Dwarf Bushhoneysuckle

Diervilla lonicera

Description & Overview

Dwarf Bushhoneysuckle is a Wisconsin native landscape plant noted for its shrubby form, spreading habit, yellow trumpet-shaped flowers, and brilliant fall color. New foliage emerges in unusual tints of coppery green and bronze. The growth of new stems appears with a crimson tint. The complexity of colors is especially appealing when the Bushhoneysuckle flowers. Small greenish-yellow buds appear in early June and open later in the month drawing in pollinators from far and wide. You may also know this as Northern Bushhoneysuckle.

Core Characteristics

Mature Height: 3-4 feet
Mature Spread: 4-5 feet
Growth Rate: Moderate
Growth Form: Compact, spreading.
Light Requirements: Full Sun to Partial Shade
Site Requirements: Easily grown in average soils. Drought tolerant.
Flower: Pale Yellow
Bloom Period: June to July
Foliage: Bronze-green
Fall Color: Orange, red-bronze
Fruit Notes: Woody dehiscent capsules

Suggested Uses:

Dwarf Bushhoneysuckle is a low-growing, suckering shrub that is tolerant of a wide variety of soil types. This even includes sandy soils where the water table is high such as dunes near riverbanks or beaches. It can be grown in full sun but does best in light shade. In fall, its dark bronzy-green leaves turn into a brilliant display of orange, red, and bronze. This small, mound-shaped shrub will spread to form thickets over time, making it a good choice for massing, hedges, or shrub borders. Thanks to its vigorous root system and suckering habit, it is great for erosion control on slopes. This plant adapts well to urban conditions which makes it an excellent choice for foundation planting or along walls, fences, and walkways.

It should be noted that Dwarf Bushhoneysuckle is not true honeysuckle. One way to distinguish between the native bushhoneysuckle, and the invasive honeysuckle (Lonicera spp.) Is by looking at the stems. Native bushhoneysuckle have solid stems while the invasive honeysuckles, such as the Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) have hollow stems.

Wildlife Value:

In early summer, pairs and trios of yellow, tube-like flowers provide a feast for nectar-seeking insects as well as hummingbirds. The floral banquet benefits butterflies, green sweat bees, leafcutter bees, and hummingbird moths, but the most important pollinators are bumblebees. Visitors include the Rusty-patched Bumblebee (Bombus affinis), Golden Sweat bee (Augochlorella aurata), Yellow-banded Bumblebee (Bombus terricola), Half-black Bumblebee (Bombus vagans), Orange-tipped Wood-digger bee (Anthophora terminalis), Megachile inermis, Peck’s Skipper (Polites peckius), and Orange Sulphur (Colias eurytheme). It is a host plant for the Snowberry Clearwing (Hemaris diffinis), Laurel Sphinx (Sphinx kalmiae), and Diervilla Clearwing (Hemaris aethra).

During winter, deer and moose are known to browse twigs and stems. In most cases, this will encourage branching and flushes of new growth. Thickets of the Dwarf Bushhoneysuckle provide a nice, sturdy shelter for ground-nesting birds such as Killdeer, Timberdoodle, and Wilson’s snipe. Sharp-tailed Grouse also consume the buds and find cover within the shrub.

The fruit capsules persist to early winter and are desirable to many songbirds and other low-foraging critters.

Maintenance Tips:

This tough North American native is drought tolerant and adapts well to urban conditions. This allows Dwarf Bushhoneysuckle to be planted in a plethora of locations. It performs best in full sun to part shade. We recommend watering well to establish new plantings. No follow-up care should be needed. However, if necessary, plantings may be renewed by cutting to the ground every few years in early spring.

If the plant is happy where it is, it will grow 1-2 feet a year. It’ll top out around 3-4 feet tall but will continue to sucker and grow laterally.


Dwarf Bushhoneysuckle has no serious insect or disease problems. Common ornamental diseases such as Leaf Spot and Powdery Mildew may occur, but these issues are hardly worth mentioning.

Leaf Lore:

The genus name Diervilla honors a French surgeon, botanist, and traveler by the name of Dr. Dière de Dièreville. He observed the plant with great interest in his travels to North America in 1699. Upon his return to France in 1700 he introduced the shrub to European culture, with the bushhoneysuckle genus eventually being named in memory of him by French botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort.

The specific epithet lonicera comes from its resemblance to true honeysuckle.

The name Honeysuckle also refers to the sweet-tasting nectar that must be sucked from their tiny, tubular flowers.

Companion Plants:

Thanks to its adaptability to different soil types, Dwarf Bushhoneysuckle has many suitable companion plants. On shaded slopes, possible partners include Aster, Little Bluestem, Common Witchhazel, Ironwood, Zig Zag Goldenrod, Meadow Rue, and Basswood.

For dryer sites with sandy soils, we recommend planting alongside Black Oak, Pin Cherry, Spreading Dogbane, and Serviceberry.

Combine with plants that enjoy similar habit such as Common Snowberry, Gray Dogwood, Carolina Rose, Sweet Fern, New Jersey Tea, Running Serviceberry, Beaked Hazelnut, Fragrant Sumac, Glossy Black Chokeberry, American Filbert, and Redosier Dogwood.

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