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Rediscovering an old favorite – The Coral Honeysuckle

By Ralph E. Mitchell

We just finished our 2018 Master Gardener Training activity called the “Parade of Plants”.  Master Gardener Trainees pick a plant and then develop a short ten-minute presentation on this plant.  All of the presentations were great and re-reminded me of several very good plants for any landscape.  One such plant is the coral honeysuckle.  This native vine is hardy, moderately drought tolerant, full of flowers from April through summer that are attractive to both butterflies and hummingbirds, and grows rapidly.  Do you have an empty landscape space that needs filling?  Read on!

Our Horticultural Staff  liked the coral honeysuckle so much that we gave each of our Charlotte County Master Gardener Volunteers a starter plant of their own.  It was a special coral honeysuckle selection called ‘Honey Coral’.  The flowers of this plant are about two inches long, tubular in shape, and bright red in color with a yellow interior.  The flowers are followed by red berries favored by birds, but toxic to humans .  Coral honeysuckle will rapidly cover whatever vertical space you need filled within its fifteen to twenty foot capacity.  As such, trellises and fences are its natural landscape habitat.  Other likely planting spots include lamp posts and mail boxes.  I have even heard of using coral honeysuckles in hanging baskets.   Here is another thought brought up by our MG Trainee presenter and the literature – use the coral honeysuckle as a groundcover!  Try this vine horizontally on steep slopes where it can root in wherever stem nodes  touch the ground.   Vertically, coral honeysuckle vines onto its support by twining and eventually becomes woody with age.  Occasional pruning will help this vine keep within its bounds, and yearly heading back with encourage thicker growth.  Plant your coral honeysuckle in full sun for best flowering .

Besides the selection of coral honeysuckle that I mentioned above, there are also other cultivars including ‘Sulphurea’ with  bright yellow flowers; ‘Superba’ with bright scarlet flowers and broadly oval leaves; and ‘Magnifica’ with large, bright red blooms noted for late-flowering.  In addition to the lovely flowers, the evergreen leaves are intriguing as well.  The leaves are arranged opposite to each other on the vine with glossy green tops and a silvery green undersides.

The coral honeysuckle is another Florida-Friendly Landscaping ™ approved plant great for both upright spaces and as a broad groundcover.  This old favorite – which is still in our Demonstration Garden at our office – is rediscovered!  For more information on all types of vines that can grow in our area,  please call our Master Gardener volunteers on the Plant Lifeline on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 1 to 4 pm at 764-4340 for gardening help and insight into their role as an Extension volunteer.  Don’t forget to visit our other County Plant Clinics in the area.  Please check this link for a complete list of site locations, dates and times – http://blogs.ifas.ufl.edu/charlotteco/files/2018/01/Plant-Clinics-Schedule.pdf .

Resources:

The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design (2010) The University of Florida Extension Services

Gilman, E. F. (2014) Lonicera sempervirens Trumpet Honeysuckle.  The University of Florida Extension Services, IFAS.

UF/IFAS Gardening Solutions – Coral Honeysuckle (2018)

Christman,  S. (2006) Lonicera sempervirens. Floridata.com, Tallahassee, FL

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