White forsythia: planting, pruning & hardiness
Although white forsythia emits a pleasant, delicate fragrance and is easy to care for, the early flowering ornamental shrub is a fairly rare sight in our gardens.
White-flowering snow forsythia (Abeliophyllum distichum) is the only species of its genus and is also a bee-friendly ornamental plant. Here we explain everything about planting and care – whether in a bed or container.
White forsythia: origin and properties
White forsythia, also known as snow forsythia, originated in Korea, with only 7 natural sites in South Korea. In some places, unfortunately, it is threatened with extinction. Abeliophyllum distichum is the only species within the Abeliophyllum genus, which is not, however, closely related to the similar-sounding Abelia genus. The white forsythia did not get its name ‘white forsythie’ by chance – like the forsythia (Forsythia), it belongs to the forsythieae strain within the olive family (Oleaceae). The ornamental shrub bears its white to pale pink flowers in early spring, from about March to early May. They give off a pleasant, almond-like smell.
White forsythia typically grows slowly, between 10 and 30 cm per year, which makes it ideal for small gardens. It looks particularly beautiful amidst evergreen yews (Taxus) and boxwoods (Buxus), although it is also a real eye-catcher on its own. After flowering, the dark green, lanceolate leaves sprout, which are arranged on opposite sides of the branches. Snow forsythia is a deciduous shrub – the foliage turns yellow to reddish in the autumn and is later shed. Fruit ripening takes place in the summer. Flat wing nuts measuring up to 4 cm in size are formed. The snow forsythia forms a broad base over the years due to its rather ground-level – basitone – branching and lateral tillering. Overall, it reaches a height of 150 to 200 cm and grows up to 175 cm in width. With age and reserved pruning, you can expect a drooping growth habit.
Is the white forsythia bee friendly? Yes, white forsythia’s early bloom provides bees and bumblebees with vital nectar as early as March. Bumblebees, which are already looking for food at a temperature of 2 °C, enjoy the early bloomer.
Tip: Abeliophyllum distichum ‘Roseum’, also known as rose forsythia, displays beautiful pink flowers in spring, which turn white over time. In autumn, the leaves turn a dark red colour. Otherwise, the rose forsythia should be planted and cared for in the same way as the white forsythia.
Planting abeliophyllum distichum
The heat-loving Abeliophyllum distichum requires a sheltered, sunny to semi-shaded site. In its natural habitat, snow forsythia grows in rocky areas with dry surfaces and moist subsoil. Soil requirements are generally not high, but a humus-rich, nutrient-rich and loose soil is preferred. The substrate must not be permanently damp or compacted as the ornamental shrub does not tolerate waterlogging. As for the pH, a site with slightly acidic to alkaline soil should be chosen.
The optimal time to plant ornamental shrubs, and therefore snow forsythia, is in the autumn, before the ground freezes. At this time the soil is still warm from summer and usually fresh to moist. Over the autumn months and later in the spring, snow forsythia can establish roots and then sprout vigorously. Alternatively, planting is also possible in spring. After that, be sure to water the seedlings regularly. If the snow forsythia is supplied in a container, it is theoretically possible to plant it all year around, although autumn is also recommended as the time to do this.
Tip: planting in overcast weather protects the woody plant. If there is a lot of sun exposure, it could be prone to more water loss and therefore drought stress.
Once you have found the ideal location, it is time to plant. We show you step-by-step what to consider.
- Keep a planting distance of about 1 m from neighbouring plants.
- Snow forsythia form heart roots, that is, they form roots vertically and horizontally. Therefore, dig a pit at least twice the size of the root ball.
- Loosen the soil deeply, especially in heavy, clay-rich soils.
- If necessary, incorporate a drainage layer of gravel or chippings to prevent waterlogging later.
- Snow forsythia should be planted as deep as it was planted in the nursery. You can usually tell by the discolouration of the bark: at the neck of the root, the colour and structure of the bark change. However, snow forsythia is not overly picky about its planting depth.
- After planting, fill the gaps with soil.
- Finally, water the ornamental plant well. This causes unwanted air holes to close and anything that has sagged can be filled with soil later.
- Fertilisation is not necessary when planting – at most, add a little rotted compost to your substrate.
Tip: if you want to create a hedge, 2 white forsythia can be planted per metre.
Planting in a container is also possible. To do this, select a container larger than the root ball. A distance of 10 cm between the root ball and the edge of the container is sufficient. Next, lay a drainage layer of gravel, broken clay or expanded clay. Centre the ornamental shrub and fill the gaps with suitable substrate. Our Plantura Organic Flower Compost is ideal for ornamental shrubs in containers because the substrate contains crushed expanded clay. This causes the earth to slump less quickly and weighs less overall. In addition, it is 100% peat-free and is thus produced using less CO2.
- Perfect for all flowering plants in garden beds & pots
- For beautiful blossoms & healthy plant growth
- Peat-free & organic soil: CO2-saving composition
White forsythia care: pruning, watering and more
The undemanding white forsythia is easy to care for. However, in order to achieve optimal growth and magnificent flowering, the following things should be considered:
At best, lay mulch material on the root base in spring or autumn. This can be done for bedding and container plants immediately after planting. The mulch layer offers many advantages, including uniform soil moisture, protection from heat in summer and cold in winter. Remember to spread a layer of fertiliser under the mulch, as mulch material is able to temporarily bind plant nutrients – making them unavailable to plants for an extended period of time.
Watering and fertilising white forsythia
White forsythia should be watered during prolonged periods of drought. Otherwise, irrigation is not necessary. Potted plants need to be watered more regularly.
White forsythia in rich soils usually do not need fertilising at all. For particularly lean substrates and in containers, it is advisable to add ready-made compost or a primarily organic fertiliser to the plant every year.
Tip: compost is suitable for different applications depending on the degree of rotting.
Be sure to fertilise potted plants annually as the nutrient content in the substrate decreases over time. Preferably use a granular fertiliser, such as our Plantura Flower Food, which promotes root development, resistance and thus frost hardiness due to its optimal nutrient composition. The contained phosphorus also promotes flower formation and ensures numerous flower spikes. To do this, spread the granules under the mulch layer in spring and water the area.
- Perfect for flowering plants in the garden & on the balcony
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- Long-lasting fertiliser that is free from animal products - child & pet friendly
Determine if the pot is too small over time by removing the plant – if you see more roots than substrate, the ornamental shrub will tolerate a larger pot.
Pruning white forsythia
A so-called thinning pruning should be carried out once the white forsythia is at least three years old. This involves cutting off the closely spaced and older branches just above the ground. The optimal time for this is immediately after flowering. The thinning pruning causes new growth of young shoots, which creates new flowers in the coming autumn. These, in turn, open during the next flowering season.
Is white forsythia hardy?
White forsythia is hardy and can withstand temperatures as low as -17 °C, although a sheltered location should still be chosen. Young plants should be protected from frosts in winter. You have several options here, whether with mulch or jute tents – we have compiled tips on how to protect your plants from frost.
White forsythia is considered slightly poisonous. Mild discomfort has been observed in dogs and cats, so caution is advised around pets.
Woody plants can not only look beautiful, but also act as beneficial plants. Harvesting the flower buds of the non-hardy clove tree (Syzygium aromaticum) yields the well-known clove spice. We explain how you can grow this exotic spice yourself in a container.