If you want a honeysuckle plant that bears edible fruit, the sweetberry honeysuckle (Lonicera caerulea) is the shrub for you. It is suitable for growing in USDA zones 2 to 7 and prefers full sun. It bears beautiful flowers that are creamy white, followed by blueberries in the summer. This species has been classified as Lonicera caerulea and it is in the Caprifoliaceae (honeysuckle) family.
Common Names for Lonicera Caerulea
In addition to sweetberry honeysuckle, you may see this designated as honeyberry, blue-berried honeysuckle, edible honeysuckle, fly honeysuckle, blue honeysuckle, edible blue honeysuckle or bearberry honeysuckle.
Preferred USDA Hardiness Zones
This species can be grown in zones 2 to 7 depending on which cultivar you plant, making this an excellent choice for a fruit shrub in areas with lower temperatures. If you live in the colder zones, make sure that you choose a cultivar that is specifically noted to grow in those zones. It comes from the temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere.
Size and Shape
Once it reaches full size, the sweetberry honeysuckle will be about 5 feet tall and wide, generally creating a rounded shape.
Your shrub will grow the best if you can site it in full sun. It may be able to grow in partial sun, but do not expect as many flowers or fruit to form.
Foliage, Flowers, and Fruit
Each leaf is a glaucous (having a pale or blue cast) green, oval, and approximately 1 to 3 inches long. The cream-colored flowers are formed in pairs in the spring.
The fruit formed is a powdery-blue berry that is a little over 1/3 of an inch long (1 cm). They have very thin skins that break down easily when eaten. You may start getting fruit set in its second year since the flowers and fruit form on year-old wood, but it will take a few years to really start producing.
You can eat the fruit fresh or use it in jams, pies, sauces, and other recipes. The skin will turn blue before it is actually ripe, so wait until the flesh is purple before picking or they will taste bad. They should be frozen within a few days.
Sweetberry Honeysuckle Design Tips
Plant two or more varieties in your garden for optimal fruit production. If you only have room for one shrub, this is considered to be self-fruitful, though you really should plant two whenever possible.
This is a good substitute if you like blueberries but do not have acidic soil, as they are able to handle soils that are a bit alkaline and are similar in appearance.
Choose a sheltered location if your area tends to be windy, especially in areas with cooler temperatures.
The sweetberry honeysuckle will bring butterflies, bumblebees and other bees to your landscape.
For optimal growth, you need soil that is neutral or acidic. If your soil is just a little alkaline, it is possible to grow this plant there or make the soil more acidic before planting. Fertilize yearly in the spring.
This species does not like to have wet feet so make sure that the soil drains well. It is also able to tolerate drought as needed.
You can propagate new plants by rooting cuttings or planting the seeds.
Maintenance and Pruning
Prune right after the berries have ripened. New flowers and fruit will be borne on old wood, so you need to be cautious in removing branches.
The sweetberry honeysuckle is known to attract the following pests:
- Blister beetles
You may see the following problems develop in your garden:
- Grey spot
- Leaf spots
- Powdery mildew