- Growing Forsythia
- HOW TO PLANT A NEW FORSYTHIA
- CARE OF FORSYTHIA
- HOW AND WHEN TO PRUNE FORSYTHIA
- GROWING FORSYTHIA IN CONTAINERS
- PESTS AND DISEASES OF FORSYTHIA
- BEST VARIETIES OF FORSYTHIA
- FORSYTHIA SUMMARY
- Reasons Why A Forsythia Will Not Bloom
- Reasons for a Forsythia Not Blooming
- No Flowers on Forsythia
- Forsythia Shrub Care – How To Care For Your Forsythia Plant
- Basic Care of Forsythia
- Colorful Combinations
- Forsythia Care Must-Knows
- Pruning Forsythia
- More Varieties for Forsythia
- Mature Height/Spread
- Growth Rate
- Ornamental Features
- Landscape Use
An easy to grow popular garden shrub with bright, golden yellow flowers in early spring. Forsythia comes into flower in March through to April. The flowers appear on the branches before the leaves, as can be seen in the images and the flowers are very attractive. After flowering the shrub comes into leaf.
Forsythia are a produce of their popularity as so many gardeners grow them there can be a tendency to get a bit sniffy about Forsythia but its lovely bright yellow is so welcome early in the year I think there is room for one in the garden, at least.
Growing Forsythia is easy, you can just plant and neglect. Forsythia is deciduous which means in the winter the branches are bare and the flowers are followed by small fresh green leaves. Forsythia will flower best in full sun. Forsythia produces a cheerful bright yellow display.
Forsythia is can grow up to around 3 metres and is fully hardy. Two varieties with RHS merit award are Lynwood and Arnold Giant. We tend to think of Forsythia as a largish shrub but there are smaller, more compact varieties such as Forsythia × intermedia ‘Mikador’, Forsythia Dwarf Mini Gold, Forsythia ‘Fiesta’ which grows to around 1m- 1.5m. Smaller more compact varieties of Forsythia will require very little pruning. There is also variation in colour from the bright strong yellow to a paler yellow.
Forsythia will grow more or less anywhere and in most aspects, which is why they are so popular coupled with the fact Forsythia require no real attentions from one year to the next.
Although Forsythia are not fussy, they will grow best and produce the most flowers if grown a sunny spot with fertile, well drained soil. Forsythia can also be planted and pruned to make a hedge to great effect.
Article by David Marks
Forsythia are so widely grown in the UK that they often overlooked nowadays. But they produce spectacular yellow flowers in early spring, are easy to maintain and very healthy shrubs. They also grow quickly so can be used as screening plants which will do their job much faster than most other shrubs.
Use the checklist below to decide if a Forsythia is suited to your preferences and garden conditions:
- A deciduous shrub (looses its leaves in winter) which, if not pruned, reaches a height of 2.25m / 8ft with a similar spread. Forsythia grows at a rate of about 30cm / 1ft per year when established. It responds very well to pruning.
- It is fully hardy in all all areas of the UK, withstanding temperatures down to -18°C. In protected positions, it is hardy to a few degrees lower.
- Main interest is from the bright yellow flowers produced from late February to early April.
- All soils except heavy clay or waterlogged conditions are suitable. It does best in a deep loam type soil although this is never essential.
- It prefers full sun although also does well in partial shade. Avoid full shade positions.
- Once established, it rarely requires watering and will tolerate moderate drought.
- Pest and disease resistance is good with the exception of bird damage in some areas. See our section below on pests and diseases of this shrub for top tips about avoiding this problem.
HOW TO PLANT A NEW FORSYTHIA
Follow the steps below to ensure your Forsythia is planted correctly and in the best position:
- Choose a full sun to partial shade position. They will grow in shade but the flowering will be greatly reduced and they will also become straggly. Remember, they grow to 2.25m / 8ft high and wide after about 8 years so allow sufficient space for this.
- If the soil is heavy or is not free draining add lots of well rotted compost to the area and dig it in well.
- It can be planted all year long if the soil is not frozen and you can water well when conditions are dry. Mid March to April and mid September to October are the best times to plant this shrub.
- Dig a hole twice the width of the rootball. Sprinkle in a handful of blood, fish and bone and work into the ground.
- Place the plant into the hole, filling in with soil so that it is at the same depth as was in the pot. Fill around the rootball and firm the soil down gently but firmly. Water well to settle the surrounding ground around the rootball.
If you want to grow Forsythia as a dense hedge, individual plants should be about 1.2m / 4ft apart. We don’t recommend forsythia as a hedge because it goes against its natural form of growth. For hedging we would recommend Berberis, Euonymus or Photinia.
CARE OF FORSYTHIA
Forsythia are vigorous shrubs and the only care required, after they are established, is to prune them (see section below) correctly to encourage flowering in spring time. They are naturally deep rooted and will search out moisture well below the soil surface. On poor soils a couple of handfuls of blood, fish and bone per plant in April and September time will help feed the finer roots near the soil surface.
For younger plants up to two years old, water if conditions become dry. A twice yearly feed with blood, fish and bone in spring and autumn will help it to establish a good root system. Keep the area around the base of the plant free from weeds and grass.
HOW AND WHEN TO PRUNE FORSYTHIA
Although an established forsythia bush can be safely cut back virtually to the ground, if you want to maximise flowering it’s best to prune them annually.
For the first two to three years after planting a new forsythia, let it fill out and don’t prune it. This will help it establish a good root system.
In the third or fourth years onward prune forsythia as follows:
- The best time to prune a forsythia is immediately the flowers begin to fade. If you leave it a month or two later you will be reducing the show of flowers for next year. Forsythia flowers on stems which were grown during the previous two years.
- Prune to shape by removing about a quarter of the length from all stems.
- Every other year, prune about a quarter of all stems back to ground level from the centre of the bush.
- When doing the above keep an eye out for damaged stems and those bending over near to the ground. Choose to prune these first including stems which are crossing each other.
- Keep an eye out for Forsythia gall (see below) and carefully prune any affected branches which should then be burnt.
- If you inherit a very overgrown forsythia bush the best plan is to chop it back completely to a height of 1m / 3ft and let it grow away. It will produce very flowers the next year but will be fine by the year after.
GROWING FORSYTHIA IN CONTAINERS
Forsythia are not suited to growing in containers, they are simply too large and too vigorous. There are a couple of companies selling dwarf varieties in the UK and claiming they are good for containers but these varieties are not sold by any of the better known companies and for good reason.
We would suggest a Philadelphus / Mock Orange as an excellent alternative for container growing. Even more flowering potential and they can easily be kept to the size of the container.
PESTS AND DISEASES OF FORSYTHIA
Your forsythia is unlikely to be affected by diseases although Forsythia Gall and Capsid Bugs can occasionally be a problem – see below. The main problem which can affect them in some areas is that of birds, often finches, eating the buds.
It’s not particularly common but in some locations birds can feed on the buds of forsythia. Unfortunately, when they find this source of food they tend to come back again for more! They normally only eat the higher buds because they are afraid of predators if they go too low.
There really is no preventative measure to stop this. You could try netting the forsythia until the flowers appear but it sounds like too much work for us.
The symptoms of Forsythia gall are light brown raised growth areas on the stems with a ragged surface. They are easier to see and cut out in winter or spring when the foliage is not present. They are caused by the fungus Phomopsis.
Picture by Paul Bachi, University of Kentucky
There is no chemical sprays or treatments available to kill the fungus so the best course of action is to cut affected stems away to reduce the spread. Cut cleanly about 10cm / 4ins below the gall and burn the stems to prevent re-infection.
Damage from Capsid Bugs is almost always noticed after the bug has disappeared and started to damage another plants. The flowers will show damage to the edges when they emerge, sometimes with holes in the petals. The leaves are also often attacked and show small holes in them which can be quite extensive. They are most common from May to August.
If you suspect that Capsid Bugs will damage your forsythia then spray regularly with an insecticide such as Scotts Bug Clear or Doff All-in-One Garden Pest Killer.
BEST VARIETIES OF FORSYTHIA
The development of new varieties of Forsythia is very limited because the few varieties currently available are hard to better. We recommend three below which offer spectacular spring colour.
Forsythia intermedia Lynwood Variety
The classic Forsythia which is less likely to suffer from gall compared to others. Masses of bright yellow flowers are almost guaranteed every year. The height at maturity is 2.25m / 8ft with a similar spread. Regular pruning can reduce the size by about 25%. It grows upright and responds well to even the most amateur pruning. Has an Award of Garden Merit. Available online from our recommended suppliers Crocus here with a one year guarantee.
Forsythia intermedia Weekend Courtalyn
Very little difference from Lynwood Variety above but is more liable to suffer from Forsythia gall
Forsythia intermedia Goldrausch
Flowers appear a week or two later than Lynwood and last a week or two longer, they are also slightly larger. The height at maturity is 2.25m / 8ft with a similar spread. This variety was bred in Germany and flowers well on one year old stems, earlier than other varieties which flower on two year old wood. One of our favourites, available from our recommended suppliers Crocus here with a one year guarantee.
Below we list the key strengths and weaknesses of Forsythia.
|SHADE||No, partial or full sun|
|POT / CONTAINER||No|
|FLOWER TIME||Late February to early April|
Reasons Why A Forsythia Will Not Bloom
Forsythia! They become a tangled mess if not carefully groomed, root wherever their branches touch the soil and take over your yard if you don’t beat them back. It’s enough to make a gardener swear, but we keep them all the same because nothing says spring like those bright yellow blooms. But then comes spring and nothing happens; there are no blooms on the forsythia bush. A forsythia not blooming is like Valentine’s Day without chocolate. Why won’t my forsythia bloom?
Reasons for a Forsythia Not Blooming
There are several reasons why a forsythia will not bloom. The simplest would be winter kill. Many older varieties of forsythia won’t bloom after a hard winter or a late spring frost. The buds are simply not hardy enough to survive.
However, the most common reason for forsythia not blooming is improper pruning. Blooms are created on one year old wood. That means this year’s growth brings next year’s flowers. If you pruned your shrub in summer or fall, or you trim it to rigid dimensions, you have removed the growth that would have produced flowers.
If you’re asking, “Why isn’t my forsythia blooming?”, you may also want to look at its placement in your yard. Without six hour of sunlight, your forsythia won’t bloom. As every gardener knows, a garden is an ever-changing thing and sometimes the changes happen so slowly we fail to notice. Is that once sunny corner now shaded by the maple that seems to have grown over night?
If you’re still asking, “Why isn’t my forsythia blooming?,” look at what’s growing around it. Too much nitrogen will turn your shrub a full and lovely green, but your forsythia won’t bloom. If your shrub is surrounded by lawn, the high nitrogen fertilizer you use on your grass may be hindering forsythia bud production. Adding more phosphorus, like bone meal, can help offset this.
After all is said and done, a forsythia that will not bloom may just be too old. You can try lopping the plant back to the ground and hope the new growth will rejuvenate the bloom, but maybe it’s time to begin again with a newer cultivar of that favorite herald of spring: forsythia.
What homeowner doesn’t recognize Forsythia—that shockingly-bright beacon that bursts into bloom with those first mild temperatures every April!?
Among the easiest plants to grow, Forsythia’s yellow, bell-like blooms are always the first to welcome spring in Southern New England. Its brilliant floral display is a welcomed inspiration in the otherwise-drab April landscape. No other hardy shrub can compete with the way it sparks-up the landscape, perfectly setting the stage for the profusion of color soon to follow as your garden awakens.
But so common has this familiar shrub become that people seem to discount Forsythia’s true landscape value when planning a garden. One reason Forsythia is underrated is the way it has been used: all too often we see Forsythia incorrectly planted too close to walkways, structures or other plants. This causes a “crowded” effect, and necessitates severe pruning that deforms its natural shape and reduces the amount of flowering next spring. Properly sited, Forsythia should be a prized feature in the garden.
Deer are reluctant to browse Forsythia branches and few pests bother it. Minimal pruning helps assure reliable blooms and retain its natural form. Once established in the garden Forsythia tolerates less-than-optimum conditions and even neglect (but try to avoid waterlogged soils). Late spring or early summer is the best time to cut-back overgrowing branches: next April’s flowers are set during summer in clusters along the older stems, so avoid heavy pruning late in the season. But don’t be afraid to cut a few branches in late winter—they are perfect for forcing into a colorful display in a vase in your home.
A large number of Forsythia cultivars are available for the homeowner, ranging from fast-growing upright forms, weeping, spreading types, low-growing groundcovers and miniatures ideal for smaller gardens. You may want a hedge for screening a view, an attractive cascade on a steep banking, a low border along a pathway, an espalier against a wall, or a single specimen to accent a prominent area. All have attractive, clean, green foliage all summer. There are cultivars with variegated foliage, enhancing the appeal in the summer garden, and a few types even display colorful autumn foliage.
Forsythia is so versatile and such an easy plant to grow, and very economically priced, making it a great value for any garden. Every home should have one or more to enjoy this time of year, if only to demonstrate to viewers that winter has finally departed. Choosing the type that fits your needs, and then planting it with consideration for its growth habit and mature size, helps assure the most pleasing effects.
R. Wayne Mezitt is a 3rd generation nurseryman and a Massachusetts Certified Horticulturist, now chairman of Weston Nurseries of Hopkinton and Chelmsford, MA. He has served as president of the Massachusetts Nursery and Landscape Association, the New England Nursery Association, and the American Horticulture Industry Association (“AmericanHort”), based in Columbus, Ohio and Washington, DC. Recently he’s formed “Hort-Sense”, a horticultural advisory business that utilizes his knowledge and experience for client benefit.
Q: I have a forsythia bush and for the last couple of years it hasn’t bloomed. Sometimes it only gets a couple flowers when it does bloom. Do you know the reason for this and what I could do?
—Darlene Green, Lehighton
A: Forsythia bushes usually are quite easy to grow. The most common problems are planting them in too small a space or deciding that they should make a tidy, square hedge. Both situations require a lot of pruning and fighting the nature of the plant, which are graceful, arching branches on an 8-to 10-feet-tall and wide bush.
But let’s move on to Darlene’s problem. Forsythia don’t bloom for a few reasons:
•Not enough sun: Forsythias like sun, and if the surrounding plants grow over, increasing shade, you will have decreasing blooms — sometimes no blooms. Trim back the shading foliage on nearby plants to increase the available sunlight or move the forsythia.
•Older plants don’t bloom: Forsythia bushes grow to a finite size. If you don’t prune them, you will experience fewer and fewer blooms as the plants bloom on the previous year’s growth and your plant growth slows.
Cut back the plant to rejuvenate older growth. Some find the drastic cut to the ground method too drastic but the forsythias usually do grow back full of young, lush growth and flowers. Others prefer a more moderate technique where a third to a half of the canes are cut back to the ground. This gives the plant a complete revitalizing over a two to three year period.
Improper pruning: First and foremost, forsythia bushes are not meant to be square and if you choose to prune yours that way you are in for a lot of work. Second, pruning off just the outer ends of the branches—running the hedge trimmer over them, will create a dead, bare center and probable naked branches on the bottom of the bush. But, third, often the problem is simply pruning at the wrong time. Forsythia bushes form their buds on new growth very soon after blooming.
If you want to avoid cutting off next year’s flowers, prune forsythias in the weeks immediately after they bloom.
Q: I bought an orchid last year. I bought quite a few over the years, but had no luck with them coming back again. This orchid survived and it has quite a few buds on it, but as I know nothing about orchids I am wondering what are those growths coming out of the bottom of the stems. There are so many of them, they are overwhelming the plant. Do I cut some of them off or just leave them alone? There are about 15 of them and some of those are splitting off.
A: Since you are alarmed by the growths, I am guessing that you are not talking about new green leafy growth. The snaky, smooth growths often seen at the base of orchids are aerial roots, similar to regular roots but with a covering designed to absorb moisture but not lose it.
It can be a sign that your orchid needs repotting, something that should be done about every two years since the bark mulch used in most orchid planting medium breaks down and needs replacing. However, the time to repot is not when the plant is actively growing or before blooming. Allow the plant to bloom and then consider repotting.
Note that you should consult a good orchid reference for specific instructions on pots, medium and the burying or removal of roots. American Orchid Society (www.aos.org) is one source. Consider attending the local Lehigh Valley Orchid Club (www.lvos.org) meeting. The club usually meets on the first Sunday of every month at Channel 39, WLVT studio on the SteelStacks campus in south Bethlehem.
Q: In a recent column you mentioned the use of a flame weeder to eliminate weeds in stone covered areas. I have many stones surrounding my shrubs, and the weed problem is constant. Would you kindly expound on this product and where it can be purchased?
A: The flame weeder is one of my favorite garden tools. It consists of a burner; think of those old burners in the chemistry lab, and a hose or tube attached to a propane tank. The weeder works best by heating the water in the weed and bursting the cell walls, killing the plant by igniting it and burning it to a crisp. Besides the enjoyment from destroying the weeds, flame-weeding avoids the use of herbicides.
There are small models with camp-stove size propane tanks and larger ones that connect to the gas grill sized tank. They are available online and the smaller versions are often available in garden centers. Red Dragon is a popular brand; Bernzomatic is another.
Care must be taken to assemble it properly, securely connect hoses or pipes and to follow all directions — many have self-ignition systems but others may require a lighter to ignite. Use flame-weeders in areas that are bricked or paved, concrete areas or those covered with stone or gravel. Because of the fire hazard, flame weeders are not recommended for area with mulches such as dried grass, leaves, shredded bark, wood chips or rubber mulch.
Busy Workers’ Plant and Attic Treasures Sale: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 11 at the Central Moravian Church, Christian Education Building, 40 W. Church St., Bethlehem. 610-866-5661. Flowers, vegetables, herbs, annuals, perennials, hanging baskets and daylilies. Attic treasures and crafts, baked goods, food and Moravian sugar cake. Sales benefit charities from Bethlehem to Tanzania and Nepal.
Sue Kittek is a freelance garden columnist, writer, and lecturer. Send questions to Garden Keeper at [email protected] or mail: Garden Keeper, The Morning Call, P.O. Box 1260, Allentown, PA 18105.
This Week in the Garden
•Start seeds for: Eggplant, summer squash, and winter squash, baby’s breath, cosmos, and zinnias.
•Direct sow: Cabbage, carrots, collards, bunching onions, onion sets, parsnips and Swiss chard, Chinese cabbage, endive, escarole, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, head lettuce and leaf lettuce, beets, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, peas, radishes, spinach and turnips.
•Plant bare-root trees and shrubs when soil is dry enough to work. Plant perennials and cool-season annuals.
•Visit nurseries as they open for inspiration and new plants.
•Prune and divide perennials. Hostas and daylilies are up and ready to divide.
•Cut back ornamental grasses. Divide clumps when you see new growth.
•Test soil for new beds. Retest soil in poorly performing areas or if you haven’t tested in the last 3-5 years.
•Apply broadleaf weed control in the lawn by the end of May. If you use corn gluten based weed control in garden beds, begin applying now and repeat as directed, usually at 4- to 6-week intervals.
Q: Much of my forsythia has gone straight to green leaves instead of flowering. Did the flower buds get frozen off this wacky winter?
— Susan Salminen
A: Forsythia bushes are iconic signs of spring and failure to bloom is a major disappointment. There are several reasons for this problem:
Improper planting or growing shade: Forsythia needs full sun for proper blooming but will tolerate a light bit of shade. If other plants reduce the sun reaching the forsythia, the blooms will decrease with the increased shade.
Improper pruning: Forsythia blooms on old wood; pruning, if necessary, should be done in the weeks immediately following flowering. The buds form over the summer and fall so they are ready for blooming in the early spring. Pruning in summer, fall or winter will cut off the following season’s flower buds.
Old bushes: If the bushes are fairly old, woody and produce fewer and fewer flowers, remedial pruning may rejuvenate them. Conservative gardeners cut out a third of the stems from the plant each year for three consecutive years.
Those who favor more drastic measures cut back the entire plant to the ground in one massive pruning. Either should spur new growth and, given proper light, a return of blooms.
This pruning is not the hedge shearing often given to unfortunate forsythia bushes by gardeners who like the symmetrical hedge forms or those who find the bush too large for the space it is planted in. Cut back the long arching branches close to the ground. Start with the oldest ones.
Q: I don’t see any of my hostas above ground. Is it possible that I trimmed them back too far in the fall and that they died completely? Or, will they yet rise up with the coming of spring?
— Marge, Allentown
A: It is difficult to believe that you destroyed your hostas by cutting them back in the fall, although I suppose it is possible. I checked my garden and as yet have no sign of my own hostas at this time so I would encourage you to have a bit of patience and wait a little longer before declaring your hostas gone.
Flint Hill Events
Flint Hill Farm Educational Center, 1922 Flint Hill Road, Coopersburg, 610-838-2928 or http://www.flinthill-farm.org is a nonprofit educational farm located in Upper Saucon Township, just minutes south of The Promenade Shops at Saucon Valley.
It has several events this month that bear consideration. Open House (April 17 and 25, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) offers a chance to see the many farm animals, demonstrations, seasonal foods, tours and horse- drawn hayrides. My current favorites are the more than 20 kids born this spring to the goat herd. The kids are the definition of gamboling (to leap about playfully or frolic) as they bound about the pens.
Master gardeners will teach two classes at the farm. At 10 a.m., April 10, Carolyn Lidie will present Integrated Pest Management (IPM), Bad Bugs in the Veggie Garden and Good Bugs That Eat Them. At 10 a.m., May 8, I will teach Herb Garden Basics: What, Where and How, directed toward the gardener planning a first herb garden. Both classes require preregistration and a small fee payable at the class.
In the Garden
The snowdrops have been joined by the first of the daffodils, and the forsythia buds have burst into bright yellow flowers. The swamp maple is in flower and I can see the greens of the daylilies breaking through the soil.
When the soil dries a bit, I have plenty of cleanup to do. We’ve had several small trees fall in the strong winds and some deadwood to clear.
My stockpile of potted plants will provide several days of planting. I’ve got some pruning to finish up and all the beds need tidying and mulching. The nurseries are starting to open and I’m looking forward to a few afternoons of wandering through tables and fields of new plants.
Sue Kittek is a freelance garden writer. Send questions to Garden Keeper at [email protected] or mail: Garden Keeper, The Morning Call, P.O. Box 1260, Allentown, PA 18105.
The gorgeous blooms of forsythia are popping all over town and it is intoxicating. These shrubs are always one of the first signs of spring arriving when blossoms burst forth. But I have had a few people ask me why theirs is not blooming. The answer can be narrowed down to two reasons.
This year is unique in that we had a spring like December. Some forsythia blossoms did pop at this time. Those that did bloom in winter will not do it again in March as forsythia makes their flower buds on old wood the year before it actually blooms.
Which brings me to the next reason why forsythia may not be blooming, pruning at the wrong time. When pruning flowering trees and shrubs, most need to be pruned immediately after they have bloomed. This rule is not set in stone and can vary from plant to plant, but in the case of forsythia, it is absolutely correct. Pruning should be done in April, after the flash of yellow has faded and petals have fallen off the shrub, to be replaced with leaves. Waiting until the summer to prune is ill advised as you will be cutting off next year’s flower buds that are already developing.
Another reason forsythia my not be blooming is due to placement. Forsythia needs full sun to make buds and bloom in the spring. If it becomes shaded and isn’t receiving at least 6 to 8 hours of sun a day, it will suffer.
Forsythia is a harbinger of spring. With it’s sunny blossoms shining in the cool spring air, it reminds us that warm days are ahead and the flowering trees aren’t far behind. This year we had an early spring and they all bloomed at once, which is a dazzling display to say the least. Happy spring everyone!
No Flowers on Forsythia
I cut my forsythia back almost to ground level about four years ago. It has grown back to a good height but has failed to bloom. Maybe one or two blossoms and that’s it! It used to bloom really great each spring before we cut it back. I pruned it in fall was that the problem? Any suggestions as to how I could get it to bloom again?
Fall pruning will eliminate the forsythia flowers for the following spring but not the next four years. Older varieties of forsythia are plant hardy but not flower bud hardy. This means the flower buds may be killed by cold weather but the plant survives. Check on the fertilization program. Too much nitrogen can give you a big healthy plant with no flowers. Next check on the amount of light the plants receive. Has a tree grown larger or new structure been built that might be shading the forsythia. Too much shade can also prevent flowering. You may need to move the plant to a sunnier location. And in the future, prune spring flowering shrubs right after bloom (or when they should have bloomed) to control the size and keep the spring floral display.
Forsythia Shrub Care – How To Care For Your Forsythia Plant
A forsythia plant (Forsythia spp) can add dramatic flair to a yard in the early spring. Forsythia bushes are among the first plants of spring to burst forth in flower and in order to get the most from their brilliant yellow flowers, you need to make sure that you take proper care of forsythia in your yard. Keep reading to learn more about forsythia shrub care.
Basic Care of Forsythia
While forsythia bushes are easy to care for, there are a few things you can do to help them perform their very best for you.
First for forsythia shrub care is that forsythias enjoy full sun. Make sure your forsythia bush gets at least six hours of sunlight a day. While it can tolerate less than this, your forsythia’s ability to flower will be reduced if it does not get full sun.
Next, forsythias need to be grown in well draining soil. Overly wet, marshy or swampy soil will not grow well. Also, the soil should be rich in organic matter. Mulching around your forsythia shrub will make sure that moisture is retained in the soil, weeds are kept down under the shrub and that new organic material has a chance to work its way into soil that the forsythia plant is growing in.
While forsythia bushes like well-draining soil, they also grow best of watered regularly. Forsythias should receive at least 2 inches of water a week. If enough rain does not fall to provide this amount of water, you can supplement with water from the hose. But, if you are worried about water conservation, forsythia plants can tolerate periods of decreased watering.
You should also fertilize when caring for forsythia. Use a balanced fertilizer once every two to three months in the spring and summer. Do not fertilize them in the fall and winter.
Good care of forsythia also requires that forsythia bushes should be pruned yearly. Without pruning, these fast growing shrubs can quickly get overgrown. The best time to prune forsythia shrubs is right after the forsythia has finished blooming.
The care for forsythia bushes is easy but necessary. With proper forsythia shrub care, your forsythia plant will reward you with a brilliant display of yellow flowers in the spring.
A true harbinger of spring, forsythia bursts into a vibrant display of golden blooms before any leaf foliage emerges. This can create stunning golden mounds throughout landscapes, breaking up the drab snow-covered ground with a promise of what’s to come. With newer varieties growing in smaller, more manageable sizes, every landscape should have a forsythia to break out of the late winter blues.
Late winter always makes gardeners antsy for spring. You’ve had your first few warm days and the sun is finally shining, but the weather is still too unsure to begin much else other than starting seeds indoors. Forsythia relishes this season, as if it’s just as antsy to get started as any gardener. Forsythia bursts into bloom in late winter, often when the ground is still covered in a blanket of snow and little else is showing signs of life. With their rich golden blooms, in shades from pale yellow to rich gold, these plants stand out.
See more flowering trees and shrubs we love.
The foliage of forsythia is nothing particularly noteworthy. A deep green in color, the serrated leaves act as a neutral backdrop for perennials and annuals. After a good growing season, you can usually see some deep purple fall color just before the leaves fall.
See flowering shrubs by season.
Forsythia Care Must-Knows
These spring-blooming knockouts are easy to grow and quite adaptable. Forsythias prefer well-drained, evenly moist soil, but they are pretty tolerant of many different soil types. They can also handle drought fairly well once established and can even get along just fine in clay soils. For the best blooms, make sure to plant your forsythias in full sun. These versatile shrubs can handle part shade, but you will generally have fewer blooms come spring. The chance of fall color is also diminished in more shade.
See how to force branches into bloom.
Forsythias have a graceful natural growth habit that can be ruined with improper pruning. Because most varieties on the market today are a hybrid of a weeping type and a more upright shrub, they tend to have a slightly weeping habit that some may perceive as messy. To fix this, people tend to shear their forsythias, which works fine, but as new growth comes, it tends to be even messier. Sheared forsythias will benefit from regular shaping to maintain a neat habit. This should be done right after blooming to prevent removing any future buds.
The best way to keep forsythias maintained and to conserve their original habit is by selectively pruning out old wood after blooming. Remove any branches that look old and woody at the base of the plant. This will encourage the plant to branch at the base, preventing any erratic new growth from cut stems. If plants are truly out of control or just messy, forsythias can be refreshed with a harsh rejuvenation pruning. This can be done by cutting back the entire shrub to just above ground level. Harsh pruning will encourage the whole plant to re-flush, and can also bring back their old habit if the shrubs had been pruned poorly in the past.
More Varieties for Forsythia
‘Arnold Giant’ forsythia
Forsythia ‘Arnold Giant’ bears big, deeply colored blooms on a compact shrub that grows 5 feet tall and wide. Zones 6-9
Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood’ features rich buttery-yellow blooms on a symmetrical shrub that grows 10 feet tall and wide. Zones 6-9
‘Beatrix Farrand’ forsythia
Forsythia ‘Beatrix Farrand’ bears deep yellow blooms in early and mid-spring on an arching shrub. It grows 10 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Zones 6-9
Gold Tide forsythia
Forsythia ‘Courtasol’, or Gold Tide, is a dwarf form that stays 2 feet tall but spreads 4 feet wide. Zones 5-9
‘Northern Sun’ forsythia
Forsythia ‘Northern Sun’ is an especially cold-hardy variety that produces clear yellow flowers. It grows 10 feet tall and 9 feet wide. Zones 4-9
Forsythia flowers first appear in late February or early March.
Photo by Karen Russ, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension
Border forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia), or golden bell, ushers in spring with its vivid golden yellow flowers and is one of the most recognized shrubs in the South. These hybrid forsythias are crosses between two species from Eastern China, Forsythia suspensa (Weeping Forsythia) and F. viridissima, (Greenstem Forsythia) and many excellent selections have been made, including dwarf and compact forms. These hybrids are adapted to all areas of South Carolina.
It grows 8 to 10 feet tall and 10 to 12 feet wide. It has an erect habit, with most canes growing upright. Some are weeping, creating a wild, unkempt look. The form varies depending on the variety.
Forsythia grows at a rapid rate and is long-lived.
Mature forsythia in full bloom, showing natural form.
Karen Russ, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension
The early spring flower is the most appealing feature of this plant. Flowers are usually profuse, and open before the leaves emerge on the plant. With an unusually mild winter, bloom may occur as early as late January, but usually occurs in March.
Flowers will last for two or three weeks unless killed by cold. The yellow flower color varies with varieties, ranging from pale to deep yellow. The flowers are 1¼ to 1½ inches long and wide, bell-like and produced in clusters. They bloom on last year’s wood. Dark green leaves emerge shortly after bloom. In the fall they may turn slightly yellow, maroon or purple, depending upon the cultivar and the amount of sunlight received.
Forsythias do not belong in areas where they must be kept in bounds, such as in foundation plantings, unless compact cultivars are chosen. They are best used as a specimen or in shrub borders and groupings. Forsythia may also be used to create a hedge and may be planted with a 3- or 4-foot spacing between plants.
Larger cultivars can become unruly and require some maintenance wherever they are grown.
The ideal soil is fertile, loose and well-drained, although it will tolerate almost any soil condition. Forsythia should be planted in full sun for maximum flowering. The forsythia hybrids compete successfully with the demanding roots of other shrubs and trees and transplant easily.
Forsythia x intermedia ‘Karl Sax’ blooming in spring with golden-yellow flowers.
Photo by Joey Williamson, ©2013 HGIC, Clemson Extension
Prune in spring after flowering so that buds for the next year can develop in the fall. Potential flowers for the next year will be cut off if the plant is pruned after the buds develop. Pruning should not be a shearing process, but a thinning out of the older branches at the base of the plant, allowing the more vigorous branches to take over. They are often sheared to make a formal hedge or to reduce the size of the plant, but this detracts from the graceful habit of growth. They can be cut back to the ground and allowed to produce all new growth.
Forsythia can be forced to bloom indoors before it would normally occur outdoors. Between early January and late February, cut branches, bring indoors and place them in water. Flowers will open in about 10 days.
Like with most hardwood deciduous shrubs, softwood forsythia cuttings taken in late spring to early summer root easily. However, semi-hardwood cuttings taken later in the summer will also root easily.
Phomopsis galls on Forsythia x intermedia.
Joey Williamson, ©2013 HGIC, Clemson Extension
Serious problems are infrequent with forsythia in South Carolina. The most common problem is with Phytophthora root rot, which may occur when forsythia is planted in a poorly drained soil. Prevention is the key; plant forsythia in well-drained soil. Botryosphaeria canker can be a problem on any woody shrub under extended drought conditions. Prune out any dying branches and dispose of prunings. Water plants weekly to reduce the chance of infection and to encourage good growth. Phomopsis gall is not common, but more frequently occurs on forsythia than other types of shrubs. Phomopsis galls are spherical nodules or protuberances that cluster along a branch and cause branch dieback. They are most noticeable during winter. Prune out infected branches and dispose of prunings.
- ‘Beatrix Farrand’ – This 8- to 10-foot-tall shrub has vivid golden yellow flowers. This cultivar is a F. x intermedia selection that was chemically treated to become a tetraploid, and then the result was backcrossed with F. x intermedia again to make a triploid forsythia. It is generally superior to other forsythia cultivars in flower size, vigor, and general habit.
- ‘Karl Sax’ – This is shorter (to 6 feet tall) and has a bushier habit than ‘Beatrix Farrand.’ It has golden yellow flowers, and blooms about 2 weeks later than other forsythias. This cultivar is a tetraploid (i.e., with twice the normal chromosome count).
- ‘Lynwood’ – This has an upright growth habit, a heavy bloomer, and has bright yellow flowers, although slightly lighter yellow than the species. Grows 8 to 10 feet tall and 6 to 8 feet wide. Sometimes listed as ‘Lynwood Gold’.
- ‘Northern Sun’ – This is a very cold hardy cultivar that grows to 10 feet tall and 9 feet wide and produces clear yellow flowers. It is a hybrid between the very hardy Korean Forsythia ovata and F. europaea and is hardy to USDA zone 4.
- ‘Northern Gold’ – This large cultivar has an upright spreading habit and grows to 6 to 8 feet tall and 5 to 7 feet wide. The flowers are golden yellow.
- ‘Spectabilis’ – This shrub, known as Showy Border Forsythia, is one of the best of the original Forsythia x intermedia crosses and is the standard by which new cultivars are compared. It is vigorous and grows 10 feet tall and wide. The flowers are bright yellow.
- ‘Spring Glory’ – This cultivar is a strong grower to 10 feet tall. It flowers abundantly with deep yellow blooms.
Close-up of Forsythia x intermedia ‘Karl Sax’ with golden yellow flowers and distinctive orange throat.
Photo by Joey Williamson, ©2013 HGIC, Clemson Extension
- ‘Arnold Giant’ – This compact golden bells cultivar grows to 5 feet tall and wide. It is a tetraploid plant from a seedling of the cultivar ‘Spectabilis’. ‘Arnold Giant’ has larger, thicker, and darker green foliage than other cultivars, and the shrub habit is more upright.
- Show Off® (‘Mindor’ PP#19,321) – This cultivar grows to 5 to 6 feet tall, has bright yellow flowers on stems that make good cut flower displays.
- ‘Sunrise’ – This cultivar grows to 5 feet tall and wide, has an attractive mounding habit that has a more compact growth habit, and has maroon fall color.
Smaller, More Compact Cultivars:
- Golden Peep™ – This cultivar is from the French breeding program, has a dense dwarf form, and grows to 18 to 30 inches tall and 36 inches wide.
- Goldilocks™ – This cultivar is a dwarf that has upright spikes of golden yellow flowers. It grows to 24 to 36 inches tall and wide.
- Gold Tide™ – This cultivar has lemon yellow flowers and grows to 24 to 30 inches tall and 4 feet wide.
- ‘Happy Centennial’ – This compact cultivar grows to 24 to 30 inches tall and 3 to 5 feet wide. The flowers are light yellow. May be used as a groundcover.
- ‘Show Off Starlet’ – This cultivar has a compact growth habit, deep yellow flowers and maroon fall color. It grows to 2 to 3 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet wide.