Growing Forsythia
How to Grow this Plant as a Garden Bush or Hedge

Forsythia is a fast-growing hardy shrub in the same family of plants as the olive tree (the Oleaceae family).  These attractive bushy plants are known for their abundant yellow flowers which bloom in early Spring.  

Forsythia flowers photoForsythia Flowers Photo by jimd2007
Forsythia plants are deciduous, meaning they lose their leaves during part the winter.  Buds start to form around february in time for the flowers to spurt into their yellow blaze in Spring.  The flowers actually appear before the leaves.  The flower buds grow individually, or together in the leaf axils of last year's branches.

The forsythia plant grows upright, splaying out as it increases in height.  As the bushy branches spread out they can become over-hanging.  The branches themselves are usually hollow.  Young branches can be a little sharp-edged in cross section.  The Autumn color is sometimes a yellowy to purply red, and other times simply dark green or olive green.

With their speedy growth, forsythias can increase in size by up to 2 feet per year.  They can reach a height of between 1 to 3 metres, sometimes even achieving a rare height of 6 metres if unpruned.

Uses and Positioning of Forsythia Plants

They are a very versatile plant and can be used in lots of different ways.  A forsythia bush can make an excellent stand-alone feature growing at the centre of your garden, or can be use for privacy as a hedge, either neatly trimmed or as a more loosely arranged screen.  With proper training, forsythias can look flat great in a flat plane vertically against a wall or fence. Alternatively with some creative pruning and shearing they can be shaped into patterns to produce ball shapes, tree-like structures or many other compositions.
Picture of Forsythia bushPicture of Forsythia Bush by Dan Zen

Forsythia's blooms have four petals which connect together at the base to form a bell-shaped flower. Their early burst of spring flowers make this an ideal choice to position in garden next to evergreen plants.  The flowers produce small capsules with slightly winged seeds.  The fruit of some species is used in traditional Chinese medicine.  The plant's leaves are a pointed-oval shape two to 10 centimetres in size, often serrated at the edges but sometimes smooth-edged.

Forsythia shrubs attract relatively few pests.  As their flowers do not produce nectar, they are perfectly worthless as source of food for nectar-seeking animals like bees or butterflies, although they can be home to some caterpillars however.

Origins of Forsythia

There are around 11 different species of forsythia, most of them originating from Eastern Asia, although one, Forsythia europaea, originates from the Balkan areas of Serbia and Albania in Southeastern Europe.  The main species of Forythia which is cultivated as an ornamental garden shrub and for hedges is a hybrid know as  Forsythia intermedia. This is a cross-breed of forsythia suspensa (a mainly drooping or weepng species)  and forsythia viridissima (a more upright variety).
Potted Forsythia grown in a containerA potted Forsythia grown in a container by weisserstier

They are named after the 18th century botanist, William_Forsyth, who was one of the founders of the royal Society of Horticulture of London.  The first recorded live seedling in Western Europe was introduced to Holland from Japan by  Verkerk Pistorius in 1833.

Growing Forsythia Bushes

Forsythia are easy to grow and not particularly fussy about location or soil type.  As long as the ground is well-drained, they will usually thrive nicely.  The plants do appreciate some sun, so don't position them in a permanently shaded area of your garden.  Although they can resist drought, they shouldn't be kept too dry - an average climate is just fine for them.  They will withstand frost so you needn't worry about them over a chilly winter.

New forsythia bushes can easily be grown from an existing plant, either by using cuttings or from live ground-lying branches.  If taking cuttings to propagate, it is best to do this during the dormant months from December to January. Cut about 5 inches from a new tip, and place you cutting in moist soil or compost so that it can stand up on its own.  You can start to grow a new plant either indoors or outdoors. Once a good set of roots has grown, you can then transplant your forsythia to its final location.  You could even grow forsythia in a container or pot to decorate a stone patio or terrace.   

If growing a new plant from ground-lying branches from an existing bush, ensure that a few inches of the branch is kept covered by soil or compost.  To do this, first cover the branch, then place a small rock or stone on top to ensure it stays in place to allow the roots to develop.

A forsythia plant will give you years of enjoyment.  Keep yours healthy and vigorous by regularly pruning and you'll be rewarded with a lifespan of 20 to 50 years for this attractive plant.   

Trimming and Pruning Forsythia Bushes