Forsythia – Plant Profile

Forsythia suspensa

Forsythia bushes in bloom at Kalleco Nursery.

Other Names: “Golden Bell”

If you live in upstate New York, you’ve probably seen forsythia before. Those gorgeous yellow blooms are the first sign of spring. They’re also one of the most popular choices for hedges and foundation plantings.

Description: Forsythia is a deciduous shrub that, left untouched, can grow to 8′ in height. It’s stems start green, but with time turn woody and feature rough gray bark. For most of the year, it’s covered in dense, bright green foliage. In the spring, Forsythia blooms an abundance of bright yellow flowers. These flowers are four-petaled and bell-shaped, and densely cover the stems.Detail of a forsythia flower at Kalleco Nursery.

Planting and Caring for Forsythia:  Forsythias are fast growers. They naturally splay and arch over, though there are varieties available that are more rigid. Their long, leggy stems make them more likely to spread out than grow tall.  Keep them from getting too leggy or scraggly with regular pruning.

Forsythias are ideal for a hedge. After the spring show, the dense foliage makes a great privacy and sound screen. They can also be the early spring centerpiece of a garden or foundation bed.

These shrubs are notoriously low maintenance. They grow best in partial shade or full sun, in well drained soil. Prune them in the spring, after the blooms fade, to keep them looking neat. They may require watering during extended dry periods.

Special Characteristics: Drought tolerant; low maintenance; fast growing; early spring color; hardy; excellent for screening and privacy hedges.

In addition, forsythia is like your landscape’s or garden’s wake up alarm. When those yellow flowers appear, it’s time to get to work. In particular, once forsythia has bloomed is a great time to start crab grass control treatments.

Forsythia bushes in bloom at Kalleco Nursery.

Gardening and Design Tips: Like we’ve said forsythia makes for a stellar hedge. Adding a row along your front lawn or on a property boundary can give you privacy and noise cancellation within a years. If you’re planning to use it in a planting bed for the early spring bloom, make sure to balance it with other later season bloomers. The spring bloom is usually only a few weeks, and while the year-round foliage is great, it’s best as a backdrop for perennials and annuals.