It can grow in many areas due to its hardiness. It is most often grown as a plant for wildlife. Ruby-throated hummingbirds use it in their natural range as well as other birds, butterflies, and bees. It hosts the caterpillars of spring azures and snowberry clearwing moths. It is also grown as an ornamental for its attractive flowers, especially as a native alternative to the invasive Japanese honeysuckle. Several cultivars have been selected for variation in flower color, including 'Magnifica' (flowers red outside, yellow inside), 'Sulphurea' (yellow flowers), and 'Superba' (bright scarlet flowers).
It is a twining vine growing to 20 ft or more through shrubs and young trees. The leaves are produced in opposite pairs, oval, up to 5 cm long and 4 cm broad; the leaves immediately below the flowers are perfoliate, joined at the base in a complete ring round the shoot. They are evergreen in zone 8 and warmer and deciduous in colder climates. This is the reason for the species epithet, from Latin sempervirens, meaning "evergreen". The flowers are produced on new growth in clusters of several groups of three together, tubular, 5 cm long, with five small lobes opening at the tip to expose the stamens and stigma. The leaves have been shown to deteriorate during the winter. Ruby-throated hummingbirds and insects pollinate the bright red to pinkish-red flowers from mid-spring to fall.