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Friday - July 30, 2010

From: Coaldale , AB
Region: Canada
Topic: Planting, Pruning, Shrubs
Title: Removal of honeysuckle bushes from Coaldale Alberta Canada
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I have 2 honeysuckle bushes that I want to get rid of. I am wondering if Honeysuckle bushes have very deep roots (are they hard to dig out?) I am 70 years old and didn't know if I'd be able to dig them out myself or if I have to hire someone to do it if the roots are large & deep.


There are 18 members of the genus lonicera, honeysuckle in our Native Plant Database; 3 are native to Alberta. It looks like your area is down very near the international border with the United States, in Hardiness Zones 4a to 4b. The 3 honeysuckles native to your area are: Lonicera dioica (limber honeysuckle), Lonicera involucrata (twinberry honeysuckle) and  Lonicera utahensis (Utah honeysuckle). Probably the answer would  be about the same for all of them, but we are going to choose Lonicera involucrata (twinberry honeysuckle) as an example,  because you called your plant a "bush," which this definitely is, as opposed to the vines we are more accustomed to in Central Texas. 

Now we get down to your real question: can you dig your bush out? That is not a question we can answer for certain; it depends on the size of the bushes and how long they have been there. We could find no research on the size of a honeysuckle bush's roots, but a general rule with woody plants is that the spread of the roots will be at least that of the top of the plant, if not more. That's a lot of roots to dig out.

An alternative that you might be able to handle yourself is to trim back the branches until you can easily get to the trunk of the bush. Trim it down, still keeping it manageable. Finally, cut off the trunk as near ground level as you can. Again, if this is a big, old bush, cutting that trunk at the base might be more than you want to attempt. Have on hand a small container of a wide-spectrum herbicide and some sponge disposable brushes. As soon as the trunk is severed, paint the cut surface with the undiluted herbicide. This needs to be done within 5 minutes of the cutting, so the trunk won't seal itself off to prevent the herbicide getting to the roots, because that's what you need to do, kill the roots. The plant will probably try to survive by sending up suckers along the length of the roots-these are the roots' attempt to survive by putting out suckers that can leaf out and continue to provide nourishment for the bush. Clip those suckers off as fast as they stick their heads up; eventually, the roots will starve. After the winter, if you get no more suckers, it should mean the roots (and thus the plant) are dead and that the root is rotting.

This is not a fast process. Possibly just the cutting back, trimming and painting is more than you want to tackle. If so, you could bring someone in to dig up the whole root, or to use the trimming and painting procedure, coming back later to dig up the (hopefully) dead roots. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Lonicera involucrata

Lonicera involucrata

Lonicera involucrata

Lonicera involucrata





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