How to care for a winter honeysuckle plant for pretty, fragrant blooms adorning your garden all winter long

The expert-approved guide to growing your winter honeysuckle and keeping it looking its best this winter season

Winter honeysuckle
(Image credit: Getty Images/Marina Denisenko)

We’re used to seeing our gardens bare during the winter months, devoid of any life or growth. But it turns out with plants like winter honeysuckle it doesn’t have to be that way as this shrub flowers even in the middle of the coldest time of the year. As long as you learn how to care for your winter honeysuckle.

Winter honeysuckle is one of the few pretty flowers that bloom at Christmas and during winter in general, bringing its sweet fragrance to your garden even in the depths of frost. And we’re very grateful to this delicate shrub for injecting our gardens with some life and sweet-smelling blossoms indeed.

But to keep it looking and smelling lovely all season long there are some care tips that need to be taken care of as explained by our gardening pros.

Winter honeysuckle

(Image credit: Getty Images/Marina Denisenko)

How to care for winter honeysuckle

‘Caring for winter honeysuckle involves several key aspects, including planting, watering, fertilising, and pruning,’ starts Jack Sutcliffe, co-founder of shed manufacturer, Power Sheds.

But don’t be put off as caring for this blooming shrub is not difficult at all once you know the few easy steps that need to be taken care of. As this is one of the perfect things to grow in December, it goes without saying it’s hardy enough to withstand a lot.

What you'll need

Winter honeysuckle

(Image credit: Getty Images/Tom Meaker)

Watering

Regularly watering your winter honeysuckle is the most crucial step in its care. 

‘Winter honeysuckle requires regular watering, with the soil needing to be moist the majority of the time. If you feel the soil has dried up, you're under-watering it,’ says Steve Chilton, garden expert at LeisureBench.

Jack adds, ‘While winter honeysuckle is drought-tolerant once established, it does benefit from consistent moisture.’

Steve Chilton portrait
Steve Chilton

Steve is a passionate and knowledgeable garden expert with several years of experience within the field. As the director of LeisureBench, an industry-leading garden furniture company, Steve has developed strong expertise for all things nature and plants. 

Winter honeysuckle

(Image credit: Getty Images/ErikAgar)

Pruning

While winter honeysuckle does need to be pruned, you should hold off until the end of winter or beginning of spring to do it. As the flowering period is not the recommended time when to prune honeysuckle, which includes the winter variety.

‘You need to prune your winter honeysuckle after it's finished flowering, which is usually anytime from late winter to early spring. When pruning it, it's vital to remove any dead, damaged, diseased and crossed branches,’ Steve says.

Petar Ivanov, garden expert at Fantastic Gardeners, continues, ‘Many people use pruning to keep winter honeysuckle shrubs smaller and under control, because they can be invasive. The best time for pruning will be right after the plant has flowered. However, the plant won't benefit from excessive pruning so it'll be best if you only cut every one in three branches each year. Otherwise, the winter honeysuckle will lack flowers.’

Petar Ivanov portrait
Petar Ivanov

Petar Ivanov is one of the company's top-performing experts and manages over six teams of gardeners, delivering stunning landscape results and fostering a deep connection with nature through his work.

Winter honeysuckle

(Image credit: Getty Images/ErikAgar)

Fertilising

Adding fertiliser outside of the plant’s flowering season is also a useful step in encouraging further growth.

‘It should be fertilised in early spring before new growth begins using a balanced, slow-release fertiliser, with a low percentage of nitrogen and a higher percentage of potassium to encourage blooming,’ Jack advises.

Planting

By this time, you should already have your winter honeysuckle planted and blooming. However, if your plant is not doing so well, it might be because it hasn’t been planted right to begin with. 

‘It can thrive both in full sun and partial shade and it prefers soil that's not too damp. These are pretty much the only requirements for it to thrive. Any soil can work for a winter honeysuckle as long as it isn't over-acidic,’ Petar explains.

A snow-covered garden with a cottage

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes)

FAQs

How do you look after winter honeysuckle?

There’s not a lot you need to do in order for your winter honeysuckle to thrive other than water it regularly and plant it in a spot with decent sun exposure. After it finishes flowering, which tends to be at the end of winter or in the spring, prune it.

How big does winter honeysuckle get?

‘Winter honeysuckle can grow around 2 to 3 metres high and just as wide. These plants also have a tendency to spread slowly. Gardeners usually prepare plenty of room for them to grow without interfering with other plant species if they're grown as shrubs,’ Petar explains.

Exterior shot of 5 bed period moated house and garden in Essex. A 16th century house with five bedrooms and a moat, home of Lynsey and Paul Cross and their family in Essex.

(Image credit: Future PLC/Polly Eltes Photography Ltd)

Is winter honeysuckle a climbing plant?

Unlike the summer-flowering variety, winter honeysuckle is not classed as a climbing plant.

‘Unlike some other honeysuckle species, winter honeysuckle is not a climbing plant. Instead, it tends to grow as a free-standing shrub,’ Jack says.

Petar adds, ‘Winter honeysuckle can be grown as a trained shrub against a wall, fence or trellis, but it's not really a climber.’

And there you go. That’s all you need to know to grow your winter honeysuckle to beautify your garden during the cold months.

Sara Hesikova
News Writer

Sara Hesikova has been Ideal Home’s News Writer since July 2023, bringing the Ideal Home’s readership breaking news stories from the world of home and interiors. Graduating from London College of Fashion with a bachelor’s degree in fashion journalism in 2016, she got her start in niche fashion and lifestyle magazines like Glass and Alvar as a writer and editor before making the leap into interiors. She feels the two are intrinsically connected - if someone puts an effort into what they wear, they most likely also care about what they surround themselves with.