Growing Forsythia

How to Plant, Grow, and Care for Forsythia Bushes

Forsythia

The bright yellow flowers of the forsythia bush are one of the earliest blooms of spring, adding cheerful color to the still-sleepy landscape. Learn all about planting, growing, and caring for forsythia!

About Forsythia Bushes

Forsythia are deciduous, fast-growing, adaptable shrubs known for their cheery yellow blooms in early spring. In full flower, they’re hard to miss!

Although this shrub has become naturalized in much of Europe and North America, its ancestors hail mostly from East Asia—namely China and the Korean Peninsula—as well as one species from Europe.

As landscape plants, forsythia are suitable for planting in a good part of the continental United States; species and hybrid crosses are hardy from Zone 3 to Zone 8. See our Recommended Varieties below.

The forsythia shrub not only makes a vigorous border or backdrop for any yard, but also attracts bees, birds, and butterflies. Their long, arching branches can give them a wild look, but a good pruning will keep them in check.

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Planting

When to Plant Forsythia Bushes

  • The best time to plant forsythia is in the fall, while the plant is dormant.

Choosing and Preparing a Planting Site

  • Select a spot in full sun where the shrub will have plenty of room in which to grow and expand. Depending on the cultivar, the shrub may reach up to 10 feet in height and 12 feet in diameter, so plan accordingly—or plan to prune regularly.
  • Forsythia will adapt to most soils, though they prefer loose, well-draining soil.
  • They do best in soils with a pH that ranges from about 7.0 to 8.0 (neutral to slightly alkaline).

How to Plant Forsythia Bushes

  • Dig a hole at least 2 times wider than the root ball.
  • Make sure that the top of the root ball is at ground level.
  • Pack the soil firmly around the roots.
  • Water deeply at the time of planting.

Care

How to Care for Forsythia Bushes

Other than a yearly pruning, forsythia do not require much maintenance.

  • Apply a fertilizer high in phosphorus in early spring each year. 
  • Softwood forsythia cuttings taken in late spring to early summer will root readily, allowing for easy propogation.

How to Prune Forsythia Bushes

Forsythia are spring-blooming shrubs that bloom on old wood (last year’s growth). Read all about pruning shrubs here.

  • Prune the shrub in the spring—right after it has bloomed—in order to avoid cutting off next year’s buds, which will develop in the subsequent summer.
  • Remove older branches by cutting them off at the ground.
  • Later in the spring, new growth can be trimmed back to the nearest joint, if desired. Keep in mind that forsythia blooms on old wood, so this year’s growth will produce flowers next spring.
  • Old, neglected forsythias can be rejuvenated by pruning them back to within 3 to 4 inches of the ground in late winter or early spring. They’ll produce new growth as temperatures warm and days lengthen.

Forsythia

Pests/Diseases

This hardy shrub rarely experiences serious damage from insect pests or diseases.

Harvest/Storage

Forcing Forsythia Blooms Indoors

To bring spring colors into your home, try forcing forsythia indoors! Simply prune off branches in late winter or early spring and set them in water. They should bloom within a week. 

Read more about forcing forsythia blooms!

Recommended Varieties

Wit & Wisdom

  • One old-time saying is to plant peas when the forsythia starts to blossom,
  • The forsythia is named after William Forsyth, an 18th-century Scottish horticulturist.
  • In the language of flowers, the meaning of forsythia is “anticipation.” 
     

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Growing Forsythia

Botanical Name Forsythia spp.
Plant Type Shrub
Sun Exposure Full Sun, Part Sun
Soil Type Any
Soil pH Neutral to Slightly Alkaline
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Yellow
Hardiness Zones 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Special Features Attracts Birds, Attracts Butterflies