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Leycesteria - Growing Guide

Growing Leycesteria

This is a genus of suckering deciduous shrubs with hollow cane-like stems. They make attractive woodland garden plants both for their flowers and also for their berries. We have found that both species which we offer are quick to naturalise themselves often quite a way apart from the original clump in thickish cover. The berries are attractive to pheasants and other birds. Leycesteria can therefore be used in bulk to make thickets in mature woodland where there is little existing groundcover to improve game shoots.

The more common and widely grown Leycesteria formosa or ‘Himalayan honeysuckle’ grows up to around 6ft in height in maturity. It is fully hardy with us but if an early autumn frost does catch the late growth on the plant it will simply reshoot next year from lower down the stem and be largely unaffected.

The stems are blue-green on first year growth and the leaves darker green, ovate and tapering. They will be up to 7in long in mature plants. The pendant spikes of white flowers stand out because of the large dark purple red flowering bracts which frame the flower spikes. These spikes form from the leaf axils at the ends of each individual shoot. The flowers appear from June through until autumn. The berries that follow are an equally impressive red-purple.

L. formosa ‘Golden Lanterns’ has golden yellow foliage and is the perfect plant for a dingy spot.

Leycesteria crocothyrsos arrived in the UK in 1928 and originates from Assam in India. It is more tender than L. formosa but can again rebound quickly from the base after a cold winter. The glossy green ovate and tapered leaves are prominently veined. The flowers are golden yellow and produced in arching terminal racemes 5-7in long in April to May. In the autumn gooseberry like green fruits or berries are produced in profusion. Here we discovered a large clump which had naturalised itself in woodland beside a river bank quite some way away from the garden in which it was originally grown.

Leycesteria are easy from softwood cuttings in summer or hardwood cuttings in the autumn. The seed germinates readily in the cold frame in the autumn and is best sown fresh. If your plant gets out of hand and straggly, as it may, prune it back hard occasionally exactly as you would a hydrangea. The results are much the same.


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