Forsythia: flowering time, planting time & pruning


For many years now, I have been growing various vegetables as a hobby in my spare time, which is what ultimately led me to studying horticulture. I find it fascinating to watch as plants grow from seed to fruit and to then finally be able to make use of the literal fruits of my labour.

Favourite fruit: Strawberries and cherries
Favourite vegetable: Potatoes, tomatoes and garlic

Forsythia provide a beautiful display at the beginning of the year. But in order to admire their bloom, you need to know their requirements very well.

A large yellow forsythia shrub
Forsythia grows in the sun, in the shade and in partial shade [Photo: V J Matthew/]

Forsythia is very popular in gardens and parks, because the golden–yellow flowering plant is a real eye–catcher in the spring. From mid-March, the exotic shrub shines like no other at this time of year. The genus of Forsythia includes a total of 13 species, and in this country is planted mainly a hybrid of the species Forsythia × intermedia. Although forsythia is very comfortable in this country, its original home is mainly in East Asia. Individual species also originate from southeastern Europe. To make the popular shrub feel at home in your garden, we present some tips on planting, flowering and care.

Planting forsythia: planting time and location

Despite their exotic origin, the slightly poisonous forsythia is not too much o a challenge for amateur gardeners and are considered easy to care for. However, a few pointers should be kept in mind when placing the plant in your garden.

When to plant forsythia

The optimal time for planting forsythia is in the spring after the last frosts. Then the plant can quickly get used to the new location. In principle, you can plant out the bush in the autumn. However, the cold temperatures in winter can affect the plant and adaptation to the site takes longer.

The right location

In principle, you cannot go far wrong with the choice of location – forsythia grows very well both in sunny and shady or semi-shady places. The yellow–flowering shrub also makes few demands on the soil. Nevertheless, make sure that the soil in the selected location is not too chalky and that the plant gets enough water. Severe drought is one of the few conditions where even forsythia gives up. Therefore, to increase the water–holding capacity, it is beneficial to incorporate compost and leaves before planting. Nevertheless, as with most plants, there should be no waterlogging in the soil.

These tips will help choose the right location and planting time:

  • Planting time in the spring after the frosts
  • Sunny, partial shady or shady location
  • Moist and low–calcium soil
  • No waterlogging

Forsythia: flowering time and pruning

For most amateur gardeners, forsythia is especially popular for its showy blooms. But in order for it to appear so magnificently every year, it is important to prune the shrub correctly. We show you what to look out for.

Flowering time

Depending on the weather, the flowering period of the forsythia begins around mid-March and lasts until May, depending on the variety. The special feature of the shrub is the abundant flowering even before the leaves shoots, which is why the forsythia presents its yellow flowers in early spring.

Tip: The flowering of the forsythia represents the beginning of the phenological first spring.

Pruning forsythia

For the desired flowering in the spring, the timing of pruning is crucial. Forsythia is a mesotonic plant, which means that new shoots grow mainly from the central shoot. The popular flowers are formed in the shrub only from new shoots of the previous year, so under no circumstances should you cut the forsythia in the autumn, like other woody plants. Otherwise, you can expect no or very few flowers in the spring. Ideally, cut off the new branches after flowering in the spring. This gives the plant enough time over the summer to form new shoots, which will bloom again the next spring. More information on properly pruning forsythia can be found here.

A person cutting forsythia
Pruning at the right time is crucial for the forsythia [Photo: encierro/]

By the way: Although the forsythia produces many brilliant flowers, it is of little interest to bees. The varieties found in this country are almost all hybrid varieties that do not produce pollen and therefore do not attract bees. You can find the most bee–friendly plants for your own garden here.

Caring for forsythia

Apart from proper pruning in the spring, forsythia is considered a very low–maintenance shrub. Some tips on how to water the plant properly and whether fertilising is necessary are given below.

Forsythia does not require much care, which makes them very popular as plants in the garden. Generally speaking, it can be said that, as a rule, you do not need to water the bush – the rain in this country is enough. But it is nonetheless worth working compost and leaves into the soil before planting so that the soil can retain moisture better. However, if the forsythia should begin to droop in particularly hot summer weather, you can of course help it out with a little cool water.

Forsythia bushes in bloom
Forsythia plants do not really need to be watered [Photo: taylon/]

The same applies to fertilising as to watering: Apart from the one-time incorporation of compost, you can do without fertiliser. Forsythia grows very well, even in less nutrient–rich sites.

Here is a summary of everything you need to know about the care of forsythia:

  • Watering usually not necessary
  • Water only during extreme drought
  • No fertilisation

Propagating forsythia

If you decide to plant a forsythia in your garden, you can purchase it from a gardener or garden centre. Sowing is rather unusual and takes much longer. A good way to grow several plants is to propagate them by cuttings as well as by offshoots. We present both variants and explain the difference.

Propagating forsythia by cuttings

Basically, taking cuttings is the easiest way to quickly propagate forsythia. Proceed as follows: In early summer, cut several slightly woody shoots with a length of about 15 cm on the bush. Then remove the flowers first and then the lower leaves. Then plant the cutting in the ground, preferably directly into the garden. To increase the chances of successful root formation, it is useful if you plant several cuttings at the same time.

Forsythia flowers on a branch
Flowers and leaves should be removed from a forsythia cutting [Photo: APugach/]

Propagating by layering

Another simple method of propagation, is the formation of offshoots (also called layering). Unlike with cuttings, forsythia shoots are not cut off, but (as the name suggests) shoots are bent towards the ground. Pick long shoots and dig them into a small groove in the ground. The end of the shoot should peek out of the ground again. Be sure to make sure that there is enough soil on the branch. Cut light notches in the bark of the branch before burying – new offshoots will develop from this over the course of a year. After about a year, you can then cut off the new offshoots and replant them.