Hot and dry? Steep slope? Low and boggy? Compacted soil? This hardy, deciduous shrub takes on nearly any problem spot in the yard while attracting hummingbirds and all sorts of butterflies, moths and pollinators. Its low-growing, spreading habit quickly forms colonies for mass plantings or erosion control on slopes. It laughs at dry, rocky soil, and can handle wet feet, too. Provides year-round interest with clusters of sweet-smelling, yellow, tubular flowers appearing in June-September, turning pinkish-red as they mature. Flowers are followed by dry, woody fruit capsules with wildlife appeal. Bronze-green foliage gradually changes to vibrant orange-red in the fall.
Dwarf bush honeysuckle is found in the understory of open woodlands, rocky areas, and thickets. It makes a great low-maintenance ground cover, or may be featured as a specimen plant. Its coarser texture makes a nice contrast when sited near plants with delicate foliage. This is a great native plant for bringing pollinators to challenging areas, such as berms, sunny or shady spots under decks, parking lots, or marshy low spots. Scatter a few around the yard, or plant in a row for a hedge. Two or three plants are recommended for reliable fruiting.
DIervilla lonicera is not to be confused with invasive Asian species of honeysuckle that most of us are familiar with. While these foreign honeysuckle do provide cover and food for wildlife, the leaves emerge ealier in spring than most native species and persist later in fall, shading out and eventually killing spring ephemerals and other low-growing plants, and the berries are a poor source of nutrition.
Grows 3-4’ tall and wide.
Prefers part to full shade, but adapts to sunnier conditions.
Average to dry, well-drained soil is best, but adapts to heavy clay and dry, infertile, or rocky soils. Tolerates drought once established.
Stems emerge red, aging to red and brown. Thin out branches for neatness and air circulation after flowering or in winter. Cut back to the ground occasionally to rejuvenate.
Dwarf bush honeysuckle is a host plant for 26 species of lepidoptera, including the hummingbird and snowberry clearwing and white-lined sphinx moths (pictured in order here). It was recently identified as the only host for the hawkmoth Hemaris aethra (pictured last). An important source of nectar for rusty patched bumble bees, yellow banded bumble bees, half-black bumble bees and digger, leafcutter, and sweat bees. Its dense, twiggy mass provides cover for wildlife, including ovenbirds, thrushes, juncos, and other ground-foraging birds and small mammals. Nests are often constructed from its branches. The nutty fruits are eaten by squirrels, raccoons, white-footed mice, and deer.
Medicinal, Edible, and Other Uses:
Algonquin Indians used the leaves as a diuretic, and Chippewa treated stomach pain with a decoction of leaves. Other tribes used decoctions to treat sore eyes, urinary and blood disorders, and vertigo. Iroquois gave a decoction to babies with adulterous mothers.
An herbal tea is commonly used to treat coughs and sore throats.
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