Lonicera sempervirens, or trumpet honeysuckle, is an evergreen (sempervirens = evergreen) twining woody vine species that reaches a height of 3-5 meters. Its simple leaves are paired, with the uppermost pair below the inflorescence often being perfoliate. In the spring, trumpet honeysuckle produces a bounty of bright red-orange tubular flowers borne in terminal clusters. These flowers have abundant nectar, which are excellent for attracting hummingbirds (they even look like a typical hummingbird feeder). Songbirds, who like to eat the small red berries, also benefit from this plant species. Lonicera sempervirens is found growing wild in open woodlands, along roadsides, and at the edges of thickets in the eastern United States. It has also naturalized in similar habitats in eastern Canada.
For gardeners in zones 4-9, Lonicera sempervirens is an excellent choice against a fence or trellis, or trained on a shrub. Unlike the more vigorous Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), it will not out-compete small trees and shrubs. It will tolerate most soils, but well-drained acidic to neutral soil (with full sun) will result in the healthiest profuse-blooming plants. Trumpet honeysuckle generally blooms on last-year’s stems, so if pruning is necessary, do so after the first flush of spring flowers.
A number of cultivars of this species are available, including Lonicera sempervirens ‘Crimson Cascade’, which blooms through the summer and is mildew-resistant, and Lonicera sempervirens ‘Sulphurea’, which produces bright green foliage and yellow flowers. For more information about a similar species, Lonicera arizonica, see this previous Botany Photo of the Day post.
A note from my trusty editor, Douglas Justice: The popular honeysuckle ‘Mandarin’ was bred at UBC Botanical Garden by Wilf Nicolls (current Director of the State Botanical Garden of Georgia). Lonicera ‘Mandarin’ is a hybrid between Lonicera tragophylla and Lonicera x brownii ‘Dropmore Scarlet’, which itself has Lonicera sempervirens as a parent.