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Winter-flowering Honeysuckle Lonicera fragrantissima

Previously known as:

  • Xylosteon fragrantissimum
Phonetic Spelling
lon-ISS-er-a fra-gran-TIS-i-ma
Description

Winter Honeysuckle is a broadleaf deciduous or semi-evergreen shrub that grows to a height of 6 to 10 feet and is equally as wide. It is a tangled mass of branches, cane-like growth, and irregularly mounded. In mild climates, very small lemon-scented creamy white flowers may appear from December to March. The leaves look like other honeysuckle leaves but are wider and more rounded. They are a dull blue-green to dark green and emerge after the blooms. In late spring to early summer, abundant tiny dark red berries appear and are mostly hidden by the foliage.

This shrub is native to eastern and southern China. Winter honeysuckle was first introduced in the United States in the late 1800s. It was planted as an ornamental and for wildlife food and shelter.

This plant is considered invasive in many states, particularly in forests of several southern US states including Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia. The seeds are dispersed by birds and mammals that eat the berries. It can form a dense understory thicket restricting native plant growth and tree seedling establishment. 

The genus name, Lonicera, is in honor of Adam Lonitzer, a 16th-century German botanist. The specific epithet, fragrantissima, means fragrant.

The easy-to-grow Winter Honeysuckle thrives in well-drained soil and full sun. It transplants readily and is tolerant of soil pH and poor soils but is intolerant of wet conditions.

Winter Honeysuckle can fit in today’s smaller landscapes when used as a cutback shrub. Because it blooms early on growth from last year, it can be cut back close to the ground right after flowering and allowed to grow and flower the next winter. In addition to being a great ornamental, it is an excellent winter nectar source for honey bees and is effective for winter garden fragrance.

Winter honeysuckle can readily invade woodlands, fields, and most disturbed sites, and then form dense thickets. It may be best to consider planting US-native plants instead of winter honeysuckle in the landscape.

Seasons of Interest:

Bloom: Spring    Foliage:  Spring and Summer    Fruits: Late Spring to Early Summer

Quick ID Hints:

  • broadleaf deciduous to semi-evergreen shrub with a tangled mass of branches and cane-like growth
  • small, creamy-white tubular flowers with lemon fragrance blooming from December to March
  • leathery, dull green to blue-green, simple, opposite leaves with crenulate margins and the midrib covered with bristles
  • abundant tiny orange to red berries appear in late spring to early summer

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems: This plant has no serious insect or disease problems. Aphids, scales, sawflies, whitefly, loopers, plant hoppers, flea beetles, and webworms may be potential insect pests. It may also be susceptible to leaf spots, blight, and powdery mildew.

VIDEO created by Ryan Contreras for “Landscape Plant Materials I:  Deciduous Hardwoods and Conifers or Landscape Plant Materials II:  Spring Flowering Trees and Shrubs” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University

 

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Tags:
#fragrant#arching#deciduous#full sun tolerant#drought tolerant#white flowers#weedy#winter interest#fast growing#transplant#spreading#deer resistant#children's garden#red fruits#playground plant#rounded#spring interest#pollinator plant#fantz#poor soils tolerant#border back#dry soils tolerant#winter flowers#winter garden#partial shade tolerant#bee friendly#black walnut toxicity tolerant#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#fragrant#arching#deciduous#full sun tolerant#drought tolerant#white flowers#weedy#winter interest#fast growing#transplant#spreading#deer resistant#children's garden#red fruits#playground plant#rounded#spring interest#pollinator plant#fantz#poor soils tolerant#border back#dry soils tolerant#winter flowers#winter garden#partial shade tolerant#bee friendly#black walnut toxicity tolerant#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Lonicera
    Species:
    fragrantissima
    Family:
    Caprifoliaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Perennial
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Central and Southern China
    Distribution:
    Native: China North-Central, China South-Central, and China Southeast. Introduced: Bulgaria and the United States--AL, CT, GA, IL KY, LA, MD, MS, NJ, NY, NC, OH, PA, SC, TN, TX, UT, VA, and WV.
    Wildlife Value:
    Honey bees and pollinators feed on winter flower nectar. Birds and small mammals eat the berries.
    Play Value:
    Attracts Pollinators
    Fragrance
    Dimensions:
    Height: 6 ft. 6 in. - 10 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 6 ft. 0 in. - 10 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Semi-evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Arching
    Erect
    Multi-stemmed
    Rounded
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Rapid
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    Clay
    Loam (Silt)
    Sand
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    12-24 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    4a, 4b, 5b, 5a, 6a, 6b, 7a, 7b, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Spring
    Summer
    Fruit Type:
    Berry
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    This plant produces abundant, orange to dark red, heart-shaped, berries that form from two basally fused ovaries and are .3" in size. These berries are often hidden in the foliage. The berries mature from late spring to early summer. The seeds are tiny brown, compressed, and oblong.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Good Cut
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Winter
    Flower Shape:
    Tubular
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Flowers are borne in peduncle pairs in the leaf axils. They are creamy-white tinged with pink or red, tubular, thin-petaled, two-lipped, lemon-scented, and very fragrant. The stamens and styles are exserted from the corolla tube. The bloom before the leaves emerge from December to March in mild climates. Branches of bud may be cut for fragrant floral arrangements in early spring.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Semi-evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Blue
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Leathery
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Crenulate
    Hairs Present:
    Yes
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    Leathery, dull, opposite, simple, elliptic to broadly ovate, blue-green to dark green leaves are 1-3" long and wide. They have a non-showy fall color and are evergreen in warmer climates. The leave may be smooth or pubescent, and the margins are crenulate. The midrib is covered with bristles.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Light Brown
    Light Gray
    Bark Description:
    The bark is pale tan to gray with exfoliating, cane-like growth and arching stems.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    Stems are solid with white pith, and the bark is stringy and tan. They are often purple when young, glabrous, and have a stipular scar forming a line across the stem at each node.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Recreational Play Area
    Landscape Theme:
    Children's Garden
    Cottage Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Hedge
    Screen/Privacy
    Attracts:
    Bees
    Pollinators
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Black Walnut
    Deer
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Erosion
    Poor Soil
    Problems:
    Weedy