Be a Buddy to Birds – Plant Native!
By Barbara Malt, Lehigh Valley Audubon Society
–Originally published in the Lehigh Valley Audubon Society Winter 2020 Newsletter–
One of my all-time favorites is Trumpet Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), also known as Coral Honeysuckle.
What makes this plant so great?
Well, first and foremost, it’s a hummingbird magnet. If there are Ruby-throated Hummingbirds in your neighborhood, they’re bound to come visit while this plant is blooming. In 2013 when I had a visit from a Rufous Hummingbird (a western stray), I first spotted it feeding on some lingering blossoms of this plant.
Second, it’s really beautiful to humans, too! In May it gets covered in delicate coral red tubular flowers with yellow linings. Although May is the biggest push, it will also re-bloom periodically throughout the summer and even into the fall if temperatures are warm. When my Rufous Hummer came to feed on its blossoms, it was early November!
This plant also benefits other species. When you were a kid, did you ever pick the flower of a white honeysuckle (these are an invasive Asian species) and suck the back end to enjoy a drop of sugary nectar? Well, house finches do a similar thing with this plant – they can’t reach down the tube like a hummingbird, but they’ll chew on the base of the blossom where the nectar resides. And when the blossoms drop off, a fruit forms that is popular with the finches and with Catbirds, too.
Native Status and Cultural Information
Trumpet honeysuckle is native from Maine to Florida, which tells you that it will tolerate a wide range of temperatures. It can take sun or part shade. Its water needs are average and it will tolerate periods of drought once established.
It is a vine, which means it needs something to climb on. I have one growing on a trellis attached to the back of my house, and another rambling along a porch railing. Its roots stay nicely contained, but if the vine gets too long, you can cut it back without doing any harm. If you don’t want to support it, you can just let it grow into a big mound. If you do this, it will look more like a shrub.
Trumpet honeysuckle does tend to get aphids in spring. They’ll cause some of the tender growing shoots to wither and look ugly, but they won’t kill the plant. You can knock them off with a stiff stream of water from the hose, use an environmentally benign product such as a horticultural oil, or just let them be and snip off the affected parts.
Don’t Confuse this with Campsis radicans..
Beware, this plant is NOT the same as Trumpet Vine / Trumpet Creeper (Campsis radicans) which has similar but larger flowers. That plant is also good for hummingbirds, but it has large roots that sucker aggressively and will pop up all over your yard. Trumpet honeysuckle is a well-behaved addition to any garden!