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Extension > Garden > Yard and Garden > Trees and Shrubs > Bush Honeysuckle

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Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla spp.)

Beth Berlin and Kathy Zuzek

Plant description

Mature height: 3 to 5'
Mature width: 3 to 5'
Growth rate: Fast
Plant form: Mounded, rounded, spreading
Deciduous or evergreen: Deciduous
Native range: See text below
Native to Minnesota: See text below
Invasive in Minnesota: No

Culture

Light: Sun to full shade
Soil texture: Sand, loam, clay
Soil pH: prefers 6.1 to 6.5, tolerates higher
Soil moisture: Droughty to moist, excessively drained to moderately drained
Hardiness zone: 3,4 to 7 (see text below)
Pests and stresses: None serious; leaf spot and powdery mildew may occur.
Other: Suckering plant, tolerant to drought and soil compaction. Deer resistant.

Map of native range of Arrowwood viburunm in Minnesota

Native range of northern bush honeysuckle in Minnesota, Minnesota DNR

Bush Honeysuckle in the landscape

Two bush honeysuckle species are available to gardeners. Northern bush honeysuckle (Diervilla lonicera) is a Minnesota native whose range extends from Newfoundland to Georgia and west to Saskatchewan and Alabama. Southern bush honeysuckle (D. sessilifolia) is native to North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. Both species are very similar in the landscape except for differences in hardiness and fall foliage coloration. D. lonicera is hardy to zone 3 while D. sessilifolia is hardy to zone 4.

Bush honeysuckles are easy-to-grow, low-growing, suckering plants that are adaptable to many soil types and all light levels. Because of their suckering habits, these species are best used for mass plantings, hedges, or on slopes where soil stabilization and erosion control are needed. Bush honeysuckle's tolerance to drought and soil compaction provides additional landscape benefits. Although deer browse on Diervilla in the wild, they are rarely browsed in landscape plantings.

Bush honeysuckle's graceful display of foliage and flowers provides interest from spring through fall. In spring, 2-6" leaves develop. New leaves are dark red and then change to green with bronze tones. Ornamental clusters of 2-7 small, non-fragrant, tubular flowers are produced from June through September; most bloom occurs in June and July. As the flowers age, they often turn orange or red. Flowers attract bumblebees, butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds. Small beaked non-ornamental capsules containing seed mature from July to September. In fall, foliage of northern bush honeysuckle turns yellow, orange, red, or purple while fall color of southern bush honeysuckle (including the cultivars below) is often lacking.

USA map of northern states with native range of Arrowwood viburunm.

Native range of northern bush honeysuckle, USDA, NRCS Plants Database

USA map of southern states with rounded dense mature Perle Bleu arrowwood.

Native range of southern bush honeysuckle, USDA, NRCS Plants Database

Plant habit of northern bush honeysuckle.

Kathy Zuzek, UMN Extension

Plant habit of northern bush honeysuckle

close up of leaves and tiny flowers.

Kathy Zuzek, UMN Extension

Foliage and flowers of northern bush honeysuckle

bush with green leaves with white edges.

Bailey Nurseries

'Cool Splash'

close up of brown seed pod.

R. Routledge, bugwood.org

Non-ornamental seed capsule

Some cultivars grown in Minnesota:

Cultivar traits:
Cultivar Variegated Foliage Extended bloom period
'Butterfly'   X
First Edition® Cool Splash® X  
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