The Q&A Archives: No Luck Propagating Honeysuckle

Question: I have tried to propagate my honeysuckle and for some reason I haven't had success. I've tried placing cuttings in water with vitamin B to root, planting cuttings with root hormone, and laying a rock on a vine to see if it would grow roots. I have asked everyone that could help, including nurseries and Master Gardeners . I would appreciate it if you could help me.

Answer: Lonicera (honeysuckle) should root readily, so perhaps there's a problem with the soil's pH, its moisture content, the age of the cutting you're trying to root, or the time of year. Here are some basics for propagating honeysuckle. Wait until mid-summer so you can use wood that has grown during the current season. Layering is the most reliable way to propagate them, so choose tip layering or serpentine layering. To tip layer your honeysuckle, take a supple shoot with a strong, healthy growing point, and bend it to the ground. Using a trowel, dig a hole four-inches deep where the tip touches the soil. Amend the soil with organic matter, place a stake in the hole, and push the stem tip into the hole so that the exteme tip touches the bottom of the hole. Fill with soil and tamp it down gently. Then tip the aboveground part of the stem to the stake, to help anchor the plant in place. If you avoid this step, the stem will pull the tip up and out of the ground. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy. In a few weeks the buried tip will send a sprout upwards. Wait until it has developed a good root system (6 to 8 weeks) before cutting the stem from the parent plant. Serpentine layering is a similar process, except you take a long stem and bury two or more sections of the stem in the ground. Prepare the soil by adding some organic matter to make it loose and nutrient rich, lay the stem on the ground and mark where the nodes are (nodes are where the leaves and twigs branch from the main stem). About every 5 inches along the stem strip the leaves that are on the nodes you plan to bury. After removing the leaves nick the underside of the stem slightly and bend the injured part down into the prepared soil. Anchor it with a sturdy piece of bent wire or a stone so the stem remains in the soil. Allow a few leaves to remain on the stem and strip the leaves from another section. Repeat the burying and anchoring process. You can have several parts of the stem buried as long as you leave 5-6 inches of stem above ground. By the time you've reached the end of the stem you should have several parts buried and several parts left above ground (it should look like a snake). Keep the soil moist and the injured parts of the stem should develop roots at the old leaf nodes. You'll be able to tell if the stem has rooted because new shoots and leaves will be produced. Wait until mid-autumn before digging the new plants and cutting the old stems away. Hope your honeysuckle adventure is successful!

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