The reason for honeysuckle not flowering is usually because of pruning at the wrong time of year or pruning too hard. Honeysuckle flowers on previous years growth, so pruning honeysuckle in the early Spring removes the growth on which it flowers, resulting vines with lots of foliage but no flowers.
The 6 most common reasons for honeysuckle not blooming are:
- Pruning the vines at the wrong time of year or pruning too aggressively.
- Too much fertilizer promotes foliage growth with fewer flowers.
- Nutrient poor soil can prevent a flower display.
- Not enough sun on the honeysuckle’s vine prevents flowering.
- Honeysuckles can take up to three years to mature before flowering.
- If the soil is too dry honeysuckle does not flower.
Keep reading to learn more about why your honeysuckle isn’t flowering and how to implement the best practices and solutions (that actually work) so your honeysuckle flowers the following year…
1. Pruning Honeysuckle at the Wrong Time Prevents Flowering
There are two common pruning mistakes that can prevent your honeysuckle vines from flowering:
- Pruning honeysuckle too early or late in the season. Most early flowering honeysuckle varieties flower on last seasons vines and shoots and most varieties do not flower on new growth. Pruning the honeysuckle in the Winter or early Spring can cut back all the growth from which the honeysuckle displays its flowers.
- Pruning honeysuckle back too harsh. If honeysuckle has been heavily pruned it stimulates lots of new green growth and long vines but with far fewer flowers.
Honeysuckle plants do benefit from annual pruning in order to maintain shape, promote flowering vines and to prevent it becoming an overgrown and unmanageable mass of thickets.
However it is very important to cut your honeysuckle back at the right time to promote flowers and to avoid cutting the growth that supports the blooms for the following year.
The optimal time to trim back honeysuckle is straight after the flowers drop. Different varties flower at different times of the year so the exact time to prune depends on your specific cultivar of honeysuckle.
When pruning back your honeysuckle the goal should be to maintain shape and encourage the vines to grow around the structure that supports them whether it is a trellis, wall or frame, yet also cutting back any overgrown vines that look untidy to avoid congested growth which can also hinder flowering.
The lighter the prune of your honeysuckle, but still keeping the vine tidy the better for flowering.
It should be noted that hard pruning of old dead wood which is not longer growing or producing vines can be cut back at anytime of year.
This allows more light and airflow through the plant and prevents your honey suckle looking like a tangled mess.
Honeysuckle is a hardy plant and can tolerate a hard prune to improve its shape if it is neglected and overgrown but it may be 1 or 2 years before you see a good display of flowers following a severe pruning.
2. Too Much Fertilizer Reduces Honeysuckle Flowering
Honeysuckle is a woodland plant that thrives in good soil with lots of organic matter.
A fertilizer can be used to improve growth and promote flowers if the honeysuckle.
However strong fertilizer or frequent applications of fertilizer should be avoided as this promotes foliage and growth of vines at the expense of flowers.
Typically one application of slow release all purpose fertilizer at the start of Spring (after the threat of frost) is all a honeysuckle requires to flower and stay healthy (assuming the honeysuckle is planted in good soil with lots of organic matter).
Honeysuckle tend to grow very quickly with long vines and abundant foliage when they has been too much fertilizer applied.
Occasionally excess nitrogen from lawn fertilizer can run off after heavy rainfall into garden boarders and affect your honeysuckle (as well as other plants).
So even if you have not directly applied fertilizer to your honeysuckle it may be a consequence of water soluble nitrogen run off from lawn treatments to the soil around your honeysuckle that is preventing flowering.
Once fertilizer has been applied there is not much you can do to promote flowering this season and you may have to wait till the following year for blooms.
I personally recommend miracle-gro all purpose granule fertilizer as it contains all the nutrients that your honeysuckle requires at the right concentration for flowering and the nutrients are released slowly which reduces the risk of over fertilizing so that the honeysuckle has all the resources it requires for flowering.
3. Not Enough Nutrients for Honeysuckle to Bloom
Whilst using too much fertilizer can prevent flowering, soil that is low in nutrients can also stop your honeysuckle flowering.
Honeysuckle is native to woodland where it thrive in hummus rich soil with its own application of mulch in the form of leaf litter every year.
In some gardens with nutrient rich soil, an application of mulch around the base of your honeysuckle is all that is required to promote flowering.
However the importance of fertilizer increases if:
- Your garden soil is sandy (sand does not retain water soluble nutrients).
- The honeysuckle is in a pot or container (the roots can exhaust the potting mix of nutrients).
- The honey suckle is planted by a tree or surrounding by plants that are competing for nutrients.
Whether your honeysuckle is potted, under a tree or in sandy soil, an application of mulch can help to conserve moisture, improve soil structure and add nutrients to the soil which helps promote flowering.
Apply a one inch layer of mulch (compost or leaf mould is optimal) around the base of your honeysuckle in the Spring create more favourable conditions for the honeysuckle to flower.
However in poor soil or if the honeysuckle roots are competing with tree for nutrients, an application of mulch is not enough to really improve the prospect of flowering honeysuckle vines so an application of fertilizer is usually necessary.
I would recommend mircle-gro granules as it releases its nutrients slowly without burning the roots of your honeysuckle.
An regular application of mulch in the Spring with some slow release fertilizer should increase the flowers on display the following year.
Other symptoms of low nutrients and drought are yellowing leaves and leaf drop. If your honeysuckle has these symptoms read my article why is my honeysuckle dying for information on how to save your honey suckle.
4. Not Enough Sun For Flowering
Honeysuckle is a woodland plant and their vines climb trees and hedgerows to reach sunlight so it has the energy to flower.
If you honeysuckle is not flowering then it may be planted in too much shade.
If the honeysuckle is planted in full shade then often the leaves can drop and the plant often dies back.
The optimal conditions for flowering honeysuckle is the soil in the shade (so that the roots keep cool and the soil retains moisture) and the vines are in the sun which increases flowering.
Partial sun or dappled light throughout the day is often enough for a good display of flowers but full shade during the Summer on all parts of the plant reduces flowering significantly.
If your honeysuckle is not flowering and its in a shaded area, consider cutting back any overhanging tree limbs that are casting shade or if the honeysuckle has been recently planted then it may be possible to transplant it to a sunnier location.
5. Honeysuckle is not Mature Enough to Flower
Newly planted honey suckle often does not display flowers for up to three years if it is a small plant.
Honeysuckles take time to mature and invest time after planting, to establishing their roots system in the soil and growing their vines around their supporting structure.
In their woodland environment they spend their first few years climbing up trees and hedgerows so that their vines are in full sun. It is the vines that see the most sun that flower more prolifically.
Your honeysuckle should flower after 2 or 3 years if the following conditions are there:
- A structure (such as trellis, fence or tree) to support itself.
- Vines that can climb to a height, so that they have at least 6 hours of sun in the Summer.
- Soil that is amended with organic matter before planting to help retain moisture.
- Soil that stay consistently moist and does not dry out. (Water once a week during Summer until it is established).
- Enough nutrients for flowering.
- Avoid hard pruning until established. Instead train the vines around the structure with hooks and wire to form the desired shape and structure.
Once your honeysuckle has established after planting for around 3 years and the conditions for growing are favourable, it should display abundant flowers in the following Summer.
6. Dry Soil Stops Honeysuckle Flowering
Honeysuckles often struggle to display flowers if the soil is too dry as they require evenly moist soil (without being boggy) to grow and flower.
Honeysuckle grows naturally in woodlands where the soil is composed of lots of broken down leaf litter which helps to retain moisture even in hot and dry summers.
There are several reasons why the soil around honeysuckle can be too dry:
- The roots of the honeysuckle are in a rain shadow. Honeysuckle requires a structure for its climbing vines to scale, however with fences or walls there is often a dry area directly underneath where rain is deflected away by the structure, particularly if the prevailing winds divert the rain at an angle, creating a localised area of dry soil around your honeysuckle.
- Sandy soil retains less moisture. Some garden soils are naturally more sandy or stony then others. Sand and stone typically increase the rate of drainage after rainfall which can dry out the soil before the roots have had the chance to draw upon the moisture.
- Tree roots competing with the honeysuckle for moisture. Honeysuckles grow well when using certain trees as a supporting structure as this is exactly how they have adapted to grow. However certain tree species are particularly thirsty and may be competing with the honeysuckle’s roots for moisture in the soil. Trees such as willow, birch and pines all have a high demand for moisture and can create dry soil where your honeysuckles roots are trying to draw up moisture.
- Sun at the roots of your honeysuckle. Honeysuckle typically grow well if there is sun on the vines and relatively cool, shaded and moist at the roots. If the roots are in full sun then this can heat up the soil and drive excessive soil evaporation which dries out the roots causing stress that can prevent flowering.
- Honeysuckle in pots or containers. I have personally seen honeysuckle grown successfully in pots and containers, however the pot or container should be large to contain enough soil so that the roots can draw up moisture. Pots and containers are usually well draining and can dry out in Summer so diligent watering is required otherwise they may not flower.
With a few adjustments it is easy to create more favourable conditions for honeysuckles in your garden that have been suffering from drought.
- Ideally before planting the honeysuckle should be planted in soil that has been amended with lots of compost, leaf mould or well rotted manure as these materials are able to retain lots of moisture.
- The most important factor is to water the honeysuckle well during the Summer for the first three years whilst it is establishing to increase the chance of flowering.Water the honeysuckle once per week with a generous soak, ideally with a hose pipe. Watering weekly is not necessary out of the growing season.
- Add a generous layer of mulch around the base of the honeysuckle, composed of compost or leaf mould as this helps to retain moisture, improves the soils structure and add nutrients to the soil which all increase the honeysuckles odds of displaying flowers.
- If your soil is sandy, trees are competing for moisture or the honeysuckle is in a rain-shadow then the best practice to water generously once a week giving the soil a good soak and applying mulch frequently. Over time the mulch is incorporated into the soil and the moisture retain properties of the soil should improve significantly. Think of adding mulch as replicating the function of leaf litter in a woodland environment.
Watering generously encourages the roots of your honey suckle to establish so that it can tap into moisture reserves in the soil to increase its resistance to drought, so avoid light watering as this encourages the roots to grow shallow in the soil.
By improving the soil with the use of mulch and watering your honeysuckle in the Spring and Summer you are recreating their preferred soil and moisture conditions which should provide your plant with all the resources it requires to display flowers on its vines.
- Honeysuckle does not flower if it has been pruned back hard or pruned at the wrong time of year. Honeysuckle develops flowers on last years growth so if pruned too early you can accidentally remove the flower buds and prevent the honeysuckle from flowering.
- Too much fertilizer promotes lots of foliage and growth of vines with far fewer flowers.
- In nutrient poor soil or gardens with lots of trees that compete for nutrients the honeysuckle may struggle to flower without regular mulch and the use of fertilizer.
- Honeysuckles flower more when their vines are in more sun. If your honeysuckle is in shade during summer then transplant it to a sunnier location or cut back tree or vegetation that are casting shade.
- Honeysuckle may not flower for up to three years after planting. Honeysuckles take time to establish their root system and grow their vines so they are in more sunlight before flowering.
- Honeysuckle may not flower if it is drought stressed. Honeysuckles grow in woodlands with lots of leaf litter at the base which helps to conserve moisture. Add mulch around the base of the honeysuckle and water regularly if the soil is dry.