Although honeysuckle vines can be attractive twining around a tree, for best results and to keep it under control, you should plan to prune your honeysuckle at least once a year. Honeysuckle is an attractive, fragrant vine or bush that grows rapidly and spreads all over. There are two types of honeysuckle and how you prune it depends on which you have. Japanese Honeysuckle has smaller flowers and blooms in the summer. The Dutch Honeysuckle has larger flowers that are highly scented.
Another reason to prune honeysuckle is to contain it in your garden. Honeysuckle has invasive tendencies and can quickly take over. Heavy pruning may be required to control it sometimes. Honeysuckle nectar attracts hummingbirds and butterflies to your garden and pruning will also force the plant to bloom more and produce more nectar.
Wait until your honeysuckle is well established, about two years, before starting to prune extensively. In the first years, you should be able to get by with pinching new growth and some light trimming with a pair of scissors or shears. If you want a bushy honeysuckle, pinch new growth out of the tips regularly to encourage branching. This is especially important on a plant you've just started. Every four or five years, cut some of the oldest wood in your honeysuckle all the way to the ground. This will encourage new growth and get rid of old spent wood that may not flower as profusely.
The best time to prune summer flowering Japanese Honeysuckle is in the spring, around March or April, when it starts its growing season. This will help keep it manageable while encouraging new growth and better blooms. This honeysuckle, also known as Lonerica Japonica, produces flowers on the new growth. Clip it back with scissors or shears just to shape it.
Dutch Honeysuckle, also known as Lonerica Periclymenum, blooms on side shoots growing out of the previous year's growth. Because you want to preserve last year's growth for blooming, don't prune Dutch honeysuckle until after it stops flowering. As soon as the flowering season is over, cut it back by about a third.
If your honeysuckle has been neglected or abandoned for a long time, prune as directed above, but prune it back severely. You probably won't see any flowers in the first season, but your honeysuckle will come back fresh and renewed the following year. Remember to prune your Japanese Honeysuckle before the new growth appears and your Dutch Honeysuckle after it quits blooming.
Neglected honeysuckle should first be unattached from any trellis or other supports and laid out on the ground. Untangle it and cut out the oldest growth. You can cut it all the way to the base of the plant or stop just above a place with strong new growth emerging. Reattach the remaining plant to the support structure, spreading the plant out as evenly as you can.