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How to Prune Winter Honeysuckle

By Paula Ezop ; Updated September 21, 2017

Winter honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) is also known as fragrant honeysuckle, sweet breath of spring, and January jasmine. It is a deciduous shrub that is hardy in zones 4 to 8. The white blossoms have a lemony fragrance, and they appear in early spring even before the leaves appear. A mature shrub will reach a height of from 6 to 10 feet, and a width of 6 to 10 feet. In landscape design it is used as a hedge, border, screen, or as a specimen planting. Reasons to prune are to remove dead, diseased, or broken branches, to maintain size and shape, for safety reasons along walkways, and to encourage new growth.

Cut away any dead, diseased, or broken branches as soon as possible. Dead and diseased branches should be removed entirely. Broken branches can be cut away at the breaking point or back to a main stem. Do not deposit any diseased plant material in your compost bin. Disinfect your cutting tool after removing diseased plant material by dipping the blades in bleach or alcohol.

Prune to control the shape and size after the shrub has completed flowering. You will prune the branch back to a healthy bud, cutting in front of the bud. Do not prune any newly planted shrubs until after their second year of planting.

Cut out the oldest wood/stems close to ground level. Do this immediately after the shrub is done flowering (do not do it after mid-July). This will rejuvenate the shrub and promote new growth at the base of the plant.

Use your manual hedge trimmers to trim the honeysuckle when the shrub is used as a screen or hedge. Do this after the honeysuckle is done flowering. Allow the hedge to grow throughout the season and then prune the hedge down to size again in February or March when it is in its dormant state.


Things You Will Need

  • Hand pruning shears
  • Lopping shears
  • Pole pruning shears
  • Hedge trimmers


  • The tools that you will use will depend upon the size and location of the branch, and the age of the shrub.
  • Keep the blades of your cutting tools sharp so that you make clean cuts when pruning. Most garden centers offer tool sharpening throughout the growing season as a service to their customers. This is something that you should take advantage of.
  • Electric hedge trimmers tend to rip and tear the branches; you will get better results with a manual hedge trimmer.

About the Author


Paula M. Ezop’s inspirational column "Following the Spiritual Soul" appeared in "Oconee Today," a Scripps Howard publication. She has published her first book, "SPIRITUALITY for Mommies," and her children's chapter book, "The Adventures of Penelope Star," will be published by Wiggles Press. Ezop has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northeastern Illinois University and has been writing for 10 years.