David’s Favorite Plants: Sulfur Honeysuckle Vine

(Lonicera sempervirens ‘Sulphurea’)


Lonicera sempervirens 'Sulphurea' is great for attracting hummingbirds.Lonicera sempervirens 'Sulphurea' is great for attracting hummingbirds.

Every gardener has their favorite plants. It’s always interesting for me to observe all my gardening friends and associates and what plants they favor in their own gardens. Some are very specialized, focusing on a specific genus Like Penstemon or Geranium. Others, like myself love a wide range of plants and are very interested in how they fit into our gardens and landscapes.

My interests cross over from plants into the animal kingdom. As a kid I was very fond of butterflies, colorful moths and beetles and spent many years collecting and studying them. I still maintain my fascination with all elements of our wonderful planet’s flora and fauna and I like to plant flowering plants that attract pollinators like butterflies, as well as others like bees and hummingbirds.

One of my favorites for attracting hummingbirds into my surroundings is the flowering vine Lonicera sempervirens ‘Sulphurea’ (Sulfur Honeysuckle Vine).

Lonicera sempervirens 'Sulphurea' produces bright red berries in late summer and early fall that will attract fruit eating songbirds.Lonicera sempervirens 'Sulphurea' produces bright red berries in late summer and early fall that will attract fruit eating songbirds.

A very hard-to-find selection of our native vining Honeysuckle, it is a superb plant with an off-the-charts display of bright yellow flowers in late spring and early summer. It sets beautiful bright red berries in late summer and early fall that will attract fruit eating songbirds like robins and many others. I have also grown the other yellow flowered Lonicera sempervirens, ‘John Clayton’. While this cultivar is a very old heirloom with an interesting history, it‘s flowers are pale and not as numerous as provided by ‘Sulphurea’.

In hot sunny climates, Lonicera sempervirens (Vining Honeysuckle) grows best with an eastern exposure and shade from the heat of the afternoon sun. Once established, the vine will take some drought, but it really wants a regular deep soaking in the absence of rain. A compost enriched garden loam that retains some moisture is best, but this vine will grow in less than ideal soils.

Lonicera sempervirens 'Sulphurea' is an ideal vine to use when covering an archway, pergola or trellisLonicera sempervirens 'Sulphurea' is an ideal vine to use when covering an acrhway, pergola or trellis.

‘Sulphurea’ is an ideal companion plant to grow with the spectacular orange flowered Lonicera sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’, creating a tapestry of orange and yellow trumpets. It can be planted along side climbing roses and Clematis.

Because ‘Sulphurea’ is not overly vigorous like Campsis (Trumpet Vine), it’s ideal to cover an archway, pergola or trellis. I’ve now grown this beauty at both my home and in the High Country Gardens display gardens (as shown in these photos) for the last ten or so years and have been won over by its charms. This is a truly spectacular vine that guarantees the hummingbirds will be paying your yard a visit when you plant it.

Text and Photos by David Salman

6 thoughts on “David’s Favorite Plants: Sulfur Honeysuckle Vine”

  • LaNelle Laas
    LaNelle Laas 02/22/14 at 3:58 pm

    Where can I PURCHASE A Sulphurea???
    Looks lovely and hummers need it.

    • HCG Staff

      You can purchase the <a href="http://www.highcountrygardens.com/perennial-plants/flowering-vines/lonicera-sempervirens-sulphurea rel="nofollow">Lonicera sempervirens 'Sulpheria' (Yellow Flowered Honeysuckle Vine) here</a>, on our website. Hummers do love it!

  • John Haag

    I live in a Denver suburb and have a pergola that I would like to have covered by a vine but, as you say, trumpet vine is too aggressive. I tried a variety of honeysuckle (I don't recall which) and I grew up several posts but didn't grow across the top. Would Lonicera sempervirens 'Sulphurea' be a good option for my zone? Any other vine recommendations? I don't want berries that fall and stain the patterned concrete of the patio which the pergola shades. Is there a hardy variety of grape vine that does not have actual grapes? Thanks!

    • David Salman
      David Salman 04/02/14 at 1:49 am

      Lonicera Suphurea is vigorous enough to cover a tall pergola. I've done so in my front yard. In my experience, the berries when they appear don't fall to the ground. The birds eat them readily. You could also plant Lonicera Major Wheeler which I haven't seen fruit.There is an ornamental grape without fruit but it is not listed as cold hardy enough to survive a severe Denver winter.

  • Shirly Baldwin
    Shirly Baldwin 03/05/14 at 12:00 pm

    Michigan is not generally considered a "hot and sunny" climate, but I have only western exposure with no shade until late in the day. Is there a chance Sulphurea will do well in that position?

    • David Salman
      David Salman 04/02/14 at 1:50 am

      You should have good success with Lonicera vine in your western facing exposure because MI is not a hot climate. Keep the roots mulched to cool the soil.

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