The dazzling stems of forsythia, laden end to end with small, bell-shaped, golden flowers, signal us that spring has indeed arrived. Check out these expert tips and add the vibrant shrub to your outdoor space.
Getting to know forsythia
- Growing 1.8 to 2.4 metres (six to eight feet) tall and equally wide, forsythias are often used as specimen shrubs in lawns or planted along boundaries as an informal hedge.
- You can also combine versatile forsythias with other shrubs, place a single one at the back of a flower border, or underplant them with spring bulbs.
- Even when forsythias are not in flower, the arching stems of older varieties and the upright stems of newer ones appear graceful and refined. In fall the long pointed leaves turn bronzy red, prolonging this plant’s season of interest.
Forsythias for every garden
Even though the flowers are surprisingly tolerant of light frosts, it’s important to choose cultivars suited to your climate to avoid frost damage to the buds and flowers.
- In Zones 3 and 4, ‘Ottawa’ is a good choice because its buds will open even after they have been exposed to freezes. ‘Northern Gold’ is another cold-hardy variety.
- In Zones 5 to 9, ‘Spring Glory’ blooms so heavily that the stems appear to have been dipped in gold.
- Two old-fashioned heavy bloomers for Zones 6 to 9 are ‘Spectabilis’ and ‘Lynwood’.
- New cultivars are ideal for small gardens or as a showy ground cover, ideal for a slope. ‘Gold Tide’ is one that only reaches 50 centimetres (20 inches) tall, but it spreads to 1.2 metres (four feet) wide.
Growing forsythia like a pro
- Plant out container-grown forsythia anytime from late winter to early summer. When purchased in spring, forsythias will often bloom in their pots, which makes it easy to shop for an eye-catching plant.
- Space them so that at least half of their mature width is left between plants. You can fill in the spaces with spring-blooming bulbs.
- Except for irrigating as needed to keep the soil moist during the first season, forsythia requires little care and are resistant to pests and diseases.
- Poor flowering is usually the result of improper pruning. Avoid pruning forsythia aggressively and shaping them into tight balls.
- For the best show, let forsythia follow its natural growth pattern, in which long stems arise from the base of the plant, sometimes arching over to the ground when they become heavy with leaves.
- To promote next year’s flowers, each spring, after the flowers have faded, use lopping shears to cut off one-third of the largest, oldest and least floriferous stems to the ground.
- Also remove any dead or damaged stems. But to preserve flower buds do not cut stem tips unless they crowd into walkways or other high-traffic areas. It is usually necessary to thin old stems only every two to three years to encourage flower production.
- Cut stems as the buds swell and bring them indoors to bloom in a vase.
Because flowers appear before leaves, forsythias are aflame with colour, often for several weeks. Keep your garden colourful by following these tips and planting forsythia the right way.