Both edible and ornamental honeysuckle varieties are relatively easy to propagate asexually. In the case of cuttings or isolated shoots, all the characteristics of the parent plant are preserved, which is especially important when breeding honeysuckle varieties with improved characteristics.
However, despite all the advantages, growing honeysuckle from seed is no exception. The most economical and least time-consuming method of honeysuckle seed propagation allows for the mass production of healthy and fully adapted plants.
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DESCRIPTION OF HONEYSUCKLE
Honeysuckle species (Lonicera) are deciduous and evergreen shrubs, of which there are erect forms, as well as climbing or creeping vines. All honeysuckles have simple, dark green, oval leaves with a pointed margin, arranged in paired rows. Their snowy white, cream, pink, yellow, or red flowers are very delicate and beautiful and can be both scented and unscented.
Honeysuckle fruits are very diverse and do not mature every year, ripening from June to August. They can be black, blue, or inky, and in ornamental species, they can be red or orange. But honeysuckle berries are always juicy, sometimes compounded into copolymers that end with various types of their heads – with “noses”, pointed, flat, or with primitive clusters. The seeds of all honeysuckle berries are small compared to the size of the fruit. Each berry contains between 4 and 18 seeds.
The primary method of propagation for both ornamental and edible honeysuckle is considered to be asexual. Honeysuckle trees are propagated by cuttings, green cuttings, isolated shoots, and grafting. The seed method is considered to be less productive and more complex, but this is not entirely true. The effort required to obtain honeysuckle from seed is minimal, and this is the most economical way to propagate this shrub in all senses of the word.
The disadvantages of seed propagation – the inability to retain the qualities and markings of the parent plant – are mainly related to the edible species of honeysuckle, as this is mainly a matter of taste and yield. For ornamental species, however, the seed method is fairly known as the easiest and simplest method. If the problem is to grow rare species for which seedlings cannot be bought, to propagate ornamental species, or to obtain a large number of plants, then the seed method is a good choice.
When propagating from seeds, the first crop of honeysuckle must wait up to five years.
PICK YOUR OWN HONEYSUCKLE SEEDS AND CHOOSE YOUR SOWING METHOD
There is a reason why seed propagation of edible honeysuckle varieties is considered problematic. There is a very large scattering of characteristics and qualities in the offspring obtained from one plant. In order to grow edible honeysuckle from seeds, it is necessary to choose the sweetest variety, because it is impossible to avoid the strong bitter taste of common honeysuckle.
In the case of independent heterogeneous pollination, it is recommended to use at least three varieties, each with an atypical bitterness. Forbearing honeysuckle, it is better to choose purchased seeds whose producers specialize in the selection process, guaranteeing that from the seeds at least a part of the plants with declared characteristics will be obtained.
For propagation by seed and sowing, it is important to select mature, even overripe, honeysuckle fruits. In the resulting crop, it is advisable to sort the berries, leaving the largest and most pulpy ones. Seeds are usually extracted by crushing the fruits, rubbing them with a sieve or gauze, or rubbing them by hand.
Further processing strategies may vary.
- Soaking the pulp in water allows the seeds to be peeled. The pulp of the berries floats in the water, but the heavy seeds always settle. Thorough rinsing produces clean seeds that can be used for drying.
- Since seed germination is not affected by the remaining pulp, you can simply crush the berries on a paper or napkin, which will absorb all the water and thoroughly dry the remaining pulp and seeds for sowing.
- If you are sowing seeds after harvest, you can dry the seeds without using crushed berries.
You can purchase honeysuckle seeds in bagged and berry form. In the latter case, the selection rules are the same as in the case of independent seed collection. When buying ready-made seeds, you need to make sure that they are suitable for sowing, have full legal information and recommended agricultural techniques, and double-check the botanical name of the plant, species, and variety name.
Self-harvested honeysuckle seeds, which will be sown in the same year, keep better in-room conditions than in cooler conditions. The only thing that should protect them is the temperature of light and heat. For next year’s planting, keep the seeds in a cool place and let them stratify. Older seeds should be stored in temperatures of 35-41°F (2-5°C). If you purchase honeysuckle seeds, follow the instructions on the seed packet to select the temperature and storage conditions.
Honeysuckle seeds germinate up to 75% within two years. Only at 4 years of age will germination be half or more of that of fresh seeds. The high germination rate of honeysuckle seeds will not be lost for up to 7 years if the seeds are stored in a cool place at a temperature of 35-44°F (2-7°C).
SOWING TIME FOR HONEYSUCKLE SEEDS
Honeysuckle offers many options and different methods of seed propagation.
Honeysuckle seeds can be sown.
- In the spring, the year after harvest, for seedlings.
- In the summer in the soil or in containers (if the fruits are collected from early varieties and species of honeysuckle).
- In the winter in the ground.
Sowing in containers in spring is considered the best because the plants do not need protection and additional shelter in the first winter, grow faster, achieve decoration, meet their first winter no longer fragile sprouts.
The main advantage, however, is that small shoots that appear very early in the soil often can not compete with weeds and need to be cultivated very carefully, while a year of cultivation in containers makes it easier to maintain fragile plants. From a fruiting point of view, sowing in summer is preferable because the plant then brings its first harvest a year earlier.
SOWING HONEYSUCKLE IN THE WINTER
Sowing under winter is mainly done with the seeds of honeysuckle L. japonica, which have a higher germination rate after a long shelf-life. However, today this method is increasingly recommended for other types of honeysuckle, as it is much easier than the traditional sowing of seedlings.
Sowing of winter honeysuckle takes place in late October or early November, after the arrival of the first frost. The seeds should not be sown too deeply, but they can be scattered very densely, as they will also be harvested next year when they germinate. It is best to prepare the soil at the sowing site at least one month in advance, adding organic and mineral fertilizers, carefully selecting all the litter, and adjusting the composition so that it has a loose and light structure.
It is possible to sow seeds not in seedbeds, but in large containers and boxes that can be moved to the greenhouse in the spring for an earlier “start”. In any variant of cultivation, there is no need to cover over winter.
Hibernating honeysuckle sown in the spring will germinate very kindly as soon as the soil thaws. Plants are allowed to grow until midsummer, only in July, to set pods in the seedbed – transplanting is preferable for buds of at least 4inch (10 cm) in height. In permanent locations, seedlings can only be transferred next year.
SOWING SEEDS OF EARLY HONEYSUCKLE VARIETIES AFTER HARVEST IN LATE JUNE-JULY
Seeds of honeysuckle harvested in mid-summer are sown immediately after harvest. It is best not to sow the seeds immediately into the soil, as preserving the plants in the heat can be a big problem, but to sow them in containers. Any summer seedlings need winter protection, as the plants do not have time to become strong enough before frost anyway. Honeysuckle seeds are best sown in large wooden boxes.
Honeysuckle seeds are sown on the loose, level, and well-watered ground.
- Sowing is done infrequently, leaving a distance of 0.8-4inch (2-10 cm) between seeds, in furrows or on the surface, covering the seeds only slightly with soil.
- To preserve and retain moisture during the high summer heat, containers or soil should be covered with aluminum foil or glass in order to preserve young shoots. The cover should be removed as soon as the seedlings appear. Usually, if you sow freshly harvested seeds, new shoots will appear after 20 days.
- Young shoots should be carefully maintained by keeping a steady moisture content and not allowing the soil to dry out. Water regularly until the beginning of autumn, when the third or fourth pair of leaves should form.
- Bury the box in the soil over the winter or place it in a sheltered and secluded place. In any case, however, the seedlings need careful protection – a thick layer of mulch, or careful covering with standing timber and an extra sprinkling of snow in winter.
Over the following season, gradually cover the plants by adapting to the weather and protect the seedlings from severe frosts with at least one layer of mulch until mid-April. Seedlings can be harvested in May or June and transferred to the nursery. In the third year, they can be planted in a permanent place (if it is possible to provide more frequent watering, they can be picked immediately in a permanent place). The care of the plants is standard and should include watering, weeding, and mulching.
SOWING HONEYSUCKLE SEEDLINGS IN SPRING
Choosing to sow honeysuckle seeds from seedlings is the only way to produce honeysuckle for spring sowing because the seeds are small, germinate fairly quickly, and the seedlings are very fragile and delicate. If sown immediately into the soil, it is almost impossible to preserve the sprouts. Honeysuckle seedlings are sown in March or April.
When sowing in spring, fresh honeysuckle seeds harvested last year do not need to be stratified. They have a very short resting period, so if the seeds have not been stored for more than 2 years, there is no need to worry about any additional measures. Older seeds are best stored in a cold environment for about 1-3 months without freezing. Stratification at 35-41°F (2-5°C) will speed up the germination process.
For any type of honeysuckle seed, even freshly harvested seed, a 24-hour pretreatment in a weak manganese solution is required.
Almost any soil and container used for sowing honeysuckle will do. An all-purpose substrate or light garden soil with a high organic matter content will do. A layered substrate consisting of equal parts of humus, peat, and sand can also be used. As for containers, small pots are best reserved for traditional seedlings: honeysuckle is sown in large wooden boxes or flower containers.
Sowing seeds into containers in spring is very simple:
- Fill the container with soil and flatten the surface, taking care not to tamp down the soil.
- Place the seeds on the surface of the well-watered soil. Dense sowing is not advisable: for honeysuckle, it is better not to pick, so the seeds should be spaced at least a few inches apart (the best distance is about 4inch).
- Cover the seeds with a thick layer of sand or a mixture of sand and substrate to a height of 0.2-0.4inch (0.5-1cm).
- The container or box should be covered with aluminum foil or glass.
The conditions for seed germination need to be carefully controlled. Honeysuckle seeds need steady heat – a room temperature above 68°F (20°C) and bright light. The moisture content of the soil should be kept constant, but water very carefully so as not to wash the seeds out of the sand.
Germination of honeysuckle appears on average one month after sowing. As stratification proceeds, even after 3 weeks.
Cultivation of plants requires standard care. Stable soil moisture without over-watering and good light allows the plants to develop actively. Only when seedlings are sown intensively can they be picked out and planted at a height of about 1.2inch (3cm) into large boxes at a distance of 2-4inch (5-10cm).
Planting seedlings into the soil can also be done in late spring or early summer, but transplanting is usually done in May of the following year. With this strategy, containers with seedlings can be taken outdoors in the summer, while young honeysuckle can be kept indoors over the winter at 35-50°F (2-10°C). Transfer plants in the garden (not in a permanent place, on a ridge of seedlings that will regrow in a few years) at a distance of 6-10inch (15-25cm) between seedlings.
Planting requires careful but systematic watering, loosening, and weeding (these two procedures can be replaced by mulching). Avoid bright sunlight on hot days and immediately after transplanting; it is best to protect plants with additional shade.
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GROWING HONEYSUCKLE IN PERMANENT LOCATIONS
Honeysuckle obtained from seeds, like all honeysuckle, in principle, perfectly tolerates transplantation. In a permanent place, the plants are not planted until the second year, but if you wish, you can grow the plants until 3-7 years, and only then transfer them to the place where you originally planned to use honeysuckle. To avoid mistakes, just pay attention to lighting and soil characteristics and prepare the planting pit in advance.
For honeysuckle, choose a well-lit area or a scattered, poorly lit halfway up a hill. The stronger the shade, the worse the honeysuckle will bloom. Climbing species are more light-loving and forest species are more shade-tolerant. Although honeysuckle is considered a shrub and vine that will grow on almost any soil, it is best to avoid overly dry and wet soils. Honeysuckle plants achieve their best ornamental value in well-drained, loose, nutrient-rich soils with a pH of 7.5 to 8.5. It is best to apply organic and complete mineral fertilizers to the soil.
For blue honeysuckle, fall (August-September) planting is preferable, even in areas with harsh winters. For other ornamental and fruit-bearing species, planting in spring, i.e. at the end of April, is preferable.
The recommended planting distance depends directly on how you use the honeysuckle. In decorative groups or orchards, monocultures should be planted 8-10 feet (2.5-3 m) away from neighboring plants. When planting in a hedge, the distance is reduced to 5-6.5foot (1.5-2m).
For honeysuckle, the depth and diameter of the planting hole is 10-20inch (25-50 cm), depending on the age of the plant (the larger the sapling, the larger the planting hole). Before planting the seedlings in a fixed place, it is necessary to put a high drainage layer at the bottom of the planting hole (drainage with gravel or crushed bricks is more suitable for this shrub).
The plant is exposed in the planting hole on a small hill so that the root neck remains at the level of the soil considering shrinkage. The roots of the plant should be carefully spread out and evenly distributed, gently and gradually filling the gaps with soil. Complete the planting of honeysuckle seedlings by watering heavily and forcing a mulch around the planting holes.
The care of young honeysuckle is not complicated. From the second year after planting, apply sufficient mineral fertilizer in a fixed place every spring and add wood ash to the soil in the fall from the year of planting. It is best to protect the plants from drought until active growth begins. Thereafter, it is sufficient to water the honeysuckle 2-3 times per season.
The rest of the care is reduced to deep loosening of the soil up to 10inch (25 cm), mulching, pruning after leaf fall or in early spring before the start of growth, removal of damaged, unhelpful old branches, and constant renewal of the crown to 5 strong trunks.
Even in the first year after planting in a fixed location, honeysuckle trees grown from seeds do not need protection over the winter.