Diervilla (Bush Honeysuckle)

An environmentally friendly alternative to burning bush

The genus Diervilla contains flowering deciduous shrubs, commonly called diervilla or bush honeysuckle. Tough, cold hardy, and easy to grow, these showy, free-branching shrubs are dense with glossy foliage that displays beautiful new growth and fall color and adds lovely texture to the garden. Growing on the tips of the arching branches, clusters of tiny, trumpet-shaped, nectar-rich yellow flowers beckon to bumblebees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Diervillas are native shrubs indigenous to eastern regions of North America, growing in open woodlands, along stream banks, and on rocky ridges and dry slopes. The shrubs are generally stoloniferous and slowly spread by runners, but are not invasive. With their brilliant golden orange to orange-red fall foliage, diervillas are an environmentally friendly alternative to burning bush (Euonymus alatus), which is invasive and being restricted throughout the U.S.

Diervilla is a small genus with only three species, which are very similar, differing mainly by their natural growing regions. D. lonicera (northern bush honeysuckle, dwarf bush honeysuckle) grows in the wild from Newfoundland west to Saskatchewan in Canada and south to New England and into the mountains of North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Alabama. D. sessilifolia (southern bush honeysuckle), grows in the Appalachian and Great Smokey Mountains of Alabama and Georgia and north into Tennessee and N. Carolina. D. rivularis (mountain bush honeysuckle) grows in a similar range as D. sessilifolia, but in higher elevations. D. x splendens are hybrid crosses between northern and southern species.

Diervilla shrubs grow best in sunny to dappled sun locations with fertile, well-draining soil. Shown to best effect when massed or grouped, they are ideal for low-maintenance borders, foundation plantings, and erosion control. They are perfect additions to a wildlife garden and excellent "thrillers" in container gardens. Diervilla shrubs give a lot, asking very little in return.