Forsythias are a group of deciduous shrubs known for bold yellow blooms. The flowers appear early in the spring. When they emerge, they add a vibrant burst of color to the landscape while other species remain dormant.
This forsythia genus is named for the Scottish botanist William Forsyth. It features around 11 species and is a part of the Oleaceae family. Of the 11 commonly known forsythia species, all but one are native to Asia. The other is native to Europe.
While it is not difficult to care for forsythias, there are a few care guidelines you should know about.
We rounded up 10 of our favorite forsythia varieties, along with our best tips that will help you ensure that your forsythia shrub will thrive in your yard.
Ideal Growing Conditions for Forsythias
Understanding the correct growing conditions for forsythias will help them to thrive for many years. Forsythias are relatively low-maintenance shrubs. But improper growing conditions can have a negative effect on any plant species.
Below you will find the best growing conditions for forsythia shrubs.
USDA Hardiness Zones: 4-9
Forsythias are cold hardy. But in regions where the winter temperature drops below zero degrees, there is a risk that the forsythia will lose its flower buds.
Sun/shade exposure: Forsythias prefer full sun or part shade. Full sun, six or more hours per day, often leads to the most consistent blooms.
Other climate factors: Forsythias enjoy regions with mild temperature ranges. They survive in some cold climates, but average temperatures in the 60s and 70s are best. They also like regions with some humidity.
But failing to meet these conditions does not mean your forsythia will fail to grow. These temperatures and humidity levels simply represent the ideal ranges for forsythias.
Planting and Establishing Forsythias
You can plant forsythias at almost any time of year. All you need to do is avoid planting them during a frost.
For those in northern climates, spring planting may be the best option. Planting in spring gives your forsythia plenty of time to develop before the winter arrives.
In general, fall is also a great time of year for planting. In that season, the soil remains warm to promote root development. Meanwhile, the air is cool which reduces water needs.
After planting, water regularly during the first year. Applying an organic mulch will help improve soil nutrient levels and maintain soil moisture.
After forsythias are established, you only need to water them during droughts.
Don’t fertilize forsythias in the first year after planting. Wait until they begin to establish themselves in their new home.
Once your forsythia exhibits steady healthy growth, you can begin to apply fertilizer.
Use a balanced all-purpose fertilizer or an organic such as the following.
It is best to fertilize forsythias after they lose their leaves in fall. As an alternative, you can also fertilize just before the flowers emerge in early spring.
Proper fertilization helps your forsythia bloom with larger and more abundant flowers.
Insects and Diseases
There are only a few common problems with forsythia shrubs. They include the following.
When a forsythia has crown gall, you will see engorged knobs along the branches. In the case of twig blight, entire branches and their leaves will die off.
Often, the best way to remedy these issues is to prune away the infected branch. But to do so, you need to know how to properly prune a forsythia shrub.
How to Prune Forsythias
Pruning is especially important when caring for a forsythia. Without pruning, these shrubs can spread quickly forming dense unmanageable thickets.
If you are planting forsythia as a part of a privacy hedge, as many people do, this twig and foliage density may be exactly what you are looking for. However, for most, an unpruned forsythia has a form that is too erratic to be desirable.
If you decide to prune your forsythia, follow these guidelines.
This method is called renewal pruning because it promotes future growth. It also maintains a regularity in the shrub’s form.
However, renewal pruning can temporarily reduce the number of flowers that bloom on your shrub. But this is no cause for concern. In future seasons your forsythia will grow and bloom with even more vigor because of this pruning.
10 Most Stunning Forsythia Varieties That’ll Paint Your Spring with Radiant Hues
Forsythia is not the largest genus around, but there are still multiple species and hybrids to consider. As mentioned above, there are 11 total forsythia species. However, many of these are not common in North America. This list will focus on the species which are common and their hybrids.
Reading this list, you will learn to identify and care for different forsythia varieties. Hopefully, you can find the best forsythia for your landscape.
Listed below are some of the more commonly grown varieties of forsythia for the garden:
Here are 10 of the best varieties of forsythia bushes that perform well in home gardens:
1: Forsythia × Intermedia (Border Forsythia)
Border forsythia is a medium-sized deciduous shrub. Its branches take the form of arching canes. Often, these shrubs spread via suckering and form dense thickets.
The overall form is upright as each curved stem bends from the roots to the extent of the canopy. These stems can have a square exterior shape rather than being completely rounded.
The leaves of border forsythia are simple and grow opposite each other along the stems. They have serration and a dark green color in summer. In fall, this foliage takes on a purple hue.
The main attraction to this plant is its early-season flowers in March and April. While most other plants are not yet in bloom, border forsythia is covered in bright yellow flowers. These extensive blooms precede the emergence of the leaves.
This shrub has decent winter hardiness and adapts to both acidic and alkaline soils. It can be difficult to prevent border forsythia from spreading rapidly once established.
2: Forsythia Ovata (Korean Forsythia)
Korean forsythia is a spreading deciduous shrub. It is known to be one of the earliest blooming forsythias.
At times, these flowers appear as early as February. When they bloom, the flowers are bright yellow with a slight green tint.
The leaves are deciduous and broad with an ovate shape. Their margins are serrated.
Regarding growth habit, Korean forsythia is a small shrub with a varying form. At times this form is compact. In other scenarios, it is stiff but spreading.
This shrub is adaptable to many soil types and prefers full sun to part sun. This plant can survive a moderate drought when mature. For the best flower production, plant in full sun.
3: Forsythia Suspensa (Weeping Forsythia)
Weeping forsythia is a deciduous shrub with an interesting leaf shape. These leaves can take one of two forms. The first is as a simple ovate shape. The alternative is a three-lobed form. In both cases, the margins are serrated.
Similarly, weeping forsythia can have one of two growth habits. The first is as a medium-sized shrub with dramatic arching branches. When trained, it can also grow as a woody vine.
As with other forsythia varieties, weeing forsythia can be difficult to contain. The branches prove to be exceptionally challenging. They grow upward and arch back towards the ground. When they touch the ground, they often take root there.
Control this growth habit through proper pruning. Prune this shrub just after flowering. Choose well-drained soils with good drainage for the best results.
4: Forsythia ‘Arnold Dwarf’ (Arnold Dwarf Forsythia)
The Arnold dwarf forsythia results from a cross between Forsythia x intermedia and Forsythia japonica var. saxatilis. It is an exceptionally small forsythia shrub reaching a maximum height of only three feet.
Arnold dwarf forsythia shared the same early-season yellow flowers as other forsythia varieties. These blooms typically appear in March and sometimes as early as February.
Because of its dense low-growing habit, Arnold dwarf forsythia is often used as a ground cover.
The leaves are deciduous and about one to two inches long. They feature a sharp serration in their margins. In fall they turn a muted yellow color.
Provide well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. However, even in ideal conditions, flowering can be delayed. Often it takes at least six years for the first seasonal blooms to appear.
5: Forsythia × Intermedia ‘Arnold Giant’ (Arnold Giant Forsythia)
Arnold giant forsythia is a large deciduous shrub. It reaches ten feet in both height and spread.
Unlike some other forsythias, Arnold giant forsythia has a more rigid upright habit. It also has better winter hardiness than other forsythia varieties.
The leaves of this shrub are large and thick. They have a dark green color in the summer.
Unfortunately, the blooms of Arnold giant forsythia are not as impressive as those of other forsythias. These flowers appear in lower quantities in early spring.
On the plus side, this shrub can survive in a variety of soil types. This includes clay soils and nutrient-deficient soils.
6: Forsythia Viridissima (Greenstem Forsythia)
The branches of greenstem forsythia are stiff and upright. They for a flat-topped shape that is ten feet tall at maximum height.
The flowers are bright yellow with a greenish tinge. They bloom slightly later than other forsythias, but they remain as a generally early bloomer compared to other plant species.
As the name implies, the stems of this shrub have a slight greenish hue.
Full sun produces the most promising flower display. In addition, greenstem forsythia has a preference for soils that are neutral to alkaline. It can also survive in some urban conditions.
Prune just after flowering. Every, two years, consider cutting this plant back to the ground to reinvigorate growth for the years to come.
7: Forsythia Viridissima ‘Bronxensis’ (Greenstem Forsythia)
The ‘Bronxensis’ variety of Forsythia viridissima is quite unique among forsythias. Despite this, it shares the common name, greenstem forsythia, with its parent species.
This small shrub usually grows to less than one foot in total height. However, its spread can double or triple that measurement. Because of this, this plant is treated more like a ground cover than a full shrub.
The flowers and foliage of this shrub are also different from other forsythias. The leaves are ovate and serrated. But they are also bright green rather than having an unremarkable dull green like so many other forsythia species.
The flowers stand out the most. Rather than being bright yellow, they are exceptionally pale. At times, they appear to be nearly white.
This shrub is capable of surviving in some urban pollution. It can also be easily pruned to the ground to promote future growth.
8: Forsythia × Intermedia ‘Beatrix Farrand’ (Beatrix Farrand Forsythia)
The forsythia variety known as Beatrix Farrand forsythia is named for a prominent 19th-century landscape architect. This shrub has fantastic blooms.
The flowers are yellow and about two inches long. They bloom in high abundance in March and April.
Horticulturalists at the Arnold Arboretum developed this cultivar by crossing Forsythia ‘Arnold Giant’ with Forsythia x intermedia ‘Spectabilis.’
This shrub reaches about eight feet at maturity. It has long canes that can give it an unkempt appearance. Because of this form, it is often best to use this forsythia as a part of a hedge.
9: Forsythia ‘Meadowlark’ (Meadowlark Forsythia)
Meadowlark forsythia is one of the larger forsythia varieties. At maturity, the height and spread often match at a dimension of ten feet.
This forsythia has an irregular habit with branches that curve slightly. These branches hold dark green leaves. The leaves are able to hold their deep color late into the fall.
This forsythia also has plenty of bright yellow flowers in the early spring like other forsythias.
Meadowlark forsythia holds two main advantages over its relatives. First, it is almost entirely pest-free. Second, it has great winter hardiness.
Other forsythias can lose flowers when the temperature is just below zero. Meadowlark forsythia holds its buds even when the temperature dips to 35 degrees below zero.
10: Forsythia × Intermedia ‘Variegata’ (Border Forsythia)
This forsythia is a cultivar produced from the common species, Forsythia x intermedia. This shrub is large and rounded in its form.
The name of this forsythia cultivar is ‘Variegata.’ This is because this plant was developed to have two-toned foliage.
Each leaf has both dark green coloration and streaks of an off-white color. Over time, it is common for this color to fade to a more typical pure green.
Regarding shape, the leaves are around five to six inches long. They have an ovate shape and slight serration.
Although rounded, the form of this shrub can include a spread that exceeds its height. Because of its size, this forsythia is another variety that is suitable as part of a hedge.
The early spring landscape can be quite drab. The showy yellow blooms of forsythia shrubs act as a much-needed contrast and mark the start of the true start of spring. Many forsythia varieties are easy to plant and care for.
They are also very useful in hedges and as a means of slope stabilization. By following the guidance of this article, you can add vibrant forsythia blooms to your property.
Amber Noyes was born and raised in a suburban California town, San Mateo. She holds a master’s degree in horticulture from the University of California as well as a BS in Biology from the University of San Francisco. With experience working on an organic farm, water conservation research, farmers’ markets, and plant nursery, she understands what makes plants thrive and how we can better understand the connection between microclimate and plant health. When she’s not on the land, Amber loves informing people of new ideas/things related to gardening, especially organic gardening, houseplants, and growing plants in a small space.