How to Get Rid of Invasive Honeysuckle

Is your property overtaken by invasive honeysuckle? Learn how to effectively remove these pesky plants from your garden so you can grow the plants you love.

Close-up of a blooming invasive honeysuckle growing on a fence in a garden. Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is a deciduous, vining plant known for its twining growth habit and fragrant flowers. The leaves are opposite, oval, and dark green, creating a dense cover. The flowers are tubular, white to yellow.


People love honeysuckle plants for their sweetly fragrant flowers, delicious nectar, and ability to attract pollinators ranging from hummingbirds to butterflies. But not all of these seemingly innocent plants are sweet. Invasive honeysuckle can quickly take over gardens, outcompete with native vegetation, and create a dull monoculture.

If you’re dealing with invasive plants, don’t fear. It is possible to remove these plants. Total removal is a big task, but with the right information, you can get rid of these pesky plants for good.

I’ll introduce you to some common types of invasive honeysuckle and then explain how to eliminate the plants.

An Invasive Honeysuckle Primer

Close-up of a flowering honeysuckle plant in a garden against a blurred green background. This plant is a vigorous, twining vine with opposite, oval-shaped, and dark green leaves. The flowers are white and yellow, and tubular.
The honeysuckle genus includes 180 species, some native to the US and some non-native but not considered invasive.

When we talk about honeysuckle, it’s important to recognize that this is a huge plant genus with more than 180 unique species. All members of the Lonicera genus grow as shrubs or vines, and many have sweet-smelling flowers. However, these species emerged from across the world.

The beloved coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) is native to portions of the United States. Its native status means you can plant the vining plant in your garden without worrying it will take over the rest of the landscape.

However, many types are native to regions outside of North America. Most of these plants arrived in the US through the nursery trade and later spread outside their planted areas. Although most honeysuckle species aren’t native to the US, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re invasive.

Ecologists use the terms non-native, native, non-invasive, and invasive to describe how plants impact an area. There’s some disagreement about using these terms, but non-native and native refer to where a plant originated, while invasive and non-invasive refer to a plant’s growth habit. For example, while both Japanese honeysuckle and weigela are non-native, only the honeysuckle will grow over other plants and overtake an area.

With that said, some of the most common (and most harmful) invasive species include Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica), Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii), Morrow honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii), Tartarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica), and Bell’s honeysuckle (Lonicera x bella).

Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica)

Close-up of a flowering Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) plant against a blurred background. Lonicera japonica is a twining, evergreen to semi-evergreen vine. The leaves are opposite, ovate, and dark green, forming dense coverage along its climbing stems. The tubular flowers are white and yellow with long protruding stamens.
Japanese honeysuckle, a woody vine with white flowers introduced in the 1800s, is invasive in the eastern US.

While many types are medium to tall shrubs, Japanese honeysuckle grows as a woody vine with oblong, alternate leaves. It produces white or light yellow flowers in the early summer and round, dark purple fruits later in the year. Although you can easily cut the vines with a pair of shears or rip the roots from the ground with your hands, this plant rebounds from half-hearted removal efforts with unmatched vigor.

As its name suggests, Japanese honeysuckle is native to East Asian regions, including Japan, China, and Korea. It was introduced to the United States in the late 1800s for ornamental purposes. But they quickly discovered that although the plant was covered with beautiful white flowers, it easily grew out of control. Plant conservationists consider it an invasive species in much of the eastern United States today.

Amur Honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii)

Close-up of a flowering Amur honeysuckle (Lonicera maackii) plant in a garden against a blue sky. It is a deciduous shrub that produces the opposite, oval leaves that are arranged along arching branches, creating a dense and bushy form. The shrub produces fragrant, tubular flowers that are white with a slight pinkish tint.
This is a large shrub with hollow stems, introduced ornamentally, and is invasive in multiple US regions.

Amur honeysuckle is a large shrub that can grow up to 16 feet tall. It has multiple hollow stems that branch into smaller twigs covered in ovular green leaves with pointed tips. The plants form yellow or white tubular flowers in the spring, and these flowers turn into bright red, round berries in the summer.

This plant is native to Japan, China, and Korea and was introduced to the US in the late 1800s for ornamental purposes. People continued to plant it for its beautiful flowers and erosion control abilities until they realized its invasive nature. It’s now considered an invasive species in much of the Northeast, Southeast, and Midwest.

Morrow’s Honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii)

Close-up of a flowering Morrow's honeysuckle plant in a sunny garden. Morrow's honeysuckle (Lonicera morrowii) is a deciduous shrub with a distinctive appearance. It features opposite, ovate leaves that are dark green, creating a dense and bushy form. it produces beautiful white tubular flowers.
Morrow’s honeysuckle is a shrub with fuzzy leaves that spreads through intentional plantings and bird-dispersed seeds.

People brought this plant from East Asia to the United States in the 1850s. Since then, it has spread through intentional plantings and seed dispersal via birds.

Morrow’s honeysuckle is a multi-branching shrub growing up to ten feet tall. It has oval leaves with rounded tips, and the leaves have fuzzy undersides. The plants produce white, yellow, or pink flowers and dark red berries. It’s found throughout the Northeast and Midwest United States and portions of the mountainous West.

Tatarian Honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica)

Close-up of a blooming deciduous shrub Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica). The plant boasts opposite, ovate leaves that are bluish-green, creating a dense and bushy appearance. Lonicera tatarica produces clusters of small, tubular flowers in a soft pink color.
Invasive Tatarian honeysuckle, native to East Asia, is widespread in the northern US.

Tatarian honeysuckle is another invasive type native to East Asia. It resembles many other invasive bush honeysuckle plants but has smooth, hairless leaves and twigs. Watch out for sweet-smelling flowers in the spring and red or yellow berries in the summer. 

This species is now found throughout much of the northern United States, from Maine to Washington.

Bell’s Honeysuckle (Lonicera x Bella)

Close-up of Bell's honeysuckle shrub in bloom. This hybrid honeysuckle features opposite, elongated oval leaves that are medium to dark green, creating a compact and dense growth habit. The shrub produces fragrant, tubular flowers in delicate white and pink shades.
Bell’s honeysuckle, a Tatarian-Morrow’s hybrid, is the largest invasive shrub in the honeysuckle family.

A hybrid of Tatarian and Morrow’s honeysuckle, Bell’s honeysuckle has many similarities to these two species, including tubular flowers and green leaves. To distinguish this species, look for elongated oval leaves that are smooth or covered in scattered hairs. 

Bell’s is the largest invasive honeysuckle species and can grow up to 20 feet tall. You can find this towering shrub throughout the Midwest and in portions of the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Mountain West.

How to Remove Invasive Honeysuckle

Since honeysuckle plants quickly bounce back from weak removal efforts, take time to learn how to get rid of these plants. Not only will this help you successfully remove the plants, but it will also help you save time, effort, and frustration involved with improper removal efforts.

Identify the Species

Close-up of a woman's hand touching clusters of unopened flowers of a honeysuckle bush. It is a deciduous shrub with opposite, dark green ovate leaves and clusters of white tubular flowers.
Identify invasive honeysuckle species for a tailored control plan, considering their foliage, growth form, and fruit.

Although most invasive honeysuckle species require similar removal efforts, identifying the species you’re dealing with allows you to create a suitable control plan. Plus, you want to ensure you’re dealing with a non-native, invasive honeysuckle rather than a beneficial native species!

You can ID your plants at any time of year, but the spring or summer makes things easier. You can use the foliage, growth form, and fruit to land on a proper ID during this time. Determining whether you’re dealing with an invasive bush honeysuckle or vining Japanese honeysuckle will help you select an effective removal method.

Plan Your Attack

Close-up of a large Tatarian honeysuckle (Lonicera tatarica) bush in the garden. This deciduous shrub features opposite, bluish-green leaves of oval shape. The plant produces clusters of round berries that are vivid red.
Plan removal of invasive honeysuckle based on infestation size, plant size, and available resources.

Once you’ve ensured that you’re dealing with invasive honeysuckle species, take a moment to plan how you’d like to go about removing them. Consider the size of the infestation, the size of the plants, and your available tools and time.

Remove plants sprinkled throughout the edge before diving into the densely covered middle if you have a big infested area. You may also want to think about what time of year you have time to complete the removal.

Start with Mechanical Control

Close-up of pruning honeysuckle in a sunny garden. A man wearing a black cap, black hoodie and orange and black gloves prunes an overgrown invasive honeysuckle plant using large garden pruners. The plant produces long vines covered with oval, opposite, dark green leaves.
Physically remove invasive honeysuckle, especially Japanese honeysuckle, considering soil moisture for easier extraction.

No matter what type you’re dealing with, physically remove the plants when possible. If you can pull up entire Japanese honeysuckle plants (including the root systems), do it!

Since bush honeysuckle plants produce lots of fruits and seeds, it’s common to see small seedlings popping up in forests, fields, and abandoned lots. These smaller plants have shallow roots, so physically removing entire plants is possible. Remember that you need to remove all the roots if you don’t want the plant to return.

Wet soil makes digging and pulling plants easier, so work after rainfall when possible. While you may be able to use your hands to pull up tiny seedlings, use a shovel or digging fork to remove plants with larger roots.

While mechanical control works well on small plants, it’s not always an effective removal strategy for larger plants. Larger plants often send new growth from their cut stumps, so removing the foliage doesn’t entirely kill the plants. Removing these plants’ entire root systems proves difficult and time-intensive.

Choose the Proper Control Method

Close-up of irrigation of honeysuckle bushes with an aerosol generator. A gardener dressed in an orange-brown jacket sprays a honeysuckle plant with an aerosol generator. The abundant spray jet completely covers the plants.
Use herbicides carefully for effective invasive honeysuckle removal, choosing appropriate methods based on plant size.

Whether you like it or not, herbicides are the best way to remove invasive honeysuckle plants fully. Although I avoid herbicides in most situations, I turn to them when removing these aggressive plans. 

Many ecologists agree that the damage done by careful herbicide application pales compared to the damage from invasive plants. However, note that I said careful herbicide application. Don’t just head out with a jug of herbicide and spray your plants willy-nilly. Not only is this an ineffective way to kill the plants, but it can also have unnecessary negative ramifications on the surrounding environment.

Instead, you should use one of three preferred herbicide methods: cut stump application, basal bark application, or foliar spray. Considering plant size and the number of plants can help you determine the proper method. For example, studies show that it’s hard to locate small stumps, so foliar spraying is the most effective method for small plants.

Cut Stump Method

Close-up of cut stumps of an invasive plant in a garden. Some cuttings are coated with blue colored systemic herbicide to prevent further plant growth.
The cut-stump method involves cutting the stems and applying systemic herbicide to prevent resprouting and regrowth.

As the name suggests, this method involves cutting honeysuckle stems into short stumps and applying a systemic herbicide to the cut side of the stump. The herbicide travels throughout the plant, preventing stems from resprouting and killing the remaining root systems.

This method works best for taller bush honeysuckle plants with larger stems, but you can also use it on smaller plants and vining Japanese honeysuckle. Since it creates little herbicide drift and is easy to implement, many forestry and conservation agencies use it to kill large shrubs.

Plus, it lets you immediately remove the above-ground growth from an area while preventing regrowth. Therefore, it’s the preferred method to clear honeysuckle quickly.

You can use this method throughout the year, but the best times are late summer, fall, and early winter. Before you begin, obtain the following tools and equipment

  • Saw or loppers to cut the stems
  • Systemic herbicides such as glyphosate or triclopyr
  • Sprayer or dauber to apply herbicide

As far as herbicides go, choose a high-concentration systemic herbicide. Glyphosate and triclopyr are the two most commonly used options. Dilute a concentrated product so it contains 20-25% glyphosate or 8-10% triclopyr. Avoid heavily diluted herbicides since these won’t effectively kill the remaining plant material.

Consider adding a dye to the herbicide if dealing with a large area. This will make it easy to see what stumps have been treated so you can avoid applying excess herbicide and ensure all plants are treated.

After you’ve obtained the herbicide, cut the plants a few inches above the ground. Immediately spray or daub the stumps with herbicide until they’re covered but not dripping. Working in a two-person team (a cutter and a sprayer) is helpful if you’re treating a large area.

That’s it! Now, all you have to do is wait. If you don’t notice any regrowth, you can assume the herbicide is killing the underground roots.

Basal Bark Method

Close-up of spraying insecticides on the bare stems of a bush, against a blurred garden background. Spraying is done using a special spray nozzle on the hose.
Painting the lower stem with an oil-based herbicide like triclopyr ester will effectively kill bush honeysuckle.

Another option for treating bush honeysuckle is painting the lower portion of the stem with an oil-based herbicide. The material travels through the plant’s bark and enters the vascular system, killing the plant in the next few months. This method is most effective on plants with stems less than six inches in diameter.

You can use this method throughout the year, but it’s best to avoid it in the beginning to middle of spring.

When it comes time to choose an herbicide, look for a systemic and oil-soluble option. This means the product will dissolve in oil and travel through the plant. One popular option is triclopyr ester.

Various oils, including diesel, kerosene, and vegetable oil, work as carrier oils. However, basal oils are the preferred option. Your goal is to mix triclopyr ester with the carrier oil to form a solution that is 20% herbicide.

Once the herbicide is mixed, use a sprayer to apply the mixture to the bottom 12 to 18 inches of the stem. The stem should be moist but not dripping.

Remember that the herbicide won’t instantly damage or kill the plant. It can take a few weeks to see signs of injury, like dropping leaves, and multiple months for the plant to die.

Foliar Spray Method

Spraying the leaves of Japanese honeysuckle with foliar spray as a chemical method of controlling the invasive plant. A gardener in an orange-brown jacket sprays a spray from an aerosol generator onto the leaves of plants. The jet is powerful and has a wide diameter. The leaves are completely wet.
A late-fall foliar spray works best for vining Japanese or small bush honeysuckle.

If you’re dealing with lots of vining Japanese honeysuckle or an understory of small bush seedlings, a foliar spray is often the best chemical control method. However, since the herbicide will come into contact with other plants, you should avoid this method if you have desirable plants near the invasive honeysuckle. If so, opt for the more precise cut stump or basal bark method.

If you want to use the foliar spray method and protect desirable plants, you can wait until the late fall to apply the herbicides. Invasive honeysuckles keep their leaves longer into the year than many other plants. Therefore, you can hit the leaves with herbicide without damaging other plants.

Since you’ll be spraying the foliage, the best time to implement this method is late spring through mid-fall. A mixture of glyphosate and triclopyr is the most commonly used product, but you can also use glyphosate alone.

You can directly spray entire plants, but it can be difficult to reach the foliage of tall plants. Another option is to cut the plants to stumps, allow them to regrow, and spray the regrowth when it’s a few feet tall. The second choice allows for easier herbicide application.

No matter which option you choose, spray the foliage so it is wet but not dripping.

Monitor for Regrowth

Close-up of Honeysuckle leaves sprouting in springtime against a blurry warm, brownish-yellow background. Three young, small leaves sprout from the top of a woody, thin stem. The leaves are bright green, oval in shape with smooth edges.
Monitor regrowth after treatment, checking for new stems or growth from roots, and reapply treatment.

No matter what control method you use, there’s always a chance that the plants will regrow. Look for new stems sprouting out from cut stumps, and watch for new growth emerging from intact root systems.

If you notice the plants growing, double-check your treatment methods and treat them again.

Keep an Eye Out for Invasive Honeysuckle

Close-up of Honeysuckle flower buds in Springtime, against a blurred green background. The flower buds have a tubular, slightly oblong shape with a pinkish-cream hue. The leaves are oval, dark green, with smooth edges.
Spotting and removing invasive honeysuckle seedlings promptly prevents garden overgrowth.

There’s no doubt it’s easier to remove a few seedlings than hundreds of mature plants. Keeping an eye out for these invasive plants can help limit the work you need to complete and keep your garden from being overrun.

Even if you never add an invasive honeysuckle plant to your garden, birds and mammals can carry the seeds onto your property. Soon, the seeds germinate, and voila, invasive seedlings appear. Pulling these little plants ASAP will help keep the plants under check.

Final Thoughts

If you notice invasive honeysuckle in your yard or garden, remove it ASAP. Identify the species you’re dealing with, choose a proper treatment method, and reclaim your land for good. Once they’re gone, you can plant beautiful native shrubs or flowers like low-maintenance roses and beautiful peonies.

Close-up of a shovel with a dug up part of an invasive plant in a garden. On the grass lie two creamy-white mittens with a green rim. The plant has lush green lobed foliage.


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