diervilla plant

How To Grow and Care for Diervilla (Diervilla spp.)

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Diervillas are attractive native shrubs that can be grown in a variety of conditions and climates across the United States. Read on to learn more about growing and caring for these flowering shrubs.

What Is A Diervilla?

Diervillas, or bush honeysuckles, as they are commonly known, are rounded, mounding deciduous shrubs that spread by suckering. The word Diervilla is pronounced: deer-VIL-ah. These plants of the Caprifoliaceae family are native to North America where there are 3 known species. 

Diervilla Species and Cultivars

Diervilla lonicera – Northern Bush Honeysuckle

The Northern bush honeysuckle is a low-growing species that reaches between 2 ft (0.6 m) and 4 ft (1.2 m) in height. This species has oppositely arranged leaves of up to 6 inches (15 cm) long. 

New growth on these plants is coppery, becoming glossy green when mature and finally turning an attractive red shade in the fall. These plants are very cold hardy and can be grown in USDA hardiness zones 3 to 7.

Diervilla sessilifolia – Southern Bush Honeysuckle

Although the Southern bush honeysuckle may grow as tall as 10 ft (3 m), most specimens mature at about 5 ft (1.5 m). The leaves of this plant grow up to 7 inches (17 cm) long, on red stems that are angular in cross-section.

The foliage consists of bronze new growth that matures to a deep glossy green with red veins. Leaves turn red in the fall before being shed. These plants can be grown in USDA zones 4 to 8. 

Diervilla rivularis – Mountain Bush Honeysuckle

This species has many common names, including hairy bush honeysuckle, riverbank bush honeysuckle, and Georgia bush honeysuckle. It is a taller species of Diervilla that grows to a height of around  6ft (1.8 m). 

The leaves of these shrubs turn yellow or red in the fall before being shed. This species is cold hardy to about USDA hardiness zone 5. 

Diervilla Cultivars

There are many fantastic Diervilla cultivars available from nurseries and garden centers. Some of the most popular options are listed below:

  • ‘Butterfly’  
  • ‘Cool Splash’
  • ‘Night Glow’
  • ‘Trojan Black’
  • ‘Copper’
  • ‘Kodiak Orange’
  • ‘Kodiak Black’

Diervilla Flowers

diervilla plant

Diervillas produce tubular, trumpet-shaped flowers in clusters of 2 to 5. This is a time that is eagerly anticipated by pollinators like bumblebees that relish the sweet nectar of these plants.

Flowers appear in mid-summer and last for about 2 weeks, although flowering can persist right into the fall. The fruits produced after flowering are dry, non-ornamental seed capsules that release seed in the fall. 

How To Grow A Diervilla

Diervilla plants are easy to grow from seeds collected from wild or fertilized plants. You can either plant the seeds right away or keep them refrigerated over the winter and plant them in the following spring. These plants are not self-fertile, so plants grown on their own will not, unfortunately, produce viable seeds.

Fortunately, bees and other pollinators will travel quite a distance to visit one of these plants so if there are any other Diervillas in your area of the same species, your plant may well be fertilized. 

Growing Diervillas from cuttings is another great option if you can’t find any potted plants for sale or don’t have a source of viable seeds. 

One of the great things about Diervillas is their adaptability to a variety of growing conditions and this applies to soils as well. Although these plants show a preference for well-drained slightly acidic soils, they will tolerate a range of pHs and soil conditions. Even dry, infertile soils and soils with some clay content will support these plants, although this is not ideal.

Diervillas can be grown in full sun to partial shade and are quite a drought-tolerant group of plants. Safe USDA hardiness zones vary by species but all of them can be grown from zones 5 to 7 and some right down to zone 3 or even zone 2. 

Care and Maintenance

Diervillas are very tolerant of pruning which ideally should be done in the spring after the last serious frosts of the year. Late pruning may reduce the flowering ability of your plant in the coming summer. 

These plants will naturally spread by suckering, and these will need to be removed if you wish to keep the plant within a defined area. 

Diervillas do not have special watering requirements, but it is always a good idea to offer regular water to newly planted shrubs until their root systems are established, and they have settled in. These plants are pretty disease and pest-resistant but may occasionally be susceptible to powdery mildew and fungal leaf spot.

Uses

Horticultural Uses

Diervilla does well as a tall ground cover and is great for mass plantings and possibly even as an informal hedge. These plants have great potential for bank stabilization because of their suckering and spreading nature. 

These plants require minimal maintenance and will grow well in places other plants don’t thrive in. They can also be left to naturalize in native gardens. 

Wildlife Uses

Diervilla flowers are insect-pollinated, particularly by bumblebees, but will also be visited by hummingbirds and butterflies. Deer do browse on these plants, so keep that in mind if you have deer in your area.


FAQs

Conclusion

While Diervillas may not be the showiest plants available, they certainly are beautiful, and it is always a good idea to plant native species in your garden. The low maintenance needs of this plant and its attractiveness to pollinators are good reasons to consider this for your next gardening project.

For more shrubs to grow, check our list of common bushes.

*Image by CisseAndebo/pixabay

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