What is Honeysuckle and How Do I Control It?

The invasive Japanese honeysuckle is a vigorously climbing vine that can take over your landscape if it's not controlled.

There are many different species of honeysuckle, many of which smell divine and are quite pretty. While some are well-behaved, others have the decidedly unattractive habit of spreading and taking over the landscape. Japanese honeysuckle is the most common of these invasive honeysuckle species, and if you find it growing in your yard, you'll want to act quickly to prevent it from spreading.


What is Japanese Honeysuckle?

A vigorous grower and climber with tough, wiry stems, this East Asia native is wonderfully fragrant and often used as a groundcover, but it can easily get out of hand. Japanese honeysuckle thrives in sunny locations, but a little shade won't stop it from growing. While it will tolerate dry, sandy soils, like many plants, it prefers moist soil. It's common to see Japanese honeysuckle growing along woodland edges and roadsides, and in barren fields.

Young Japanese honeysuckle vines are hairy and reddish in color. As they mature, they become woody, hollow, and up to 2 inches thick. Leaves are dark green on top and lighter green on the bottom, and are oval-shaped. You'll find them growing across from each other in pairs all along the vine. In the spring, Japanese honeysuckle produces showy, sweet-smelling, tube-shaped flowers. While they start out white, the blooms fade to yellow as they age. Japanese honeysuckle also produces small, round, black berries in the fall.

So how does Japanese honeysuckle spread so quickly? While some of the blame goes to its long above-ground stems, the real culprits are the underground stems (called rhizomes). Together, all of these stems can cause a single Japanese honeysuckle to spread up to 30 feet, covering fences, sheds and other structures, trees, and shrubs. (Of course, honeysuckle can also start from seeds left behind by birds.)


How Do I Control Invasive Honeysuckle?

It doesn't take long for Japanese honeysuckle to invade large sections of gardens and landscapes. As it spreads, its dense growth can smother and kill any plants unfortunate enough to get overtaken by the vine. Cutting or pulling the roots by hand is not an effective way to control honeysuckle, though. If you're serious about eliminating this interloper, use a product labeled for tough brush, like Roundup® Poison Ivy Plus Tough Brush Killer products.

Japanese honeysuckle vines can be treated anytime between spring and fall when the vines are actively growing. Use Roundup® Ready-To-Use Poison Ivy Plus Tough Brush Killer with Comfort Wand® to spray the smaller vines thoroughly, using a sheet of cardboard or plastic to protect any plants you don't want to kill. For large vines growing up trees, cut the vine off near the ground and apply Roundup® Concentrate Poison Ivy Plus Tough Brush Killer to the cut stump, following label directions.

That should bring you a large step toward taking control of the honeysuckle in your yard,, but you're not quite done yet. You'll also want to keep an eye out for new vines that may pop up and treat them immediately, so they don't have time to regain a toehold. Do that, though, and you'll have conquered this aggressive vine!