Whether shrubs or vines, evergreen or deciduous, honesuckles (Lonicera spp) are all easy to propagate from cuttings. You can even start new honeysuckle plants from clippings when you're pruning after the plant has bloomed.
Beware of Invasive Honeysuckles
Honeysuckles grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 to 10, although this varies among species. Some are well-behaved shrubs or vines that stay within the confines of the garden but some are considered invasive. Invasive honeysuckles will quickly spread beyond the garden, often killing native plants in the process. Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), for example, which grows in USDA zones 4 through 10, is considered an invasive species throughout much of the U.S. Do not propagate honeysuckle species that are considered invasive in your area.
Propagate Non-invasive Honeysuckles
Coral or trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) and box or boxleaf honeysuckle (Lonicera nitida) are well-behaved honeysuckles that make good choices for propagating through cuttings. Coral honeysuckle is a deciduous vine that grows in USDA zones 4 through 9, although it remains evergreen in warm-winter climates. Boxleaf honeysuckle is an evergreen shrub that grows in USDA zones 7 through 9.
Take cuttings in the morning before it starts to get hot.
Decide What Type of Cutting to Use
Take semi-ripe or greenwood cuttings from evergreen and deciduous honeysuckles in summer. Test the branches before taking the cuttings to make sure they are in the semi-ripe or greenwood growth stage. To do this, grasp the branch 6 to 12 inches down from the tip and bend it over. If it will not bend, it has entered the hardwood stage. If it bends over easily, it is still too young. If it snaps, it is in the semi-ripe or greenwood stage.
Hardwood cuttings can be taken from deciduous species in fall but they do not root as quickly. Process hardwood cuttings the same way as semi-ripe cuttings but keep track of which end is up and plant them with the lower end of the cutting in the soil. They will take at least a few weeks longer to form roots than semi-ripe cuttings.
Water the honeysuckle generously a day or two before taking the cuttings so they will be well-hydrated.
Prepare Before Taking the Cuttings
Prepare the rooting container right before taking the cuttings. Use a 3- to 4-inch-deep flat or pots with drain holes in the bottom. Pour a half and half mix of vermiculite and perlite, or vermiculite or perlite and peat-based potting soil, into the container. Moisten the mix. Poke 1-inch-deep planting holes in the mix with a pencil. Space holes for multiple cuttings a few inches apart.
Sterilize a sharp pair of hand pruners with household disinfectant. Rinse the disinfectant off the pruners and dry them. Disinfectant could damage the stem tissue, so make sure you rinse it off.
Lay several damp paper towels in the bottom of a bucket. As you take the cuttings, put each cutting in the bucket on top of one or two damp paper towels and cover it with more damp paper towels right away. Do not let the cuttings dry out.
Fresh cuttings will dry out if exposed to sunlight for several minutes, so keep them damp and in the shade.
Clip and Process the Cuttings
Things You'll Need
- Sterilized pruners
- Rooting hormone
- Small cups or bowls
- Sharp sterilized knife
- Sterilized scissors
- Wooden craft sticks
- Clear plastic bag
- 6-inch pots with drain holes
- Houseplant potting soil
Take 3- to 5-inch-long cuttings. You can take several cuttings from one stem as long as it is semi-ripe along the entire length. Cut the branch into 3- to 5-inch-long sections. Make each cut 1/2 to 1 inch below a set of leaves. Each cutting should have at least two sets of leaves. Discard the branch tip if it is soft and bends over easily without snapping.
Pour a small amount of rooting hormone into a small cup or bowl and a small amount of water in another cup or bowl.
Strip the bottom leaves off of each cutting, pulling them off by hand in a downward motion to open a wound. Use a sharp, sterilized knife to strip off a vertical 1/2-inch-long piece of bark on two sides of each cutting. Take off only the outer bark. Roots will form more easily from this exposed plant tissue.
Dip the bottom end of each cutting in water then in rooting hormone. Coat the wounds completely then plant it in a planting hole. Firm the rooting media around the base of the cutting gently with your fingers.
Throw away any rooting hormone left in the small container after all of the cuttings have been dipped and planted. Do not put it back in the original container.
Cut the outer half of each leaf remaining on the cuttings off with sterilized scissors on larger-leaves species like coral honeysuckle. Trim entire leaves off the lower 2 to 3 inches of cuttings with scissors on smaller-leaves species like boxleaf honeysuckle. Leaves of multiple cuttings within the same container must not touch each other.
Insert 6-inch-long wooden craft sticks into the soil at the corners or along the outer edge of the container. Put the planted container into a clear, plastic bag. The sticks should hold the plastic up off the cuttings. Seal the plastic bag.
Set the cuttings in bright, indirect light where temperatures will remain between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Check the potting mix every few days to make sure it is staying moist. Gently pour a little water over the mix if it begins to dry.
Look at the bottom of the container after a few weeks to see if roots are growing out of the drain holes. If there are no visible roots, remove the container from the bag, grasp a cutting between your thumb and finger and pull up gently. The cutting will pull up easily if there are no or few roots. If there is resistance, the cutting has formed roots.
Push un-rooted cuttings back in and firm the rooting media around the stem. Check again in a week or two. Leave the plastic bag open after most of the cuttings have formed roots to get them used to lower humidity.
Pot the cuttings up in individual 6-inch pots with drain holes in the bottoms a week after they develop a healthy root system. Use fast-draining, houseplant potting soil.
Set the potted cuttings in bright, indirect light and keep the potting soil moist. After four weeks, begin to get them used to direct sunlight by setting them in front of an east-facing window for an one hour each morning. Increase the amount of time spent in direct sunlight by about half an hour each week until they can stay in the east-facing window all day without wilting. Grow them indoors in their pots until the following spring. Continue to keep the potting soil lightly moist.
Plant New Honeysuckles in the Garden
Harden off the new honeysuckle vines or shrubs in the spring after the danger of frost has passed. Set them outdoors in bright shade for a few hours each day in an area that is protected from drying winds. After a week or two, begin to expose them to an hour or two of direct morning sun each day. Continue to increase the amount of direct sunlight exposure over a week or two until they can take four to six hours without wilting. Allow the top 1 to 2 inches of potting soil to dry out before watering during this process
Plant the new vines or shrubs in the garden in full sun to partial shade in fast-draining soil after they get used to being outdoors. Water the newly-planted shrubs or vines as often as necessary to keep the soil uniformly moist for the remainder of the summer and fall. Spread a 2- to 3-inch-layer of organic mulch on the soil to help conserve moisture but keep it a few inches away from the honeysuckle stems.