Winter Honeysuckle Care Tips

Lonicera fragrantissima [luh-NIS-er-a, fray-gran-TISS-ih-muh] is a hardy shrub and often grown as a hedge due to its stiff branches. 

It’s part of the Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle) family and commonly called:

  • Winter honeysuckle
  • Sweet breath of spring
  • Chinese honeysuckle
  • Fragrant honeysuckle
Blooming lonicera fragrantissima (winter honeysuckle)

Lonicera fragrantissima is also known for its fragrant flowers marking the start of spring. 

The epithet “fragrantissima” means very fragrant. 

The plant is native to China, but it’s been introduced throughout the world, including most of the eastern half of the United States.

Winter Honeysuckle Care

Size and Growth

Lonicera fragrantissima produces stiff branches, reaching between 3′ and 10′ feet tall. 

Mature plants are bushy, with a tangle of slender branches covered in thin leaves.

The green leaves measure about 3.5″ inches long and 1.8″ inches wide. 

Winter honeysuckle is a deciduous shrub, meaning it sheds its leaves each year. 

The leaves fall just before winter and reemerge in the spring. 

Flowering and Fragrance

Winter honeysuckle blooms at the very end of winter, making the flowers a harbinger of spring. 

The flowers have a sweet scent and are often cut for indoor arrangements.

The flowers are small, measuring just under 1/2″ inch. 

They are white or creamy white and appear in pairs.

After the bloom, small red berries appear.

Light and Temperature

Grow in full sun to partial shade. 

While it tolerates shade, sunlight encourages fuller blooms. 

Winter honeysuckle is winter hardy in most parts of North America, including USDA hardiness zones 4 or higher. 

It can survive freezing conditions and frost.

Watering and Feeding

Lonicera fragrantissima needs moderately moist soil. 

It should receive water frequently without making the soil too soggy.

Without rainfall, the plant typically needs watering about once per week during the warmer months.

Use slow-release fertilizer when the flowers appear to promote fuller blooms and bushier growth during the spring.

Soil and Transplanting

Winter honeysuckle grows in a variety of soils. 

It’s an adaptable plant but prefers loamy soils. 

Amending regular garden soil with organic matter can make it loamier. 

To make the soil more fertile, add peat moss, dried leaves, or grass clippings.

Transplant honeysuckle in the spring when new growth starts. 

After removing the plant from the ground, trim the roots back by about one-third. 

Grooming

Prune the plant after flowering. 

Clip the branches to manage the growth of the plant or shape it into hedges.

Without pruning, winter honeysuckle can reach 10′ feet tall and just as wide. 

How to Propagate Lonicera Fragrantissima

Propagate winter honeysuckle from cuttings or seeds. 

  • Harvest seeds from the berries after they ripen.
  • Rinse the seeds with water and allow to dry on a paper towel. 
  • To germinate the seeds, place in a plastic bag filled with moist peat moss.
  • Place the bag in the fridge for about one week. 
  • Keep the peat moss moist.
  • Prepare a seed tray with a combination of peat moss and regular potting soil. 
  • Place one seed in each section and cover with about 1/8″ inch of soil.
  • Cover with plastic and place in a window with at least six hours of sunlight. 
  • When the young plants start producing leaves, transplant them outdoors.

To take cuttings, remove a branch containing a flower. 

  • Cut just below the second set of leaves. 
  • Remove the lower pair of leaves and the flower head.
  • Place the stem in a glass of water. 
  • The water shouldn’t cover the leaves.
  • Within three weeks, the roots should be long enough to transplant. 
  • Grow in small pots until early spring and then transplant outdoors.

Lonicera Fragrantissima Pest or Disease Problems

Lonicera fragrantissima doesn’t have any serious insect or disease problems. 

Outdoor plants may develop leaf spot or powdery mildew.

Leaf spot isn’t treatable. 

Early detection may help save the rest of the plant.

Leaf spot is a fungal infection causing brown or black spots to appear on the foliage. 

Spray the leaves with copper-based fungicides or sulfur sprays to prevent the spread.

Using a combination of a teaspoon of dish soap, a tablespoon of baking soda, and a gallon of water may also help stop the spread of leaf spot. 

This mixture is also an effective treatment for mildew.

Potential pests include aphids, flea beetles, scale, sawfly, and whitefly. 

Most of these pests are easily removed with strong sprays of cool water from a garden hose.

Pests are not the only problem. 

The plant is considered a noxious weed in some regions.

The plant spreads easily and has a hardy root system allowing it to uproot other plants and potentially damage structures. 

Don’t grow in a spot where animals may spread the seed.

Suggested Winter Honeysuckle Uses 

Winter honeysuckle is most often used as a hedge. 

It may be clipped and manicured or left to grow naturally. 

The bushy foliage may also work well as a privacy screen or background plant.

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