Thursday, December 17, 2009

Carol of the Bells

One of my favorite Florida native plants is Coral Honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens). This easy-to-grow trailing vine flowers nearly year-round here in Florida, with bright red trumpet-shaped flowers that hang like bells and offer nectar and pollen for butterflies and bees. The insides of the flowers are a cheery yellow, and the shiny green leaves make a beautiful contrast to the blooms, especially this time of year when they provide some seasonal color.

A neighbor of mine
frequently sees ruby-throated hummingbirds in her yard during summer, and claims this is one of the plants they will visit. We haven't had any luck spotting these delightful birds in My Florida Backyard yet, but we haven't given up hope!

In the meantime, Coral Honeysuckle offers red berries for songbirds, so that should keep our feathered friends happy.

Coral Honeysuckle, like many Florida natives, can be surprisingly hard to find outside of native plant nurseries. Most nurseries seem to stock Cape Honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis), which is native to Africa and can become overgrown very quickly. Coral Honeysuckle can be left to trail over existing shrubs without choking them out, but Cape Honeysuckle generally takes over wherever it is planted. A Florida-Friendly gardener should chose native Coral Honeysuckle when possible.
In My Florida Backyard, the Coral Honeysuckle has been trained to grow up the downspouts flanking the butterfly garden, and we are working a new piece up around the bird feeder pole. Unlike passionvine, which happily pulls itself up anything it can find with those springy little tendrils, honeysuckle may need a little help to send it where you want it to go. This is good, because you can decide where you want it - a choice passionvine doesn't always give you.

Although the bell-shaped flowers of Coral Honeysuckle may not "peal loud and deep", their seasonal color helps spread a message that My Florida Backyard believes in heartily: "Peace on earth, good will to men!"

1 comment:

  1. Your honeysuckle is a very "holidayish" choice.