The Q&A Archives: Pruning cape honeysuckle

Question: I have several cape honeysuckles that I planted a little over a year ago. I want to use them as shrubs but have been letting them kind of grow all crazy to establish. When is the best time to prune them to shape them and any suggestions?


Cape honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis) can hardly be praised enough. A South African emigrant, it can handle climates that range from the seacoast to the desert. And it's so versatile that you can grow it as a shrub, screening hedge, tall ground cover, vine, or big container plant. On top of all that, it grows fast and is free of pests.

The divided leaves of Cape honeysuckle are a shiny dark green with prominent veins. In mild-winter areas, the plant is evergreen. Frost will make leaves drop and may even kill branches down to the roots, but they usually grow right back. 

Plant your honeysuckle in full sun in well drained soil. Plants seem to do better if you let the soil dry out slightly between waterings. In hot-summer valleys, water at least once a week in summer, more often if the plant seems to suffer.

You prune Cape honeysuckle to make it what you want. For a vine, train it up a trellis. To train it as a ground cover (2 to 3 feet high), remove upward-growing branches and let low-growing ones run and take root. To make a 6- to 8-foot-tall shrub or hedge, shorten the low-growing branches and save the upright ones. You can use hedge trimmers to make them round or square, or you can simply shorten some of the longest branches to make the shrub more compact looking.

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