tends to be disease resistant, although occasionally aphids will camp out on the leaves.  It also is not the first choice of deer or rabbits on the buffet line.  In short, it is a low maintenance plant.

Although yellow honeysuckle will fit into most any landscaping scheme, it looks great in an informal or naturalized setting, especially as a border plant in woodlands.  It forms tubular, fragrant trumpet-shaped flowers in whorls which attract hummingbirds and many butterfly species with their nectar.  The plant will form small round orange to red berries in the late summer into the fall, providing food for birds and many small mammals.  Thus, yellow honeysuckle is a big plus to the ecology of your garden. 

Photo Credits: (All Creative Commons)), Missouri Dept. Conservation (2)

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