Growing Forsythia

Forsythia shrub in full bloom

An easy to grow popular garden shrub with bright yellow flowers in early spring.  Forsythia comes into flower in March through to April. The flowers appear on the branches before the leaves, as can be seen in the images, and the flowers are very attractive. After flowering, the shrub comes into leaf.

Forsythia are a produce of their popularity as so many gardeners grow them there can be a tendency to get a bit sniffy about Forsythia but its lovely bright yellow is so welcome early in the year I think there is room for one in the garden, at least. 

 Growing Forsythia is easy, you can just plant and neglect. Forsythia is deciduous which means in the winter the branches are bare and the flowers are followed by small fresh green leaves. Forsythia will flower best in full sun. Forsythia produces a cheerful bright yellow display. 

Forsythia is can grow up to around 3 metres and is fully hardy. Two varieties with RHS   merit award are Lynwood and Arnold Giant.   We tend to think of Forsythia as a largish shrub but there are smaller, more compact varieties such as Forsythia × intermedia 'Mikador', Forsythia Dwarf Mini Gold, Forsythia 'Fiesta' which grows to around 1m- 1.5m. Smaller more compact varieties of Forsythia will require very little pruning. There is also variation in colour from the bright strong yellow to a paler yellow.

Forsythia will grow more or less anywhere and in most aspects, which is why they are so popular coupled with the fact Forsythia require no real attentions from one year to the next.  

Forsythia are not fussy but they grow and flower best if grown a sunny spot with fertile, well drained soil.     

Forsythia hedge

Forsythia can also be planted and pruned to make a hedge to great effect. Planted together, they make a bold splash of colour and a very easy to maintain hedge.

Forsythia do not require pruning but will respond well to pruning if you want to shape them into a hedge prune after flowering.


Forsythia is really easy to grow and a trouble free shrub so definitely a green wheelbarrow. It is a popular and widely grown shrub, very undemanding and flowers reliably each year.

If Forsythia is not the shrub for you is not the shrub, take a look at other spring flowering shrubs. 

How to Prune Forsythia

Whatever type of pruning you wish to do on a Forsythia, after flowering is the key. This will usually be around mid/late April early May. Prune at any other time and you jeopardise the next years flowers.

Forsythia is a low maintenance shrub and does not require regular pruning and can be left alone. However, as Forsythia matures and grows larger,  it can get untidy and become a tangled shrub which will benefit from being pruned. Forsythia can be pruned lightly as a tidy up, removing spindly weaker and older stems and cutting back in size. You can also hard prune Forsythia and it will respond well, and if pruning hard it is a good idea to feed afterwards.

To keep in shape the weaker stems can be pruned which should be done immediately after flowering although it is not necessary to prune Forsythia and will flower happily if left alone. In the long term Forsythia flower better with some pruning and look better.

White Forsythia Abeliophyllum.distichum

White Forsythia Abeliophyllum. distichum

Some gardeners find the bright yellow of the Forsythia a bit too brash, in which case consider the related White Forsythia. Abeliophyllum. distichum is a white form which originates from Korea and bears fragrant white/pink flowers spring.  Although it is often referred to as white forsythia, it's flowers are tinged pink. 

A very attractive shrub growing to about 1.5m fully hardy but only as H6, and the flowers can be damaged by frost which can turn the emerging tips black.  For this reason, although fully hardy, it is best planted in sheltered spot and in full sun. It will grow on acid and alkaline soils and can be trained up a south facing wall.  

An additional bonus is that the flowers are almond scented. 

In common with the yellow variety, prune immediately after flowering as it flowers on last year's growth. If you prune after flowering it will give more time to create growth and flowers for next year. Both varieties are can a bit untidy and benefit from pruning.  The white Forsythia is illustrated left, and you can see it's similarity to the popular yellow Forsythia.