Honeysuckle is a popular, very fragrant vine that is a good choice for growing against unattractive fences or walls. It can spread and sprawl, so it's wise to provide support such as a trellis when your plant begins its rapid growth in spring and summer. About 180 species of honeysuckle exist, with flower color ranging from white to scarlet.
Some Honeysuckles Are Poisonous
The Japanese honeysuckle produces seed-filled berries after its flowers fade, but these berries are poisonous, according to North Carolina State University. Toxicity generally occurs only if large amounts of berries are eaten. Toxins called cartenoids make the berries poisonous: symptoms of honeysuckle berry poisoning include vomiting, dilated pupils, cold sweating, diarrhea and increased heartbeat. A serious overdose of these berries causes convulsions, respiratory failure and eventually coma. Nectar, however, is not poisonous, so you can suck it from flowers for a sweet treat.
Many Honeysuckles Are Invasive
The Tartarian honeysuckle, Japanese honeysuckle and several species of bush honeysuckle have been classified invasive in some states, such as Wisconsin, according to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. This agency also reports that the bush honeysuckles have spread from New England in the north to North Carolina in the south and Iowa to the west. These plants take over an area, making it impossible for many native shrubs and groundcover plants to grow.
Honeysuckle Needs Frequent Pruning
Some honeysuckles, such as the Japanese variety, can reach up to 80 feet in length and often strangle small plants when the long vines twine around them. Because of its dense growth that can occur high in surrounding trees, the shade that it creates can prevent any other plants from growing underneath, according to the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health. If you grow Japanese honeysuckle, it's a wise practice to keep the vines trimmed back to keep it tidy and prevent it from becoming a monster you can't control. You can prune it at any time of year.
Insects and Diseases
Aphids and spider mites are common insect pests of the honeysuckle species plants. The honeysuckle aphid causes leaves to curl and turn yellow, while the spider mite makes the leaves appear stippled with red or yellow spots. Insecticidal soap spray is an effective natural control for both insects.
Honeysuckle also is sometimes subject to leaf blight, canker and powdery mildew, which are fungal diseases. When a plant contracts leaf blight, its younger leaves become discolored and then drop. Canker causes stems to develop swollen areas or bumps, while powdery mildew results in a white fuzzy coating on leaves. Commercial fungicidal products can help with these diseases.