Rick’s Native Plant of the Month | Northern Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla Ionicera)

May 19, 2022

By Rick Bogusch

Bridge Gardens

Though it’s too early for northern bush honeysuckle, Diervilla lonicera, to bloom, it is a standout in the garden even now with its golden bronze emerging leaves. Native to eastern North America, bush honeysuckle is a suckering shrub, 3-4 feet tall. Yellow, nectar-filled, honeysuckle-like flowers appear in early summer and are frequently visited by hummingbirds, butterflies and children of all ages.

In fall, its long, glossy, dark green leaves turn shades of yellow, orange and red. Easily grown, bush honeysuckle is happy in full sun or partial shade, in average soils or on dry, rocky slopes. It is great for shrub borders, naturalized along a woodland edge or used as a ground cover on a small slope.


Northern Bush Honeysuckle near sculpture by artist Hans Van de Bovenkamp

Another interesting plant is Dwarf Fothergilla, Fothergilla gardenii, a near-native that blooms now, at the tips of its leafless branches, with creamy white bottlebrush flowers that smell like honey. Growing 3-4 feet tall, it has an upright branching habit and a broad, rounded shape. Rounded leaves are green or blue-green in summer and turn red, orange and yellow in late fall, after most other leaves have fallen.

Drought-tolerant when established, Fothergilla prefers moist, acid soils in full sun or partial shade. There are a few varieties available, some with varying statures, some with large flowers or bright blue leaves. And there is another native species, Fothergilla major, which grows 10 feet tall.

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