How to Plant, Grow, and Care For Forsythia

Springtime blossoms are always in high demand. Forsythia shrubs are the perfect way to add a splash of color to your gardens. If you love these shrubs and want to add them to your garden, this article will have everything you need to know to plant, grow, and care for forsythia.

A close-up of Forsythia shows vibrant yellow flowers in full bloom clustered along slender, arching branches.

Contents

Nothing quite screams spring like yellow daffodils backed by vibrant yellow forsythia blossoms. These flowering shrubs provide much-needed color and hope to an otherwise dreary backdrop.

These harbingers of spring can be used as hedges or specimen plants. They work beautifully in either situation—it’s up to you! 

If you love these flowering beauties, let’s take a deeper dive into everything you need to know to plant, grow, and care for forsythia

Overview

A close-up of Forsythia flowers displays their bright yellow petals and delicate structure, with a blurred background of brown branches.
This low-maintenance plant prefers moist, well-draining soil.
Plant Type Shrub
Family Oleaceae
Genus Forsythia
Species Spp. 
Native Area Asia 
Exposure Full sun to partial shade
Height 2-10 feet 
Watering Requirements Average
Pests & Diseases Gall
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Moist and well-draining
Hardiness Zone 5-9

What Is It?

No matter what species or variety you have in your garden, this shrub is most known for its stunningly bright yellow flowers that appear in spring. Varieties vary in growth habits as well as size. This shrub is named after William Forsyth, one of the founders of the Royal Horticultural Society.

Native Area

A close-up of a large bush with branches covered in vibrant yellow flowers, set against a background of lush green grass and a large green tree in a semi-urban area.
This perennial originated in Europe and Asia.

Forsythia are native to areas of Asia as well as Europe. As these shrubs grew in popularity they traveled through Europe and North America, where they were hybridized and perfected for many garden uses.

Characteristics

A close-up of a  plant showcasing its bright yellow flowers and green leaves, with a house, large green trees, and a well-manicured green lawn visible in the background.
Yellow bell-shaped flowers cover branches in spring.

This shrub can grow in an upright or weeping fashion.

  • Forsythia suspensa: Weeping forsythia
  • Forsythia viridissima: Greenstem forsythia
  • Forsythia x intermedia: the most commonly grown type is a hybrid of the above two species.

The branches will be adorned by yellow flowers in the spring before the foliage appears. These pretty yellow flowers are bell-shaped and will cover the entire branch, often in clusters. The ovate leaves remain attractive throughout the summer and often take on a shade of red or purple in the fall. 

Planting

A close-up shows a small Forsythia plant with delicate, thin branches and stems adorned with vibrant yellow flowers, rooted in soil surrounded by patches of green grass.
Fall is the best time for planting.

Adding forsythia to your gardens is quite simple. You will often see these flowering shrubs placed front and center at your garden centers in the springtime. While spring is a suitable time to plant them, fall is the recommended time. This is because the plant is dormant in the fall, meaning it will not require as much water as plants will in the springtime

To plant your new forsythia:

  1. Start by digging a hole twice as wide and twice as deep as the rootball.
  2. Place the shrub in the hole, ensuring that the crown of the plant is level with the ground.
  3. Backfill the hole with your garden soil, and pack lightly.
  4. Water!

Growing from Seed

A close-up  features a small Forsythia plant with slender brown stems and bright yellow flowers, growing in soil amidst lush green grasses.
Maintain soil moisture for healthy seedlings.

Forsythia shrubs can be grown from seed if you have the patience for it! Purchase seeds or harvest your own from the brown pods your shrub produces after flowering ends. If your plant does not produce any seed pods, it is sterile, and you will need to purchase your seeds. 

To sow seeds:

  1. Sow seeds in groups into containers filled with growing medium. Lightly cover the seeds.
  2. Cover your containers or trays with a plastic cover or a plastic bag to retain humidity.
  3. Place your containers or trays in bright but indirect light. 
  4. Keep your eyes open for germination! When you notice your seedlings are growing, remove the humidity cover. 
  5. Keep the soil moist.
  6. Transplant seedlings into larger containers or directly into the ground in the springtime once the threat of frost has passed. 

Growing in Containers

A close-up of a Forsythia plant in a large decorative pot shows thin, cascading branches adorned with vibrant yellow flowers, with a blurred background featuring green grasses in the garden.
Control forsythia’s spread in containers with compost and drainage.

Forsythia makes a lovely container plant. This is a great way to add this plant to your gardens if you do not have the correct light requirements or the space! This is a rapidly spreading shrub, and a container is a great way to control that spread. Use compost as well as a well-draining potting mix, and ensure that the container has drainage holes.  Be prepared to repot into larger containers every two or three years.

How to Grow

Forsythia does not need much from us to maintain its beauty. However, growing any plant in the right environment is the key to a long-living and happy plant. Let’s look at a few details that will allow your forsythia to thrive. 

Light

A close-up of a Forsythia plant highlights its bright yellow flowers blooming along the thin, brown branches.
Forsythia thrives in full sunlight.

For your forsythia to produce the maximum amount of flowers, it needs at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. If your garden does not get this much sunlight, consider buying a smaller forsythia and planting it in a large container. 

Water

A close-up of a Forsythia plant showcases its vibrant yellow flowers glistening with raindrops, set against a backdrop of slender, brown branches.
Water forsythia until established.

Watering your forsythia shrubs should only be a cause for concern in the first few seasons it is growing in your yard. Until your shrub is well-established it needs a minimum of two inches of rain per week

Once you feel your shrub is well-established, you can nearly forget about watering it. These shrubs have shown to be drought tolerant at times, but during long periods without rain, be sure not to forget about your beautiful shrubs!

Soil

A close-up of a hand holding a handful of rich, dark soil, with sunlight streaming in the background.
Amend compacted soil for quicker forsythia establishment.

Have I mentioned that forsythia are very tough plants yet? These plants prefer well-draining soil, but aside from that, they’re not picky about the type of soil in which they grow. If you do find that your soil is heavily compacted, amending it before planting new shrubs can allow your forsythia to establish more quickly. 

Temperature and Humidity

A close-up view of Forsythia flowers, showcasing vibrant yellow blossoms densely clustered along slender branches, with delicate petals and a few green leaves interspersed.
Ensure climate-appropriate variety for optimal growth.

Forsythia grows best in USDA zones 5-9. If you are living in these zones, your shrub should grow happily. These do not like it too dry, and they also do not like it overly humid. The wrong conditions can cause the plant to wilt or skip a season of flowering. When selecting a forsythia for your gardens, be sure to select a variety that is best for the climate where you live. 

Fertilizing

A close-up image of blue granulated fertilizer pellets scattered on rich brown soil, highlighting the contrast between the vibrant blue granules and the earthy tones.
Apply granular fertilizer around the base during spring and summer.

After your forsythia has been growing in your garden for at least one year, you can begin fertilizing. Use a generic granular fertilizer around the base of the shrub throughout the spring and summer. Follow the directions on whichever product you use to ensure your forsythia receives the correct dosage of nutrients

Maintenance

Forsythia shrubs, I repeat, are very low-maintenance and undemanding shrubs. The beauty of these shrubs is their wildness unless you are growing them as a hedge, of course. 

Pruning

A close-up of a hand using pruning scissors to trim a Forsythia shrub, highlighting the vibrant yellow flowers on brown branches, bathed in full sunlight.
Use hand pruners for best results.

Pruning is not always necessary. However, forsythia shrubs are known to have a bit of an unruly and wild growth habit.  Pruning should be done right after flowering has ended. If you wait too long to prune, you will remove flower buds, and your shrub will not flower for at least one season. 

  1. Using hand pruners or loppers, remove growth from the top and sides of your shrub.
  2. A good rule of thumb to remember is to remove ⅓ of the plant at a maximum.
  3. Start slowly. You can always go back and prune more.
  4. Look for any deadwood and remove that from within the plant. 
  5. The shape of the forsythia should be attractive to you. Keep in mind that their growth can be unpredictable, so starting with a shape you like will get you started on the right foot. 

Propagation

The best and easiest way to propagate these shrubs is through cuttings. These plants root easily! You can even root stems that you have purchased from your local florist in the springtime. Let’s take a look at this simple process!

Cuttings

A close-up of pruning scissors cutting a branch of a Forsythia plant with bright yellow flowers, set against a background featuring a brown table.
Trimming or purchasing forsythia stems aids in spring decoration.
  1. Take your cuttings in late spring or early summer, or replicate the process with cut forsythia stems that you have purchased from a local florist for spring decor. 
  2. Remove a few sets of the bottom leaves to expose growth points.
  3. Stick the cutting into a moistened sterile medium such as sand, perlite, or peat moss. 
  4. Keep the medium moist by checking daily until the cutting has established roots that are one inch or longer. 
  5. Once you have matured roots, you can transplant the cuttings into a larger pot if you wish. 
  6. Wait one to two growing seasons before planting your cutting in the ground. 

Layering

A close-up of vibrant Forsythia flowers, displaying clusters of bright yellow petals with delicate, elongated pistils emerging from the center.
Forsythia propagation by layering enhances garden growth.

Layering is an easy way to propagate forsythia right in your garden. 

  1. Find a low-growing branch, and remove some bark and leaves from a portion of the branch that is nearest the ground.
  2. Dig a shallow trench near this branch and place the branch into the trench. 
  3. Cover the buried branch with soil and weigh it down with a rock or brick. 
  4. In time, roots will form from the buried or layered portion of the branch. When this occurs, you can cut the rooted area away from the mother plant. 
  5. You can transplant this new plant from the mother plant to another area of your garden or allow it to grow in place. 

Forsythia is a large genus featuring two common species: weeping and greenstem. You may notice many “intermedia” forsythia. This is a sign that both of these species have been used to hybridize a new variety

Forsythia ‘Lynwood Variety’

A close-up of Forsythia ‘Lynwood Variety’ reveals a large bush with dense branches adorned with vibrant yellow flowers, set against a backdrop of lush green plants.
Plant this variety as a hedge or in groups.
botanical-name botanical name Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood Variety’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade 
height height 6-9 feet 
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 6-9

‘Lynwood Variety’ is an award-winning forsythia noted for its large flowers. This variety grows in a rigid, upright manner and remains extremely attractive even after the blooming period.

In autumn, the green leaves will take on a lovely shade of purple, making this a true three-season shrub. Plant ‘Lynwood Variety’ as a hedge or in a grouping. 

Forsythia ‘Meadowlark’

A close-up of Forsythia ‘Meadowlark’ shows thin brown stems covered with bright yellow flowers, set against a clear blue sky.
This forsythia is a great choice for colder climates.
botanical-name botanical name Forsythia spp. ‘Meadowlark’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade
height height 8-10 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 3-8

If you live in a colder climate, ‘Meadowlark’ is a great option for you. This variety blooms at the end of winter into the beginning of spring with classic bright yellow flowers.

‘Meadowlark’ is a larger variety with branches that can reach up to ten feet in length. This variety has a little bit more of a wild growth habit, making for a beautiful display, especially when planted in groupings. 

Forsythia ‘Happy Centennial’

A close-up of a Forsythia ‘Happy Centennial’ plant features brown branches adorned with vibrant yellow flowers, while the blurred background showcases a lush array of greenery.
After harsh winters, this variety blooms abundantly.
botanical-name botanical name Forsythia spp. ‘Happy Centennial’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade 
height height 2-3 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-9

‘Happy Centennial’ is a great forsythia variety if you don’t have a lot of vertical space or are looking for a variety to plant in a container. This variety will grow wider than it is tall, up to five feet in width.

Blooming in early to mid-spring, the flowers will be replaced with leathery green leaves. ‘Happy Centennial’ is known to not only survive but bloom prolifically after harsh winters

Forsythia ‘Show Off’

A close-up of a Forsythia ‘Show Off’ plant displays vivid yellow flowers clustered on brown branches, with a blurred background that highlights additional yellow blossoms.
This forsythia is ideal for flower lovers with limited space.
botanical-name botanical name Forsythia x intermedia ‘Show Off’
sun-requirements sun requirements Full sun to partial shade 
height height 5-6 feet
hardiness-zones hardiness zones 5-8

‘Show Off’ is perfect for those of us who love flowers but may only have a few feet to give our shrubs. ‘Show Off’ produces the same bright yellow flowers that forsythia is known for. However, this variety is densely packed with flower buds. Use this variety as a border plant or a hedge

Common Problems

Even the lowest maintenance plants can run into some issues in your gardens. Let’s take a look at the most common problems you may encounter with forsythia.  

Pests

A close-up of a Lanternfly perched on a green branch of a Forsythia plant, with intricate wing patterns and vibrant colors, surrounded by lush green leaves with visible veins and textures.
Manage common garden pests on forsythia shrubs with neem oil.

Forsythia shrubs may run into minor issues with common garden insects. These pests may include aphids, beetles, and spider mites. For the most part, these insects will not cause long-term damage to your shrubs, and you will likely find them on your shrubs if they are under stress.

Hose your shrubs down if you see these insects present on your forsythia. If you would like to take it a step further, you can use neem or another horticultural oil to help rid your plant of these annoying pests. 

Diseases

A close-up of a Forsythia plant showcasing its slender branches adorned with bright yellow flowers, while the blurred background features other green grasses.
Maintain good air circulation to prevent fungal galls on forsythias.

Forsythias typically do not run into too much trouble with disease. You may notice galls on the stems of your shrub. These galls are fungal and can be treated with a broad-spectrum fungicide from your local garden center. These galls occur due to too much moisture or humidity. You can prevent the galls by keeping the interior of your forsythia pruned to allow greater air circulation.

Frequently Asked Questions

What can you plant forsythia with?

Due to forsythia’s bloom time, it’s a good idea to add plants nearby that will bloom in the summer. Flowers such as salvia, Montauk daisy, and flowering annuals make perfect choices. These shrubs are beautiful when planted on their own. Choose what will suit your garden needs best.

Is forsythia safe for pets?

Yes! This plant falls under the non-toxic umbrella. You can plant forsythia without worrying about your pets or kids.

How do you overwinter forsythia?

Forsythia does not require any additional maintenance for overwintering. These shrubs are perfectly content when left as is. Resist the urge to prune in the late fall or winter as this can eliminate flowering for at least one season.

Final Thoughts

If your yard is lacking that pop of spring color, forsythia can help you with that! This beautiful flowering shrub will provide bright yellow flowers for a few weeks, weather-dependent, bringing much-needed life into our gardens. Plant them in groupings for a larger pop of color.

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