Mexican Honeysuckle (Justica spicigera), also known as Orange Plume Flower or Spicy Justicain, may share some of the same striking looks as other honeysuckles, but it isn’t actually related to them.
A short, compact shrub, Mexican Honeysuckle is the ideal choice for adding visual interest and striking color and is a perfect choice for nature enthusiasts. It has small, velvety, palm-like leaves and distinctive orange spiky flowers which, from a distance, look a little like long, thin chilies. It is known to attract a large variety of wildlife which thrive on its pollen, especially hummingbirds. Mexican Honeysuckle is also deer-resistant, making it a great choice in gardens where they can be a nuisance
How to Grow Mexican Honeysuckle
Mexican Honeysuckle may be grown from stem cuttings, by layering (where you bend a stem of your current plant back into the soil and fix it in place so that it takes root), or by dividing the root ball. While it can be grown from seed, it is better grown from a small plant or cutting. If you don’t have any already, we recommend you try your local nursery and purchase a young plant. It prefers a warmer climate, where it will act as a perennial; for regions prone to frost, it grows as an annual.
Read on for growing tips and step-by-step instructions:
What conditions do you need to grow Mexican Honeysuckle?
These plants like to be in full sun and will tolerate partial shade. It should do well both in a garden or in a conservatory, although container growing may stunt its growth. It is generally quite happy to grow in a variety of soil types, from nourished to bare, but it likes to be well-drained. For this reason, clay-heavy soil with poor drainage is not suitable.
Neutral to alkaline is optimal, although it is not too fussy. It does not require any additional fertilization; if you do decide to use fertilizer, do so once a year only and use a light hand. Please note that Mexican Honeysuckle is particularly averse to frost, which will kill it off.
When should you plant Mexican Honeysuckle?
Plant Mexican Honeysuckle in mid to late Spring, once all risk of frost has passed. Propagated seeds may be started from mid Spring in a warm conservatory or greenhouse with high humidity.
Growing Mexican Honeysuckle: Step-by-Step Instructions
Ready to grow? Let’s get started:
- Preparation – Choose a sunny spot with good drainage. Pick somewhere the distinctive bright orange flower will be highly visible. No special soil preparation is needed. Leave enough room, especially if growing as an annual, as it can grow to 2-4 feet tall and between 3-6 feet wide.
- Planting – Plant small cuttings or propagated seeds under glass and in high humidity until they reach around 6″. Once the risk of frost has passed, you can plant it out in its final location. Plant the shrubs well so that the roots are well covered.
- Care – In the first year, water daily (but gently – don’t overwater). After the first year, your plants will need watering or gentle irrigation through the heat of the summer. plant should grow to
Get the most out of your plant by following these tips:
- Prune some of the older leaves and woody growth back at the end of winter, once your plants are established, to boost new growth in the springtime (if growing as a perennial). Your shrub should, with care, produce year-round orange flowers.
- If your garden does suffer the occasional frost, you can try blanketing the plant over winter or mulching with something light, such as pine much, and keeping the roots as warm as possible. Remove any mulch or blanketing quickly once the risk has passed to allow the soil time to dry out. With a little care, your plants will come back and surprise you again the following Spring!
- Mexican Honeysuckle is drought tolerant and would rather be a little thirsty, rather than waterlogged. Water little and often is a good strategy: regular watering will help to improve its appearance and increase blooming. If you notice the leaves start to turn yellow, it may be a sign you are overwatering.
- Mexican Honeysuckle can be prone to attacks by red spider mites and whitefly, so keep an eye out for them. Both spider mites and whitefly can be treated by using an insecticidal soap, misted gently onto the plant until the infestation has cleared. This is best done daily, in the late afternoon or early evening. The Mexican Honeysuckle plant is not known to be affected by any plant diseases.
Mexican Honeysuckle Uses
It has been reported that Native Americans and Mayans use it in tea for medicinal use, as a cure for dysentery, dengue fever, and heart problems. The bright orange flowers are reputed to be useful for treating breathing problems, such as coughs and asthma.
Today, Mexican Honeysuckle is mainly used to attract wildlife such as hummingbirds, bees, and butterflies, who are all drawn to its striking looks and pollen. This makes it perfect for nature lovers and natural or organic gardeners. It is ideal in a rock garden and is fast-growing, so it’s great for adding instant interest.