Forsythia – A Beautiful Harbinger of Spring

Forsythia (Efraimstochter |

Photo Credit: Efraimstochter |

After a long, drab winter, most gardeners anxiously await the arrival of spring. One sure sign that spring has truly arrived is the sight of the bright yellow flowers of the forsythia. These lovely yellow-flowering shrubs that foretell the coming of spring grow in almost any soil and are hardy – even in Michigan. 

Forsythias, also known as golden bells, are available in many sizes, require minimum care and tolerate city pollution. Plus, they are represented by so many species and cultivars, you can choose the perfect one for your landscape, that is, as long as you like plants with amazing yellow flowers.

Probably no other shrubs you can name are as distinctive in early to late April. What a delight it is to observe them when the end of winter weather is near and warmer temps are just around the corner.

Forsythia (Hans |

Photo Credit: Hans |

There really is a forsythia for every landscape. This is a fast-growing deciduous shrub, increasing in size and width by 1-2 feet a year. Depending on selections, forsythia can be found as small as 1 foot tall, while others grow to 10 feet high and just as wide. They’re generally found in landscapes as graceful and informal hedges, planted in mass or used as striking specimen plants. Taller varieties can be espaliered against a wall or fences, but no matter where they’re planted, one thing is for sure: they’re blooming traffic-stoppers – with graceful, cascading branches of bright golden-yellow flowers.

The most popular of golden bells is “Forsythia x intermedia”, represented by at least 30 cultivars. “Spectabilis” is a popular and vigorous selection that reaches 10 feet tall and wide. Another popular choice, as well as one of the best is actually a selection of “Spectabilis”: a plant known in the nursery trade as “Lynwood” also called “Lynwood Gold”. Also growing 10 feet tall and wide, this forsythia might be the perfect starting place for those who are new to planting this brilliant shrub.

Forsythia (curlsdiva |

Photo Credit: curlsdiva |

Because some forsythias are marginally hardy to northern climates and may suffer from sudden freezes and snow covers, cold-hardy selections have been introduced that may survive -30 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. Among them are “Meadowlark” which grows 8-10 feet tall and up to 15 feet wide; “Northern Gold”, 6-8 feet tall and 5-7 feet wide; and “Sunrise”, a compact form at 4-6 feet tall with a spread of only 3-5 feet. Ask your local garden center professional or Cooperative Extension office which ones perform best where you live.

In addition to just being attractive shrubs, forsythias are good investments for your landscape as they are long-lived and take little care beyond annual trimming and feeding. They perform well in most soils, but like many other plants do best in well-drained sites.

Forsythias grow and flower in full sun or in light shade. For best flowering, they should be fed moderately in late winter to early spring with a balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer. Pruning should be done immediately after flowering, as the plants bloom on wood produced the previous summer. Older branches can be cut back severely, and others trimmed to the desired length. Older plants that don’t bloom at all should be cut to the ground. Within two years they should begin to bloom again – stronger than ever.

Forsythia (PublicDomainPictures |

Photo Credit: PublicDomainPictures |

Speaking of cutting branches, if you want a brilliant display of flowers in your home, cut back some forsythia branches, place them in a vase and enjoy a fabulous spring bouquet from the comforts of your couch.

Forsythias are now available in most garden centers. Plant one now and enjoy a golden spring!


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