How to Grow Cape Honeysuckle

Attract hummingbirds with bright, joyful flowers

cape honeysuckle

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Cape honeysuckle flowers are a blazing orange hue, sure to brighten up your tropical garden. It is used as either a shrub or liana and its color and sweet nectar attract hummingbirds. Not only is it versatile in looks, but it also is easy to maintain, making it a perfect idea for a splash of uniqueness in your garden.

The name "Cape honeysuckle" came about because the native region for this shrub is in South Africa, by the Cape of Good Hope. It is a bit misleading: This is not true honeysuckle. Real honeysuckles belong to the Caprifoliaceae family and are found in the Lonicera genus. Other members include the desert willow, northern and southern catalpa, and jacaranda.

Each pinnately compound leaf is made up of five to nine diamond-shaped leaflets. Whether they are evergreen or deciduous depends on how cool the climate gets in winter. Cape honeysuckle is a fast-grower that can gain anywhere from 13- to 25-inches tall in its first year after a successful spring planting.

Botanical Name Tecoma capensis
Common Name Cape honeysuckle
Plant Type Flowering evergreen shrub
Mature Size 3-10 ft. tall as a shrub; 25-30 ft. long as a vine
Sun Exposure Full sun to partial shade
Soil Type Well drained
Soil pH 5.6-8.5 
Bloom Time Fall, winter, spring
Flower Color Orange to orange-red
Hardiness Zone 9-11 (USDA); it can survive in zone 8 with some protection.
Native Area South Africa
cape honeysuckle in a garden

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

cape honeysuckle

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

cape honeysuckle

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

closeup of cape honeysuckle

The Spruce / Adrienne Legault

Cape Honeysuckle Care

The shape of this plant depends entirely on how you let it grow, as it can either be a shrub or vine. As a shrub, it can be anywhere from 3- to 10-feet tall, depending on how consistently you prune it. In vine form it will travel a lot farther, reaching lengths of 25-30 feet or more. Usually, the cape honeysuckle is treated as a shrub and clipped into a box shape. However, this plant also likes to vine, so consider it for your trellis or pergola.

During the fall through spring (possibly the entire year), the Cape honeysuckle will be covered with an abundance of orange (sometimes reddish or yellow, depending on variety) trumpet-shaped blooms. Once the flowers have been pollinated, long capsule fruits are produced.

There aren't many problems with this plant. If your zone gets some frost, this can cause damage to the leaves and branches. You may run across problems with too little or too many nutrients, which is usually most apparent in the foliage. There may be other environmental problems like leaf scorch. Overall, though, this shrub should stay happy and healthy over its lifetime with little maintenance.

Light

Cape honeysuckle is a tropical plant and does prefer full sun. Some light shade, however, is acceptable, though shaded plants will produce fewer blooms.

Soil

Don't fret about the pH of your soil too much, as this plant can handle both acidic and alkaline soils. It also grows in salty locations like coastal regions and can handle gusts of wind.

Water

Water your Cape honeysuckle weekly if you are growing it in full sun, or just once or twice a month if it is in shade. After a year of regular watering, the roots should be established enough to provide drought tolerance.

Temperature and Humidity

Cape honeysuckle is a tropical plant that thrives in hardiness zones 9–11. It is heat and drought tolerant, but its branches and leaves tend to die back at temperatures under 25 degrees Fahrenheit.

Fertilizer

If you've tested the soil and detected a lack of nutrients, go ahead and use some fertilizer. It is usually not needed, though. It is a good idea to mulch your cape honeysuckle if there is a predicted frost.

Cape Honeysuckle Varieties

  • 'Aurea' features golden-yellow flowers.
  • 'Coccinea' has blooms that are bright red or scarlet.
  • 'Salmonea' produces orange or pink flowers.

Pruning

Pruning your Cape honeysuckle depends on the shape you've chosen for it. If you're going for a hedge, trimming may be required on a regular basis since this grows fast. Cut it back to the ground every three to four years in the spring (or as needed) to help keep it from sprawling. You should also prune away branches that were damaged by frost at the start of spring.

This plant does produce suckers. Clip them away if you don't want them to spread. Less maintenance will be needed if you are using it like a vine. You will just need to keep it trained on its support system.

Propagating Cape Honeysuckle

You can easily propagate Cape honeysuckle with softwood cuttings, which should start producing new roots within two to 14 weeks.

How to Grow Cape Honeysuckle From Seed

Cape honeysuckle grows well from stratified seeds; plant them in shallow trays and covered in sand or seed-starting mix. Seeds will germinate in six to 21 days. Plant seedlings when they feel sturdy; Cape honeysuckle will bloom in the second year.

Potting and Repotting Cape Honeysuckle

Cape honeysuckle makes for great container plants if you live outside the tropical weather they crave. Plant them pots with good-sized drainage holes, in standard potting mix, and increase the container size by 2-inches each time you repot. Bring these pots indoors in colder months, to protect them for next season.

Common Pests & Diseases

Cape honeysuckle attracts aphids and scale insects, both of which enjoy the plant's new growth and foliage. You can rid your plant of these pests with insecticidal soap.