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How to Grow Leycesteria Formosa

Updated on December 3, 2012

Leycesteria formosa is a flowering shrub native to the Himalayas and south western China.

Popular in Victorian gardens in Britain, attempts are now being made to re-introduce the species to gardens.

Its other common names are:

  • Himalayan Honeysuckle
  • Himalaya Nutmeg
  • Flowering Nutmeg
  • Pheasant Berry - so called because pheasants are especially fond of the fruit
  • Granny's Curls

It belongs to the family Caprifoliaceae which is the huge honeysuckle family containing more than 800 flowering plants which are mostly shrubs and vines with the occasional herb.

Leycesteria formosa is a deciduous bush which has a height and spread of 8 feet and is cold hardy down to USDA zone 7.

It is grown for its showy displays of pendant flower racemes of creamy white petals against dark red bracts which turn into clusters of red berries in the autumn.

flowering raceme Leycesteria formosa
flowering raceme Leycesteria formosa

Leycesteria formosa is very easy to grow.

It is supposed to prefer woodland conditions and boggy ground, but the specimen shown here is grown in a maritime location where it is exposed to extensive salt-laden wind and rain, as well as all the sunshine that is going.

It can apparently tolerate lime soil conditions. This one is flourishing in acid soil.

The birds love the berries which appear in autumn, and the plant readily self-seeds with a little help from its feathered friends.

This has caused Leycesteria Formosa to be considered an invasive species in parts of Australia and New Zealand.

Leycesteria formosa
Leycesteria formosa

Propagation of Leycesteria Formosa

Leycesteria formosa is easy to propagate.

Cuttings can be taken from new growth or old growth, so long as a 'heel' is included. Break a small branch off from a bigger branch, taking its full length plus a little of the cambium from the main branch. This is called a heel. Place the cutting in compost or even ordinary garden soil in a cold frame, or greenhouse. In a few months it will have rooted itself. If overwintered, you will see new growth in the spring.

Else take a few berries from the plant in late autumn when they have dried up on the bush, and plant in a cold frame. In spring they should sprout.

The flowers of the leycesteria are hermaphrodite, meaning some will be male and others female on the same plant. Insects pollinate the flowers. In fact, a lot of wildlife including butterflies and bees are attracted to this plant. The long flowering racemes are scented, no doubt to attract pollinators.

Leycesteria formosa does not require pruning expect where there is old deadwood to be cut out, but the plant can take a drastic pruning at any time of the year and will come back with even more growth than before.

Occasionally severe winters can cut it right down to the ground, but it will come back in the spring.

This would make a great plant for hedging, especially in a shady area as they do tolerate shade (and pollution) very well.

The stems are hollow and tubular, not unlike canes.

While their canes can be cut down and used as support for other plants in the garden, it is better to ensure the canes are completely dry and dead first.

It is not unknown for the canes themselves to take root wherever they are positioned.

The canes can also be whittled to make whistles and other home-fashioned musical instruments.

The fruit of Leycesteria formosa is edible and reportedly tastes like caramel or burnt sugar. It is best to wait until the berries turn brown in color as they can taste sour before that.

Leycesteria formosa (Himalayan Honeysuckle)


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