Growth in gardening:

Texas White honeysuckle – or its scientific name L. albiflora – is indigenous to Central Texas. Photos courtesy of Joe Urbach

Junes other birth flower: Honeysuckles

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about June’s birth flower, the rose. At the time I mentioned that the alternative birth flower for June is the honeysuckle, I did not write about it because there was just so much to say about roses. I learned that was a bit of a mistake, my email blew up with requests for information on the honeysuckle. Who knew there were so many honeysuckle fans out there.

The Honeysuckle is a shrub or vine that is found in the Northern Hemisphere. There are 180 species of honeysuckle, most of which hale from China, which boasts over 100 species. Europe and North America only have about 20 species each, in Hays and Travis counties we have several that do well, Coral Honeysuckle and Texas White Honeysuckle. You may have heard these two being called by many other names. Coral honeysuckle is often called Evergreen Honeysuckle, Trumpet Honeysuckle, Woodbine, Scarlet Trumpet, Red Honeysuckle, or Red Woodbine. Its Latin name is Lonicera sempervirens.

Texas White honeysuckle, which is indigenous to our area, is sometimes called Western white honeysuckle, White shrub honeysuckle, White bush honeysuckle, White limestone honeysuckle, Texas honeysuckle, or White honeysuckle and its Latin name is L. albiflora.

When it comes to birth flowers many folks believe that a person adopts the characteristics of the flower for the month in which they were born. In the case of June, the rose is delicate, yet capable of protecting itself with its thorns. It symbolizes love, devotion and passion. It is also highly fragrant and is the preferred flower to express your love for another. Likewise, the honeysuckle is a symbol of everlasting love, happiness and a sweet disposition.

According to ancient beliefs the fragrance of the honeysuckle inspires dreams of love and passion. Bringing a blooming honeysuckle plant indoors was a sure sign that a wedding would soon take place in the home. With two birth flowers that so capture the essence of love and romance it is no wonder that June is traditionally the month of weddings. June birth flowers fill the room with fragrance and beauty that symbolize love and devotion.

Would you believe that my coral honeysuckle is often the first plant in my yard to bloom every year? It’s true, surprisingly it isn’t my agarita, which is usually the first native plant to flower in most yards. More often than not it is my coral honeysuckle that begins to put out a few red flowers mere days after the cold of January.

Coral honeysuckle – or its scientific name Lonicera sempervirens – grows well in Hays County soil and booms throughout most of the year.

The thought of having a “honeysuckle” in your yard might frighten some home gardeners because of the bad reputation of Japanese honeysuckle, L. japonica, which is one of the most notoriously invasive exotic plants ever introduced into our area. But, fear not, both the coral honeysuckle and the Texas white honeysuckle are easily contained and will not invade the entire yard or even take over a fence line.

I highly recommend you try to grow some Texas White honeysuckle of your own. It is not hard at all. In fact, the soil it wants to live in needs to be somewhat rocky or sandy. Also ideal is a limestone-based, sandy loam to clay soil, which perfectly describes the typical Hays County soil. This beauty usually isn’t much more than a 4-foot shrub, but the long, graceful, sometimes twining branches of white honeysuckle can reach 10 feet in height. The showy, white flowers occur in 2-3-inch clusters and are followed by clusters of orange-red fruit. This is a deciduous shrub, so it will lose its leaves in the fall, but what a pretty shrub or woody vine it is with its dark green foliage and attractive clusters of white flowers. It will encourage many wild visitors to come to your yard. Deer may browse the plant when they are hungry – but then what won’t deer eat when they are hungry? The berries attract birds, and the nectar brings in the butterflies and the bees.

Texas White honeysuckle will usually only bloom from March until July. Now I know that many of you old timers are going to tell me that the Texas White only blooms from March until the end of May, and while that may often be the case, I can testify to the fact that mine still blooms in June and into July. Admittedly the number of blooms decreases as the temperature increases but I often still have white blooms for my annual Fourth of July picnic.

If you would like to see a very nice example of the Texas White Honeysuckle you might want to plan a visit to the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, last time I was there I saw a very nice example. On the subject of the Wildflower center, I cannot recommend strongly enough that you visit there at least once every season to get a good idea of just what bounty we can grow during each part of the year.

Now on the subject of the coral honeysuckle, my personal favorite flower for a fence or trellis, it will bloom off and on for most of the year. Its whorls of bright-red and orange trumpet flowers, shiny dark-green oblong leaves, and red berries make this honeysuckle a showy vine for home landscaping. Hummingbirds, butterflies, bees, and more are attracted to the blooms while many other birds come for the fruits.

Coral honeysuckle is a native of much of the eastern United States where it frequents stream banks, woods and thickets. It is wide ranging from Connecticut to Florida, west through the south and midwest to Nebraska. In Central Texas it has been found naturally occurring in both Hays and Travis Counties. Despite its natural range, coral honeysuckle does well in gardens in the Hill Country area. It grows in partly shady spots, preferably with morning sun and afternoon shade. Coral honeysuckle is noted to tolerate a rather wide variety of soils, and once established, it requires very little, if any, watering. In Hill Country gardens, coral honeysuckle needs to be protected from browsing deer as they favor it over the Texas white variety. It is beautiful most of the year with it’s smooth, twining evergreen vine bearing dark, shiny green leaves which are white on the lower surface. The trumpet shaped flowers show up in swirls of four to six flowers. They are usually red outside and orange inside, or rarely, all orange or yellow. Red to green twining stems fade to grey when mature. Clusters of red berries mature in September to October. Ornamentally, coral honeysuckle is well suited to climb on a fence or trellis, it is evergreen through most of Texas, and often blooms in January and sporadically throughout the growing season to attract pollinators.

Don’t be afraid to grow honeysuckle – just be sure to grow the correct variety.

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Joe Urbach is the publisher of GardeningAustin.com and the Phytonutrient Blog. He has lived in the Central Texas area for over 30 years. Urbach is a certified Texas Master Gardener from Hays County and is currently serving as the director of training. For more information on the Master Gardener program contact the Hays County AgiLife Extension Service at 512-393-2120.

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