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.
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.