The kind commonly grown, Leycesteria formosa, makes long, green, cane-like growths carrying, in summer, drooping sprays of white flowers enclosed in maroon bracts. These are followed by quite large and decorative reddish-purple berries which contain seeds that are distributed by birds and often produce seedlings in all manner of unlikely places. In severe winters the rather soft stems can be damaged by frost but new growth generally comes freely from the roots in spring. Leycesteria succeeds best in fairly good soil and a sunny place, though it will grow in shade. Dead or damaged stems should be cut out each spring, also those that are weak or old.


Leycesteria is indigenous in China, and comprises six species, of which the fairly winter-hardy L. formosa is the main species to be cultivated.

L. formosa, Himalayan honeysuckle, is a deciduous, low shrub, with sea green, sturdy, hollow shoots, whorls of short-stemmed, oval-lanceolate, green, hair)’ leaves which are lighter on the underside and have a smooth-edged, coarsely serrated or lobed margin, and pendent clusters of bell-shaped, red, violet or white flowers, 2 cm long, growing terminally or in the leaf axilla, with pairs of fused, dark red or purple bracts which remain on the plant, followed by shiny dark, purplish-red berries which are very popular with pheasants. This shrub requires a sheltered, sunny spot, and nutritious, airy soil. Cover the base well in winter with fir or pine branches. Propagate from seed; will self-seed in favourable conditions.

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