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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - October 02, 2011

From: Odessa, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Identification, Compost and Mulch, Shrubs, Vines
Title: Identification of shrub looking like honeysuckle in Odessa TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Bought a shrub in Pecos, TX yesterday. It looks like honeysuckle but the brightest flat orange I have ever seen. Flower and greenery looked like honeysuckle but when I looked on the Internet under orange honeysuckle they were not bright orange. Is my shrub a orange honeysuckle or something else from its family? Where and when to plant or should I bring in house for winter. Usually freezes in Odessa week of Thanksgiving. Enough time to plant now before it freezes and dies?

ANSWER:

Since honeysuckle is often a vine, at least in our experience, we are a little puzzled at what you could have. We are going to look at several possibilities, including the fact that it might be a non-native, about which we would have no information in our Native Plant Database. We always urge our online visitors to buy nothing that does not have an identification of what the plant is. Often, that will be a common name or even a trade name, given to the plant to make it more attractive to buyers. Usually, even with that small amount of information, we can locate something on the Internet that gives us clues. The problem is, if you don't know what a plant is, you don't know what its growing conditions are. Does it need to be in sun or shade? Does it need more water or can it flourish in drought? Does it need acid or alkaline soil? Will it even survive in your part of the country?

The only way we can help you is to search on our Native Plant Database for plants that fit most closely to your description, provide you with links to our webpages on each plant, with pictures, and you can then try to figure out what you have. For each plant, you can discover for yourself on that webpage what the growing conditions for that plant are, and whether you can provide them. Of course, if the plant is not native you may have to search a little further; for instance, here is the website for the Texas A&M AgriLIFE Extension Office for Ector County.

We recommend that, whatever the plant is, you get it in the ground now. Here is a link from North Dakota State University on Transplanting Trees and Shrubs. Consider: if your plant is in a plastic nursery pot, it has only a thin layer of potting soil and a thinner layer of plastic between its roots and the elements. Surrounding roots with the Earth is the best insulation. Besides transplanting it sooner rather than later, we recommend both compost in the soil and mulch on the surface. Both will protect and nourish the roots, help the drainage in the soil, and give it a better chance for survival. Also, if you later discover it needed to be in the sun and you have it in the shade or vice versa, you can dig and transplant it much more easily and successfully if you have it in an amended soil. It might die back if you have an early hard freeze in Ector County, but it should re-emerge from the roots in Spring.

Plant Possibilities:

Anisacanthus thurberi (Chuparosa) - native to New Mexico and Arizona, blooms red, orange March, April and May. More information and pictures.

Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (Flame acanthus) also known as Hummingbird Bush - blooms red, orange June to October.

Lonicera ciliosa (Orange honeysuckle)- definitely a vine, as are all the members of the genus Lonicera. Pictures. Follow the plant link to read more about it, note that it is not native to Texas.

Diervilla lonicera (Northern bush honeysuckle) - plants designated as "bush honeysuckles" usually are members of the genus Diervilla. As its name implies, it grows natively nowhere near Texas. Pictures, none of them remotely orange.

Searching outside of the Wildflower Center's preferred plants native not only to North America but to the areas in which they grow natively, we found an article from the Plant Conservation Alliance Alien Plant Working Group Exotic Bush Honeysuckles. We very much hope that is NOT what you have, as it is invasive as well as non-native.

 

From the Image Gallery


Flame acanthus
Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii

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