Yellow Forsythia Spells Spring

Forsythia at Sensible Gardening and Living

The first shrub to flower in our garden is Forsythia. Bright and brilliantly yellow it pops up all over town. What amazes me however is how very good or how very bad it can look. Some specimens are lovely, well shaped arching shrubs loaded with flowers. Others unfortunately are quite scraggly, weak flowered and basically very unattractive.

Forsythia / Sensible Gardening and Living
Forsythia / Sensible Gardening and Living

When I decided to plant one in our garden several years ago I did a little research as I was pretty sure there had to be some varieties that were nicer than others, which would explain the differences I observed around town. Two varieties were recommended, ‘Meadowlark’ and ‘Northern Gold’. I chose ‘Northern Gold’ as it was to bloom slightly earlier than ‘Meadowlark’ and is slightly hardier.

I also suspected that Forsythia was the type of shrub that would require consistent pruning and have religiously pruned my shrub each year after flowering by removing about 1/3 of the oldest, thickest stems. The results have been that my Forsythia has never really looked that great. It has never developed that fountain shape which is so attractive on some I’ve seen and blooming has been sparse.

In frustration with it’s poor performance I cut it right down to the ground 2 years ago.  I secretly hoped it might kill it but instead it grew back with a passion. I’ve continued to carefully prune it each season but little has improved. I guess it just is what it is. The early fresh color is always welcomed after a long winter so I guess it will stay.

I know forsythia is capable of being a very attractive spring shrub and should you decide to give it a try, follow these tips for growing and care.

Forsythia blooms along the entire length of the bare branches before it leafs out. Bright primrose yellow 1 inch tubular flowers appear in clusters of 2 to 4. On average it grows to 6-9 feet high and wide and is a fast grower, hardy to zone 4. It will survive in zone 3 however the flower buds are not as hardy and flowering is often sparse.

Grow Forsythia in sun to light shade

Prefers a loose, moist, well drained soil

Blooms heavier in full sun locations

Fertilize in early spring

Prune after flowering to avoid the shrub from becoming scraggly. Remove a few of the oldest stems each year.

Forsythia also makes a great cut flower. Cut stems when the flowers begin to show a bit of color but are still closed. They can last up to 2 weeks indoors. You can also ‘force’ bare stems in very early spring or late winter for indoors.

How to Force Forsythia

Snip off a few branches, peel off the bottom few inches of bark and smash the stem ends with a hammer. Immediately place in a jar of warm water and place in a sunny room. Flower buds should open within 1 to 4 weeks.

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6 thoughts on “Yellow Forsythia Spells Spring

  1. I wish I could achieve the lovely fountain you show in your picture! Although it’s not a favourite shrub, I couldn’t take it out now. The joy of watching cut stems flower in February, forced by the warmth of our kitchen, is truly amazing. Particularly in a hard winter. Do you know the one called ‘Lynwood’? Might be a good one for you!

  2. Love to see these a real sign of Spring .
    Sadly mine in garden still not in bloom maybe I need to prune it but its still a young shrub .
    Its been in my garden now for 2 yrs.

  3. I’ve thought about growing a forsythia, but didn’t know much about it. Thanks for a very informative article, especially for naming some good varieties. Maybe I’ll be able to make the leap and actually get one!

  4. On the other side of things, I have the Forsythia that has never been pruned and its a mess. Its full of flowers but I would literally have to crawl on the ground now to get the old wood taken out. I heard that the Forsythia blooms on second year old wood so maybe it doesn’t need pruning every year.

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