Create Your Garden

Forsythia: How to Grow and Care with Success

Forsythia x intermedia, Forsythia koreana, Forsythia ovata, Forsythia suspensa, Forsythia viridissima


Forsythia: An Ode to Spring

Forsythia, often one of the earliest signs of spring, is a deciduous shrub cherished for its vibrant display of bright yellow flowers. Before most other plants have shaken off winter’s slumber, forsythia bursts into a golden spectacle, covering its branches in a dense cloak of blooms. These flowers emerge before the foliage, creating a seemingly unbroken tapestry of color.

In terms of habit, forsythia has an upright, arching growth pattern, often forming a fountain-like silhouette. Depending on the species and cultivar, it can vary in size, ranging from a compact shrub of 2 feet (60 cm) to a larger variety reaching up to 8-10 feet (2.4-3 meters) in height and spread.

The green leaves that follow the blooms are simple, with a slightly serrated margin, and can provide a modest fall color in some varieties.

Forsythia typically blooms in early spring, often one of the first shrubs to do so. The bloom period might last up to 2 weeks, depending on the local climate and specific variety. While individual flowers are relatively small and bell-shaped, they cluster densely along the branches, making for a spectacular display. The flowers are followed by dry capsules that contain winged seeds.

In terms of hardiness, forsythia is a robust plant. Most varieties are comfortable in USDA zones 5 through 9, although some cultivars, bred for cold resistance, can thrive even in zone 3. This resilience, combined with its early blooms, makes it a beacon of hope in areas with long, dreary winters.

The uses of forsythia in the landscape are multifaceted. They can be employed as informal hedges, boundary markers, or as stunning solitary specimens. Given their rapid growth, they also serve as excellent screens or natural barriers.

Beyond aesthetics, the early blooms of forsythia are beneficial to pollinators, providing a valuable food source when few other flowers are available.

Guide Information

Hardiness 5 - 9
Climate Zones 2, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, A2, A3
Plant Type Shrubs
Genus Forsythia
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Cut Flowers
Tolerance Deer, Clay Soil
Attracts Bees, Birds
Landscaping Ideas Wall-Side Borders, Hedges And Screens, Beds And Borders, Banks And Slopes, Patio And Containers
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Coastal Garden, Informal and Cottage, Traditional Garden
Forsythia x intermedia (Border Forsythia)
Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood Variety’ (Border Forsythia)
Forsythia suspensa (Weeping Forsythia)

What is Special About Forsythia?

Early Bloomer: Forsythia is among the first plants to bloom in early spring, often while the last traces of snow are still present. This makes it a herald of the coming season and a bright spot in the otherwise bare landscape.

Vibrant Color: The brilliant yellow flowers are a striking contrast to the often grey or brown backdrop of late winter, providing a much-needed splash of color.

Hardiness: Many varieties of forsythia are incredibly hardy, tolerating both cold winters and various soil conditions.

Rapid Growth: Forsythia bushes grow quickly, making them ideal for gardeners wanting to establish a shrub or hedge in a relatively short time.

Low Maintenance: Once established, forsythia requires minimal care. It’s resilient to pests, diseases, and can tolerate a bit of neglect.

Versatility: Forsythia can be used in various landscape designs. It can be a standalone specimen, part of a hedge, or even trained to grow in a particular shape.

Beneficial for Pollinators: Its early blossoms provide essential nectar sources for early-emerging pollinators.

Cultural Significance: In some cultures, particularly in East Asia, forsythia branches are used in festivals and rituals celebrating the arrival of spring.

These characteristics, combined with its longstanding use in gardens worldwide, have cemented forsythia’s reputation as a beloved and special garden plant.

Forsythia ‘Meadowlark’
Forsythia koreana ‘Kumson’
Forsythia x intermedia Show Off Starlet®

When to Plant Forsythia

The best time to plant forsythia is during the fall or early spring. Here’s why:

Fall Planting (Late September to October):

  • The soil is still warm, which allows the roots to establish before the onset of winter.
  • Planting in the fall gives forsythia a head start, so it’s ready to grow vigorously when spring arrives.
  • The consistent moisture of fall (in many regions) can be beneficial for newly planted shrubs.

Early Spring Planting (After the Last Frost):

  • If you missed the fall planting window or live in an area with harsh winters, early spring is the next best time.
  • Planting in early spring allows the forsythia to establish its roots before the hot summer months.
  • Ensure the danger of frost has passed to prevent potential damage to new growth.

Where to Plant Forsythia

Choosing the right location to plant forsythia is crucial for its optimal growth and bloom. Here’s a guide on where to plant forsythia:


  • Forsythia thrives in full sun to part shade. Ideally, it should receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily.
  • Planting it in a sunny spot will reward you with more vibrant and plentiful blooms. If planted in too much shade, it may produce fewer flowers.


  • Forsythia prefers well-draining soil but is adaptable to a variety of soil types.
  • If your soil is heavy clay or too sandy, consider amending it with organic matter like compost to improve its structure and drainage.

Avoid Low Spots:

  • Avoid planting forsythia in areas of your garden that collect water or remain soggy after rains, as this can lead to root rot.

Borders and Barriers:

  • Forsythia works well as a natural barrier or hedging plant due to its dense growth. It can be used to create privacy or screen unsightly views.
  • It also functions as a beautiful border along driveways or property lines.


  • Its vibrant yellow blooms make forsythia an excellent backdrop in mixed beds or perennial borders, adding springtime color before many other plants start to flower.

Near Structures:

  • Be cautious about planting forsythia too close to buildings or structures. As it grows, it might interfere with pathways or foundation structures.
  • Additionally, avoid planting directly under power lines or too close to fences it might outgrow.

Wildlife Considerations:

  • Forsythia isn’t a top choice for deer, so planting it can be advantageous in areas with heavy deer pressure. However, birds may take shelter in its dense branches.

By considering these factors and choosing the right location, you can ensure that your forsythia plant remains healthy and produces a vibrant display every spring.

How to Plant Forsythia

Planting forsythia correctly ensures that it establishes well and thrives in your garden. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to plant forsythia:

Prepare the Planting Site:

  • Remove any weeds, grass, or debris from the planting area.
  • Amend the soil you removed from the hole with compost or organic matter to improve its fertility and drainage capabilities.
  • If your soil is particularly clay-heavy or sandy, consider adding more organic material to optimize it.

Dig a Hole:

  • The hole should be twice as wide as the forsythia’s root ball or container but no deeper. This provides ample space for the roots to spread out.
  • If planting multiple shrubs, space them 4-6 feet (120-180 cm) apart, depending on the variety’s expected mature size.

Remove the Plant:

  • Gently remove the forsythia from its pot. If it’s balled and burlapped, remove the burlap.
  • Loosen any circling roots to encourage outward growth.


  • Place the forsythia in the hole, ensuring it’s at the same depth as it was in its original container. It’s crucial that the plant isn’t planted too deep.
  • Backfill the hole with the amended soil, patting down gently to eliminate air pockets.


  • Water the plant thoroughly after planting. This helps settle the soil and ensures that the roots make good contact.
  • Keep the soil consistently moist but not waterlogged for the first year to help the shrub establish.


  • Apply a 2-3 inch (5-7 cm) layer of organic mulch around the base of the shrub. This helps retain soil moisture, suppresses weeds, and regulates soil temperature.
  • Ensure the mulch doesn’t touch the base of the shrub directly to prevent rot.
Forsythia ‘Northern Gold’
Forsythia x intermedia Show Off®
Forsythia koreana Flying Machine®

Landscaping with Forsythia

Forsythia, with its vibrant yellow blooms, can be a stunning focal point in landscaping. Beyond just planting this ornamental shrub, strategically integrating it into your landscape can elevate the overall appeal of your garden. Here’s how you can make the most of forsythia in landscaping:

Natural Hedge or Border:

  • Forsythia grows quickly and densely, making it perfect for creating a natural hedge or border. Its height offers privacy while its spring blooms provide a cheerful splash of color.

Statement Entrances:

  • Planting forsythia on either side of your garden entrance or driveway creates a welcoming and lively entrance, especially when they’re in full bloom.

Mass Planting for Visual Impact:

  • A large area planted with forsythia can be breathtaking in the spring. This technique provides a sea of yellow, turning heads and becoming a garden centerpiece.

Slope and Erosion Control:

  • Forsythia’s robust root system makes it suitable for stabilizing banks or slopes, preventing soil erosion while beautifying the area.

Backdrop Planting:

  • Use forsythia as a background plant for perennial beds. Its height and vibrant spring color can highlight and contrast with other plants in front of it.

Mixed Shrub Border:

  • Incorporate forsythia with other deciduous and evergreen shrubs. This creates a layered look and ensures visual interest throughout the year.

Wildlife Attraction:

  • While forsythia isn’t renowned for attracting a myriad of wildlife, its dense growth can provide shelter for birds and some small animals.

Container Planting:

  • Smaller varieties of forsythia can be grown in containers. These can be placed on patios or deck areas, adding a burst of spring color.

Archway or Trellis:

  • Train younger forsythia plants to grow on archways or trellises. Over time, this creates a blooming arch, perfect for garden paths.

Foundation Planting:

  • Forsythia can be used to mask the straight lines of buildings, providing a soft and colorful foundation planting. Just ensure you leave enough space for the plant to grow without constant pruning.

Thematic Gardens:

  • Forsythia fits well in thematic gardens such as spring gardens, yellow gardens, or cottage gardens.

With its cheerful spring color and versatile growth habits, forsythia can be a cornerstone in varied landscape designs, promising annual visual delight.

Forsythia ovata (Korean Forsythia)
Forsythia ‘Happy Centennial’
Forsythia ‘Fiesta’

Companion Plants

Companion planting involves placing different species together in the garden to benefit each other. For Forsythia, which shines brightly with its yellow blooms in early spring, the ideal companions should either complement its color and shape or fill in the visual gaps once its blooming period is over. Here are some companion plants to consider for Forsythia:

Spring Flowering Bulbs:

  • Allium: The purple or white spheres of allium flowers offer a delightful contrast to the bright yellow of forsythia. They bloom a little later in the spring, ensuring continued interest in the garden.
  • Crocus: Their early bloom time overlaps with forsythia, and the combination of crocus and forsythia heralds the arrival of spring. They can be used to create a carpet effect beneath the forsythia.
  • Daffodil: Another early spring bloomer that harmonizes with forsythia.
  • Grape Hyacinth: These are small, bulbous perennials that produce clusters of blue, urn-shaped flowers that resemble bunches of grapes. Their rich blue or purple color creates a stunning contrast against the yellow forsythia blooms.
  • Tulip: Particularly purple or pink varieties, which provide a beautiful contrast to forsythia’s yellow flowers.


  • Lungwort (Pulmonaria): The blue or pink flowers and spotted leaves can look great with forsythia.
  • Pasque Flower (Pulsatilla): The delicate appearance and rich colors of Pulsatilla can contrast nicely with the vibrant yellow of forsythia. When planted near forsythia, the Pasque Flower can break up the monotony of a large forsythia shrub, providing visual interest at a lower height.


  • Red or Yellow-Twig Dogwood (Cornus sericea, Cornus stolonifera): Their colorful stems in winter can pair nicely with forsythia’s early spring blooms.
  • Azaleas and Rhododendrons: Their later blooming period and variety of colors can complement the early spring yellow of forsythia.
  • Spirea: Varieties with pink flowers or bronzy foliage can contrast well with forsythia.\
  • Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles): Both Chaenomeles and Forsythia are among the first shrubs to bloom in spring, heralding the end of winter. The vibrant flowers of the Flowering Quince, especially the red and orange varieties, can provide a striking contrast to the sunny yellows of Forsythia. When placed together, they produce a lively and dynamic spring display.

Clematis: Planting a climbing clematis near Forsythia allows it to weave through the branches, providing a secondary bloom once Forsythia’s flowers fade.

Pulsatilla vulgaris (Pasque Flower)
Allium (Ornamental Onion)
Muscari (Grape Hyacinth)
Narcissi (Daffodils)
Pulmonaria (Lungwort)
Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince)

How to Care for Forsythia

Caring for forsythia involves understanding its basic needs and ensuring that it gets the right conditions to thrive. Though forsythia is a relatively low-maintenance shrub, a bit of care can go a long way in ensuring a healthy and prolific bloom each spring. Here’s a guide on how to care for forsythia:


  • Newly planted forsythia will need regular watering until they are well-established, typically for the first season.
  • Mature forsythia is drought-tolerant to some extent. However, during prolonged dry spells, it’s beneficial to water them deeply.
  • Always water the base, not the foliage, to reduce the risk of fungal diseases.


  • In general, forsythia doesn’t demand a lot of fertilization. If desired, a balanced, slow-release fertilizer can be applied in early spring before new growth begins.


  • Pruning is essential not only for shaping but also for rejuvenating older shrubs.
  • The best time to prune forsythia is right after they finish blooming in the spring. Pruning later can remove the next year’s flower buds.
  • Remove old, thick stems at the base to encourage new, vigorous growth. Also, trim away any branches that are growing out of shape.


  • Applying a layer of mulch around the base of the shrub can help retain soil moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.
  • Ensure the mulch doesn’t touch the stem directly to prevent potential rot or pest problems.

Winter Care:

  • While forsythia is hardy, in areas with extreme winter conditions, it’s a good idea to protect the shrubs with burlap, especially if planted as a windbreak or hedge.
  • Avoid heavy snow loads on the branches. Gently shake off or brush away heavy snow to prevent branch damage.

By following these care guidelines, forsythia will reward gardeners with a glorious burst of sunny yellow blooms each spring, heralding the change of seasons and bringing early color to landscapes.

How to Propagate

Propagating forsythia is relatively straightforward, and these hardy shrubs can be easily multiplied through several methods. Here’s how to propagate forsythia:

Softwood Cuttings:

  • This is one of the most common methods for propagating forsythia.
  • In late spring or early summer, select healthy, new growths that are not too soft but have not yet become too woody.
  • Cut a 4-6 inch (10-15 cm) section, just below a node (where a leaf joins the stem).
  • Remove the leaves from the bottom half of the cutting.
  • Dip the cut end in rooting hormone powder to stimulate root development.
  • Plant the cutting in a mix of sand and peat or a suitable rooting medium, burying about half of it.
  • Keep the soil consistently moist but not soggy.
  • Place the cuttings in a shaded spot, or cover with a clear plastic dome or bag to retain humidity.
  • Roots typically develop in 4-6 weeks. Once rooted, cuttings can be transplanted to their final location or into pots.

Hardwood Cuttings:

  • This method is done during the dormant season, typically in late fall or winter.
  • Choose a healthy branch from the current year’s growth and cut it into sections 6-8 inches (15-20 cm) long.
  • Plant these sections in a mix of soil and sand, burying about two-thirds of the cutting.
  • Mark the top end to ensure you plant it the right way up.
  • The cuttings will root and establish during the winter, and by spring, they should be ready to grow actively.


  • This method involves bending a low branch down to the soil level.
  • Make a small cut or nick on the branch where it touches the soil.
  • Bury that section of the branch in the ground, using a rock or peg to hold it in place.
  • Water the area well. Over time, the buried section will develop roots.
  • Once rooted, the new plant can be severed from the parent plant and transplanted elsewhere.


  • Mature forsythia shrubs can be divided to produce new plants.
  • In spring, after flowering, dig up a portion of the shrub, ensuring you get a good amount of roots.
  • Plant this division as you would a new shrub.

With a bit of patience and care, you can easily increase your forsythia collection and enjoy even more of their bright, cheerful blooms in the garden.

Forsythia ovata, Korean Forsythia, Early Forsythia, Yellow Flowers, Winter Flowers, Early spring flowers, flowering shrubs, hardy shrubs
Forsythia ovata (Korean Forsythia)

Pests and Diseases

Forsythia is a robust and generally disease-resistant plant. However, it is not entirely immune to pests and diseases. Being aware of potential issues can help you maintain a healthy plant. Here’s a rundown of some of the pests and diseases that may affect forsythia:


  • Aphids: These small, pear-shaped insects suck the sap from forsythia leaves, leading to yellowed, distorted growth. They also excrete a sticky substance called honeydew, which can attract sooty mold.
  • Spider Mites: These tiny mites can be hard to see, but they suck sap from the undersides of leaves, causing a stippled or bronzed appearance. A fine webbing on the plant often indicates their presence.
  • Four-Lined Plant Bug: These bugs have bright yellow-green bodies with four distinct black stripes. They pierce plant leaves and suck out the sap, leaving behind small, round, dark spots. Over time, these spots can become necrotic and cause the leaves to drop prematurely.
  • Japanese Weevil: Both adult and larval stages of the Japanese Weevil can be harmful. Adults notch the edges of leaves, while larvae feed on plant roots, potentially stunting growth or killing young plants.


  • Twig Blight: Caused by the fungus Phomopsis, it leads to dieback of the ends of branches. Infected parts should be pruned out.
  • Leaf Spot Diseases: These are caused by various fungi and result in small to large brown or black spots on the leaves. They’re mostly an aesthetic issue but can be reduced by ensuring good airflow around the plant and avoiding overhead watering.
  • Crown Gall: This is caused by a bacterium that results in large, tumor-like growths at the base of the plant or on the roots. Infected plants should be removed and destroyed.

Other Issues:

  • Winter Injury: While forsythias are generally cold-hardy, sudden temperature drops in late winter or early spring can damage flower buds. This may lead to fewer blooms. Planting in sheltered locations can help mitigate this issue.

Prevention and Control:

  • Regular Monitoring: Regularly inspecting your forsythia will help you catch any issues early on.
  • Pruning: Removing dead or diseased branches helps improve airflow and reduces the chances of fungal diseases.
  • Beneficial Insects: Ladybugs, lacewings, and predatory mites can help control aphids and spider mites.
  • Neem Oil: Neem oil is an organic solution that can help with various pests and fungal diseases.
  • Good Planting Practices: Ensure the forsythia is planted in well-draining soil and spaced properly to reduce the likelihood of diseases.
  • Cleanliness: Clean up fallen leaves or debris around the plant to reduce the chance of diseases overwintering and infecting the plant the following year.

While forsythia is a hardy plant, being proactive in its care can ensure it stays healthy and vibrant throughout its life.

Forsythia 'Happy Centennial'
Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood’

Frequently Asked Questions

What does forsythia look like in winter?

In winter, forsythia sheds its leaves, revealing long, arching, naked stems. These stems are usually brown or tan in color, giving the shrub a stark appearance compared to its vibrant spring presence.

Do you cut back forsythia for winter?

Forsythia doesn’t need to be cut back for winter for protective reasons. However, the best time for pruning forsythia to encourage better blooming and maintain its shape is right after it has finished blooming in the spring. If you prune it during late summer, fall, or winter, you risk removing the next season’s blooms since forsythia blooms on old wood (the previous year’s growth).

Does forsythia bloom twice a year?

Typically, forsythia blooms only once a year in the spring. However, occasionally, if there are unusual weather patterns, such as an unexpected warm spell in the fall, some forsythia might produce a few blooms, but this isn’t common or consistent.

Does forsythia spread?

Forsythia is a vigorous grower and can spread in a couple of ways. Its arching branches can touch the ground and take root, a process known as layering. Moreover, forsythia can self-seed, although not aggressively. If you want to control its spread, monitor the plant for signs of layering and prune as necessary. It’s also a good idea to keep the area around forsythia free from debris to monitor any potential seedlings.

Compare All Forsythia
Compare Now
Guides with
While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 5 - 9
Climate Zones 2, 2B, 3, 3A, 3B, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16, 18, 19, A2, A3
Plant Type Shrubs
Genus Forsythia
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early, Mid)
Maintenance Low
Water Needs Average
Soil Type Chalk, Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained
Characteristics Showy, Cut Flowers
Tolerance Deer, Clay Soil
Attracts Bees, Birds
Landscaping Ideas Wall-Side Borders, Hedges And Screens, Beds And Borders, Banks And Slopes, Patio And Containers
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Coastal Garden, Informal and Cottage, Traditional Garden
Compare All Forsythia
Compare Now
Guides with

Related Items

Please Login to Proceed

You Have Reached The Free Limit, Please Subscribe to Proceed

Subscribe to Gardenia

To create additional collections, you must be a paid member of Gardenia
  • Add as many plants as you wish
  • Create and save up to 25 garden collections
Become a Member

Plant Added Successfully

You have Reached Your Limit

To add more plants, you must be a paid member of our site Become a Member

Update Your Credit
Card Information


Create a New Collection

Sign Up to Our Newsletter

    You have been subscribed successfully


    Create a membership account to save your garden designs and to view them on any device.

    Becoming a contributing member of Gardenia is easy and can be done in just a few minutes. If you provide us with your name, email address and the payment of a modest $25 annual membership fee, you will become a full member, enabling you to design and save up to 25 of your garden design ideas.

    Join now and start creating your dream garden!


    Create a membership account to save your garden designs and to view them on any device.

    Becoming a contributing member of Gardenia is easy and can be done in just a few minutes. If you provide us with your name, email address and the payment of a modest $25 annual membership fee, you will become a full member, enabling you to design and save up to 25 of your garden design ideas.

    Join now and start creating your dream garden!

    Find your Hardiness Zone

    Find your Heat Zone

    Find your Climate Zone