Growing a forsythia hedge allows you to add privacy and beauty to the borders of your yard. While not a quick project, it is one that brings beautiful dividends over time.
With its abundance of bright yellow flowers and early bloom time, forsythia adds a burst of color to your lovely garden each spring.
This perennial is a favorite of mine. I have grown forsythia for years. I have propagated it, forced its branches into bloom indoors, pruned it, and transplanted it around our garden over the years.
Now, it is time to use forsythia as a privacy hedge. It will hide my chain link fence beautifully!
Keep reading to find out how to create a forsythia privacy hedge for some impact gardening in your yard.
Facts about forsythia bushes
Ushering in the warm weather, forsythia is the earliest blooming shrub in spring. It is prized for it’s lovely golden flowers, cold hardiness, drought tolerance, and fast growing habit.
Brush up on your knowledge of forsythia shrub with these fun facts.
- Family – Oleaceae
- Name – forsythia spp.
- Type – shrub
- Foliage – deciduous (loses its leaves in the fall)
- Common names – border forsythia, golden bell, Easter tree
- Native to – eastern Europe and East Asia
- Hardiness zone – 5-8 or wider depending on your variety
While forsythia is often grown as a stand-alone shrub, it grows quickly and renovation pruning is necessary in time. Even in the best of conditions, yearly pruning is needed to keep its size in check.
If you plan on using forsythia as a hedge, it is important to plant it correctly. This means knowing how to space the plants and how to practice forsythia hedge pruning.
How to plant forsythia hedge
Because of the eventual size of mature forsythia bushes, planting a forsythia hedge requires some planning ahead. Follow these steps to grow a forsythia hedge.
Clear your site
Choosing where to plant a forsythia hedge depends on the use you want for it. I wanted to cover a chain link fence and to give privacy from neighbors.
You may want more of a border as you drive into your home, or a barrier for a meditation garden. Think ahead to how you would like the hedge to look.
Take some time to clear away all weeds and garden debris out of the area where you would like your forsythia hedge to grow.
Discard the debris on a compost pile. You’ll be able to use the organic matter later to amend the soil around the forsythia hedge as it grows.
Choose a sunny spot. Forsythia hedges should get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day to bloom well.
In my case, I chose the sunny edge of an established garden bed along a chain link fence line. Since it already had a series of forsythia bushes placed on each fence post location, it made perfect sense.
All I needed to do then was to fill in between the existing plants.
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Choosing the best forsythia for hedge
Choose healthy plants from a nursery or grow some yourself. Fortunately for gardeners, forsythia propagation is simple since most commercially sold forsythia plants grow from cuttings.
The tips of the stems will also root very easily – this is called tip rooting. Use landscape pins to pin down a tip in some garden soil, and it will root easily, giving you plants for free.
You can also pin the tips directly into the soil between the large shrubs and they will root in a few weeks.
Some good choices for border forsythia commonly used in hedges are:
- Lynwood Gold – it flowers flowers reliably year after year without much care.
- Spring Glory – abundant yellow flowers in spring.
- Northern Gold – Will tolerate temperatures as low as -30° F.
Forsythia hedge spacings
A common question I get from readers is “how far apart to plant forsythia hedge?”
Forsythia shrubs get large quickly, so you will need to space the new plants accordingly.
For a privacy forsythia hedge, plant your new forsythia plants about 3 to 4 apart. They grow quickly and will fill in the areas between the shrubs in one season.
The new plants will be a bit smaller during the first year of growth but mine caught up by year two.
Add compost or other organic matter to the holes for your new plants and dig a hole that equals the depth of the soil in your planter.
Water well until the plants are established. Once they take hold, forsythia is very drought resistant and requires little care.
After the first year, you will only need to water during very hot and dry periods in the summer or if the plants look stressed.
Mulch around the base of the plants to control weeds and help to retain moisture.
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Pruning forsythia hedges
The normal growth habit of a forsythia shrub is a shrub with arching branches. Other than cutting away old canes in the spring, pruning isn’t normally necessary.
However, trimming forsythia hedge rows is necessary unless you want a random looking hedge. I was after a more manicured look, so pruning is needed a few times during the summer months.
When to prune forsythia hedge
Prune the canes of your forsythia hedge right after it flowers in the spring. Cut the old, unruly canes right down to the base and discard.
This stimulates new growth and is done to stand-alone shrubs and forsythia hedges alike.
When to prune the canes on a forsythia hedge is important.
This shrub flowers in early spring and sets buds for the following season soon after the old flowers fade. For this reason, it is important to prune the canes on the forsythia hedge early.
If you wait too long and prune later in the year, it means that you will have fewer blossoms the following season.
Pruning the first year
Pruning a forsythia hedge in the first year requires some discipline. In order to get a good hedge shape, you will need to prune with each foot of new growth on the new stems.
Prune just above a set of leaves with garden shears, and you will encourage even branching from the bottom up. You may get little or no flowers the first season on your new plants.
If you don’t do this, you’ll end up with shrubs with a small bottom and larger top, which won’t suit a hedge shape.
You will be pruning several times during the growing season that first year.
Once the hedge is about the same height for all the plants, you will need to shear the hedge just a couple of times during the summer.
Use a hedge trimmer or garden shears to shear the hedge to a one height along the top and front edges of the bushes. We chose the top of our chain link fence as a guide for the first year.
This year, we will trim it a bit higher to completely hide the fence rail.
A note on trimming a forsythia hedge: Trimming the top and sides changes the natural shape of a forsythia bush and means that you will lose some flower buds. This method is for those who want a traditional manicured hedge look.
I wanted both a hedge and a traditional shrub, so I have forsythia bushes growing loosely in my lawn, as well as my forsythia hedge, so that I can enjoy both looks.
A forsythia hedge look changes with the seasons
Forsythia bushes are deciduous. They are a perennial that comes back year after year but lose their leaves during the winter months.
Oddly, the flowers appear first, followed by the green leaves.
The changing look of the perennial gives a different look to your forsythia hedge in each season.
A forsythia hedge in spring
Who can resist the look of those cheery yellow blooms? They come early in spring about the same time that the daffodils bloom.
It is such a delight to look out in my back yard, when nothing else is growing and see a mass of yellow flowers.
This photo shows my hedge in very early March. The flowers are profuse and the green leaves are just starting to appear.
A forsythia hedge in summer and fall
Forsythia bushes flower just once for several weeks in very early spring. After the flowers are done, the stems start growing leaves.
The growth is rapid – allowing you to trim its branches for a more uniform look and and not have too many holes or empty spaces in the hedge.
The green leaves last until well into late fall, giving a lush green look for both seasons.
A forsythia hedge in winter
Fortunately for my hedge, forsythias are one of the last deciduous shrubs to drop their leaves in the fall. Occasionally, the leaves turn reddish purple or pale yellow before dying off.
Although winter is not the best looking time period for a forsythia hedge, resist the urge to prune it then. You’ll lose all those promised flowers next spring!
However, you can take a few canes and bring them indoors. Forsythia blooms can be forced to give you the blossoms during the winter months.
Have you tried to grow forsythia as a hedge? How did it work out for you? Please leave your comments below.
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Admin note: this post for planting a forsythia hedge first appeared on the blog in June of 2013. I have updated the post to add new photos, a project card, and a video for you to enjoy.
How to Plant a Forsythia Hedge
Forsythia bushes are one of the first shrubs to bloom in spring. They can be planted as a hedge to hide fences or provide privacy.
- 8-10 forsythia shrubs (see note below)
- Organic matter or compost
- Hedge Trimmer
- Garden pruners
- Choose a spot that gets at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.
- Rake your area and remove weeds and garden debris.
- Space your forsythia plants about every 3-4 feet for a dense hedge.
- Dig holes the depth of the soil that your plants are currently in.
- Add some organic matter or compost to each hole.
- Plant the forsythia shrubs and water well.
- Keep watered until they are established and then only during periods of high heat.
- Prune old canes with pruners in early spring after flowering.
- During the first year, prune the tops of the branches after each foot of growth. You'll be pruning several times that year.
- On subsequent years, use a hedge trimmer to trim the top and front of the bushes a couple of times during the summer months.
- The hedge will flower in very early spring.
The cost of the project is for purchasing new plants from a nursery. In my case, the cost was free, since I used rooted cuttings and produced my own plants.
The time involved for this project is for planting the bushes. The time for the hedge to grow to completely fill in took about 2 years.
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