Fast Growing Forsythia Bushes Bring Summer Color to the Garden

For unbeatable spring color, try growing forsythia bushes.  These easy care bushes require very little care.

Nothing screams spring in your garden quite like Forsythia. With their vibrant yellow color, these perennials are one of the first bushes to flower in the spring. The shrub is very hardy, and relatively easy to grow.Forsythia bushes in bloom

These tips for growing forsythia bushes will make sure that your garden is a delight to behold in early spring.

Forsythia bushes add a dramatic look to your front yard in early spring.  At just about the same time that the daffodils are in bloom, a well cared for forsythia bush will also have a wonderful display of flowers going, too.

The bright yellow blooms arrive first telling us that spring is right around the corner and brings a pop of color into a dead looking winter landscape.

Mr. Gardening Cook is fond of bringing me free things for my garden.  One winter, he came home with about a dozen hellebore plants that he was given. They flower in the winter and give me so much pleasure.

The forsythia bushes that line one of my garden beds in the back yard came to us in the same way – for free.  Richard was talking to our neighbor who had just dug up a HUGE Forsythia bush from his yard in order to grow roses.  “What do you plan to do with it, he asked?”

Once he found out that the plant was destined for the trash heap, he got out his ax and “divided” it into 7 forsythia bushes for me. This is the way they look now, just a couple of years later.

What is a forsythia bush?

Forsythia is a perennial plant. It will come back year after year and sends out long arching canes that are very graceful to behold.forsythia bushes

The plant is flowers in very early spring. It’s not uncommon to see it in bloom even with some snow on the ground.

The plant is a member of the olive family:  oleaceae.

Forsythia is mainly native to Eastern Asia and Southeastern Europe.

Common name for forsythia is Easter Tree because of bloom time. The plant was named after William Forsyth.

Growing Forsythia bushes is one of the best ways to get a really early show of flowers in your yard in spring.

Check out this article for more information on forsythia bushes. It talks about pruning, transplanting, forcing and other gardening tasks related to forsythia.

Can we say magnificent? I have my breakfast on the deck every morning, and get to enjoy this amazing display of spring.

Forsythia bushes along a fence line

Tips for Growing Forsythia Bushes.

If you would like this show of yellow in your garden each year in early spring, follow these tips for best success forsythia bushes.

When to plant

You can start growing forsythia pretty much any time of the year but fall is a good time to plant. This allows the plant to get developed before the first round of flowering starts in the spring.

Forsythia bushes can become overgrown very easily, so they need to be tended to keep a manageable shape and size.

See my tips for planting forsythia here. The post  gives tips about rooting and transplanting the shrub, as well.

How fast does forsythia grow?

This is a question that I am often asked.  Forsythia is quite fast growing. It is not uncommon for a new plant to put out 5-6 new canes in the first year and to double or even triple in size in a few years.

Forsythia can actually be invasive because of its propensity to tip root.  One plant can turn into several in a few years if not maintained and kept pruned.

Sunlight

Forsythia does best in a sunny spot.  Mine are in my back yard and get 6-8 hours of direct sunlight a day. They will grow in a slightly shadier spot but direct sun is best.  

My row of forsythias get some shade from the neighbor’s trees in the late afternoon, but that is about it.Plant forsythia in a sunny spot.

Watering

After planting, water well to make sure that the roots take well. Deep watering is best to make sure that the plant will send roots deeply, too.Watering with a hose

Once established, forsythia bushes do not need much watering, unless you have a REALLY long stretch of dry hot weather.

I have had many summers with 100 degree days for several days in a row and my bushes still did not need watering.

Mulching is the key to this since it helps the soil to retain the moisture that the ground does get.

Soil

Grow forsythia in well draining soil.  If your soil is very wet, or marshy, they will not grow well.  A good helping of organic matter such as compost is always a help to them.

Mulch around the plants to keep the moisture in the soil and to keep the weeds away.

Flowers and Leaf Formation

Find out more about the look of forsythia bushes.

Flowers

The flowers of a forsythia plant appear on the stems before the leaves do in the spring. Before you know it, the whole plant will be covered in yellow blooms and there will not be a leaf in sight!Forsythia flower budsThey generally appear as single petals along the stem but some of mine also have larger clusters of flowers that are very pretty.

This usually happens on an area of the branch that has been pruned, or lopped accidentally.

Cluster of forsythia petals

Leaves

The flowers will bloom for several weeks and then the leaves will start to grow.  They appear here and there at first and then cover the whole stem as the flowers start to drop off.

Once the flowers have dropped from the stems, the plant will not bloom again until the following spring but does have lush green leaves all summer long.Forsythia leaves starting to grow.

About mid way through the flowering cycle, you will have a combination of both leaves and green tips growing at the same time.Forsythia leaves

How tall does forsythia grow?

Forsythia shrubs are fast growing and can reach a height of 8 to 10 feet and can grow to about 8 feet wide or more. For this reason, you should make sure to give them room to grow at planting time.

Cold Hardiness Zones

Forsythia are cold hardy in zones 5-8 which means that it will take temperatures to about -20 º. If it gets colder than this, it can damage roots as well as flower buds for the next season.Forsythia in the winter

Forsythia bushes are is not adapted for warmer zones. This shrub roots very easily from cuttings and spreads quickly, making it potentially invasive in hot climates unless it is grown in containers.

Fertilizing and Pruning Tips

Once established, follow these tips for fertilizing forsythia and pruning the shrub.

Fertilizing

If you fertilize, use a balanced formula designed for flowering shrubs and tree in the spring and summer.  

Don’t use fertilizer in the fall and winter, since the plant is dormant then. Wait until after flowering to fertilize.

Pruning

Forsythia is best pruned in the early spring right after the blooms have faded. If you wait until the fall to do the job, you will reduce the number of flowers that you will get the following spring.

Forsythia blooms on old wood and they set their flower buds soon after the new growth appears each year.

Forsythia has a natural arching habit, so the best pruning allows for this growth pattern. (Unless you plan to use it as a hedge, then you can just chop away!)

To prune a mature forsythia shrub, cut about 1/4 of the oldest and thickest branches, very close to the ground.  

If you try to tame it by cutting some of the longer, new branches, they will fork with new growth and you’ll end up in an unruly looking shrub.mature forsythia bush

If you have a very overgrown and older forsythia like the one above, the pruning can be quite brutal. In this case, either heavy renovation pruning or hard pruning is necessary. See the differences between the two and how to manage this job here.

And if pruning won’t do the job, you can move your plant. See my tips for transplanting forsythia here.

Propagating Forsythia Bushes.

You can get new plants for free easily by propagating forsythia from cuttings. Here is how to do this.

Taking Cuttings

Forsythia bushes are grown from cuttings.  The best cuttings are those from new growth, since they will root most easily.  Just place the end into moist soil and keep it evenly moist until the stem roots. This takes a few weeks.

Another way to get new plants, is to lower a branch down to the ground and hold it in place with an arched piece of metal. The part of the plant that touches the soil will root in a few weeks!  

Transplanting forsythia seedlings is best done in the winter when the plant is dormant.Forsythia rootingThe plant below had a branch that touched the ground naturally and it rooted without being pinned down.

Once it was established, I moved it to another garden bed and I have a small shrub growing this year.Forsythia seedling

Forsythia can be grown into a hedge.

While not the optimal way to see the arching nature of the branches, forsythia can be grown as a hedge.

Forsythia can be grown as a hedge but you may remove much of its flowering potential, especially if you prune it through out the year.

So prune early to shape the hedge, and not too much during the year, if you can.Forsythia hedgeForcing Indoor blooms 

Want to get a read head start on spring?  Try forcing forsythia indoors.  It is really easy to do.  Just cut off a few branches and bring them indoors.

Hammer the base of the branches, or cut into them, to open them up a bit and place them in a vase of water.

In a couple of weeks, the branches will burst into bright yellow blooms, right in the dead of winter! It’s a great way to feel that you have hurried spring along indoors.Forcing forsythia indoors

Forsythia is sure to put a smile on the face of any gardener. It is one of the first signs that spring has finally arrived and is a delight to have in your garden.  By following these easy tips for growing forsythia, you, too, can have an amazing display of spring in your garden.


Pin these tips for growing forsythia for later

Would you like a reminder of these forsythia care tips? Just pin this image to one of your Gardening Boards on Pinterest so that you can easily find it later.How to grow forsythia in your garden

Admin note: This post for growing forsythia bushes first appeared on the blog in February of 2017.  I have updated the post to add new photos, a project printable sheet and a video for you to enjoy.

Yield: 1 beautiful shrub

Tips for Growing Forsythia Bushes

Tips for Growing Forsythia Bushes

Forsthia is one of the earliest shrubs to bloom in early springs. These tips for growing forsythia bushes will give you bright yellow flowers to cheer up your day.

Active Time 30 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Difficulty easy
Estimated Cost $15

Materials

  • Forsythia shrub
  • Compost
  • Well draining soil

Tools

  • Shovel
  • Garden hose

Instructions

  1. Plant forsythia bushes in fall about 6-10 feet apart.
  2. Soil needs to be well draining. Add organic matter such as compost to accomplish this.
  3. Be sure the plant will get 6-8 hours of sunlight a day.
  4. Water well until the plant is established, then only during dry spells is necessary.
  5. Fertilize in spring and summer but not in fall and winter when the plant becomes dormant.
  6. Force forsythia branches indoors in winter for more color.
  7. Propagate from stem cuttings.
  8. Prune in spring after flowering to remove old canes.
  9. Hard prune very overgrown plants (flowers will be sacrificed for one year.)
  10. Cold hardy in zones 5-8.

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are "affiliate links." This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive a small commission from the sale, but the price is the same for you. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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  10 comments for “Fast Growing Forsythia Bushes Bring Summer Color to the Garden

  1. Aussie_Foodie
    03/31/2017 at 1:12 am

    Perfect timing finding this. We bought a house last October, and we have just had the garden landscaped and culled a LOT of old trees/bushes. But being the start of spring, we kept two – a pretty pink flowering quince that was the first colour after anlooong uk winter, and “that wired yellow thing”. Now I know what it is and will have to call it by its proper name! Thanks

    • Carol
      03/31/2017 at 10:13 am

      Glad you know the name now! You will love it when it gets large. I had a couple of quince bushes for years. They are pretty when they flower but they send up suckers like mad. We eventually dug them out and planted something else. Carol

  2. June
    05/19/2018 at 7:00 pm

    iLife in Central Alberta, Canada, and have a Forsythia plant on the edge of my vegetable garden. Each year it appears to struggle to put out its flowers, with very few that bloom at the bottom of the branches. Is it the location in the garden? in the province or country? Or my ignorance as to how to care for it? Help!

  3. June
    05/19/2018 at 7:01 pm

    I live in Central Alberta, Canada, and have a Forsythia plant on the edge of my vegetable garden. Each year it appears to struggle to put out its flowers, with very few that bloom at the bottom of the branches. Is it the location in the garden? in the province or country? Or my ignorance as to how to care for it? Help!

    • Carol
      05/19/2018 at 9:48 pm

      Hi June. It is likely the cold that gets to them. I’m not sure what zone Alberta is but Forsythia is only cold hardy in zones 5-8. It can survive temps to about -29 degrees but any colder than that will affect both the roots and next season’s flower buds. Carol

    • Brian
      04/29/2019 at 8:27 pm

      Some Forsythias are hardier than others. The hardier ones bloom fully even in the coldest winters. The less hardy ones will bloom around the base where they are protected from the harsh cold by the snow cover.

  4. Terri
    06/11/2018 at 5:16 pm

    I’ve recently planted several baby forsythia bushes. Some are doing well but some have many leaves that are going brown , wilting away from the top of the branches. They are sparse looking and about two feet tall. Is this normal?

    • Carol
      06/11/2018 at 5:27 pm

      Hi Terri. No, this is not normal. Forsythia are normally very easy going and transplant well into the garden without a problem. Even in the hottest part of summer my bushes don’t get brown leaves on them. This only happens when the plant is getting ready to go dormant for the winter. Carol

  5. Liz
    10/01/2018 at 11:20 am

    Hello,I had one when I live in Atlanta and love them but now I live in southeast Texas will it do ok.

    • Carol
      10/01/2018 at 3:41 pm

      It should do fine in South East Texas. I live in North Carolina and that is zone 7b. Forsythia is a very hardy plant that grows in most zones. Carol

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