Bush honeysuckle is a genus that contains just three deciduous shrubs. Bush honeysuckle, or Diervilla, as it is also known, is native to eastern parts of North America.
The three Diervilla species are northern bush honeysuckle, southern bush honeysuckle, and mountain bush honeysuckle.
In the summer, all three bush honeysuckle species produce small, pale yellow, bell-shaped flowers. There are also several cultivars of the species that have been bred for ornamental use.
These perennials colonize by forming underground, spreading rhizomes.
Diervilla gets its name from Marin Diereville, a French surgeon and botanist who introduced one of these species to Europe (D. lonicera) in the early 18th century.
D. rivularis and D. sessilifolia weren’t introduced to Europe until a century later, when they arrived at Kew Gardens, England.
There were originally many more species in this genus that are now classified into species in the weigela genus. Diervilla species are also closely related to the wild and Japanese honeysuckle in the lonicera genus.
|Scientific name||Diervilla loniceraDiervilla rivularisDiervilla sessilifolia|
|Common names||Northern bush honeysuckle (also dwarf bush honeysuckle, yellow, upright honeysuckle)|
Mountain bush honeysuckle (also Georgia bush honeysuckle, hairy bush honeysuckle)
Southern bush honeysuckle
|Height||3 to 5 feet (1 to 2 m)|
|Width||3 to 5 feet (1 to 2 m)|
|USDA Plant Hardiness Zone||Zones 3 – 8|
|Native to||Eastern North America|
|Plant specific features||Useful for soil stabilization purposes|
How to Plant and Grow a Bush Honeysuckle
Where to Plant
Bush honeysuckle is a plant that is versatile. It can be planted on a border, or in a container, and is useful for ground cover and erosion control.
Because it will survive in sun or partial shade, it can also be a useful addition in a woodland garden, or in a rockery.
When to Plant
If you grow diervilla, then you can collect the seeds and sow them at any time of year. Regardless of when you plant, the seeds will germinate in the following Spring.
Seeds will only germinate if they have been fertilized; single plants will not produce viable seeds.
You can plant a container-grown plant in the Spring. This will give the plant time to settle in before the extreme heat of Summer.
Bush Honeysuckle Care and Maintenance
Bush honeysuckle is a great addition to a garden, if only for its unfussy nature! This shrub will succeed in poor-quality soil, rocky soil, sandy soil, and even in clay.
The soil should, however, drain well and not retain moisture. For a faster-growing plant, a richer, more fertile soil will produce the best results.
Bush honeysuckle, once established, is a drought-resistant shrub. It likes slightly drier soil best. When watering, bear this in mind and restrict the irrigation.
For the first year, whilst the diervilla is settling into its new environment, it needs to be planted in moist soil, and you shouldn’t let the plant’s roots dry out.
If you want to assist with moisture retention in the soil, a layer of organic mulch will help a lot. Be careful not to allow the mulch to touch the stems of the bush honeysuckle, otherwise, there is a risk of rot.
A newly planted diervilla shrub can be given a light feed. This will encourage flowering and improve plant performance.
Once the bush honeysuckle is established and growing well, then it has no need of additional fertilizer.
Diervilla needs a certain amount of sunlight to thrive, so if you are planting in a shady site, make sure that some sun can still reach the plant. This is a shrub however that will tolerate various amounts of light.
This makes it useful in woodland gardens and underneath trees. The more sunlight it receives, the more impressive the leaf color will be.
Pruning and Repotting
The bush honeysuckle normally flowers in mid-summer. Sometimes fewer flowers will continue until the fall. The best time to prune the shrub is once the flowers or the majority of flowers have finished.
As always, start by removing any dead or diseased branches, and then cut back from the top. Make sure you don’t over-prune the bush honeysuckle, as it may not survive if you cut back more than a third of the growth in one season.
Prune the diervilla regularly, this will be less stressful for the plant and will keep your bush honeysuckle healthy and attractive inhabit. If you are growing bush honeysuckle as a hedging shrub, it will be necessary to prune it annually.
Sometimes deer will forage the diervilla – they won’t cause serious damage, and you can consider this to be natural pruning!
Diervilla shrubs are very easy to propagate, and there are several ways to multiply your bush honeysuckle plants.
Take softwood cuttings in the spring in the normal way, using hormone-rooting powder or semi-ripe cuttings later in the Summer. Whichever method you use, will usually produce a high success rate.
Once potted up in a suitable medium, the diervilla cuttings can be placed in a cool, light place out of direct sun. Water the pots regularly so that they don’t dry out, and leave them to grow a small root system before transplanting. The cuttings should start to flower in their second or third year.
Propagation by seed is a less effective method, due in part to the seeds not being self-fertile. Seedlings collected from a diervilla bush will probably not produce plants that are clones of the parent plant.
It is also a difficult and lengthy process to germinate the seed. So, if you do want to grow bush honeysuckle from seed, it is better to purchase seed.
Seed from reliable plant breeders will be fertile. It will have already been subjected to some of the required pre-germination processes.
The very easiest way however to propagate diervilla is from root division. The bush honeysuckle produces an extensive network of roots that send up suckers from the base of the plant.
This is how it reproduces in the wild. The plant will do the propagation work for you!
The plant is in active growth in the early Spring and this is when you can successfully dig up the suckers. These shoots will be visible as they emerge from the base of the plant.
Keep as much of the existing soil on the roots as possible. You can transplant them immediately to their growing positions and keep them moist for the first growing season.
Pests and diseases
Another positive feature of the bush honeysuckle is that it is relatively free from pest and disease issues. Powdery mildew and other fungal infections can pose a problem after a prolonged wet and cool spell.
Normally, once the dry warmer conditions return, the problem will go away. You can treat a fungal disease with a fungicide if the issue is more serious.
An attack by aphids can disfigure the diervilla, but is not usually a serious concern to the plant’s health.
To get rid of the cosmetic damage caused to the leaves by these insects, you can often succeed simply by spraying water from a high-pressure hosepipe.
Temperature and Humidity
To help the young plant grow vigorously, a mulch around the base of the plant but not touching the stem will keep moisture in the soil. A mulch will also keep the soil around the plant’s roots warmer.
Other Uses for Bush Honeysuckle
There are reports of species of diervilla having medicinal use as treatments for sore eyes, and bladder conditions. The leaves are listed as being a diuretic and the bark is a laxative.
Although not specifically known to be toxic, there are certain unfavorable reports about the effects of bush honeysuckle ingestion on cats.
Diervilla has become a frequent inclusion in municipal planting schemes, due to its low maintenance, ease of propagation, and best of all, its drought tolerance.
Types of Bush Honeysuckle (Diervilla) You Can Grow
The recent cultivars of diervilla include plants in the D. rivularis KODIAK series. These new plants offer spectacular foliage color as well as a long-lasting flowering period.
There are also hybrids, such as D. sessilifolia “Butterfly” which is a cross between the diervilla and a weigela. These hybrids include variegated and purple-leaved plants, which bring even more interest to the garden.
Diervilla has long been overlooked as a garden plant, and is much less well-known than the wild honeysuckle, or the weigela.
Nevertheless, with their robust and hardy characteristics, they are an ideal choice especially if you want a plant that doesn’t require maintenance.
*image by Akchamczuk/depositphotos