(Species: Forsythia - Family: Oleaceae)
Forsythia and its origins
Forsythia is a group of hardy deciduous shrubs in the olive family grown for their vibrant yellow flowers that bloom when little else does, in early spring.
They are named after Scottish botanist William Forsyth, and mostly originate from eastern Asia. Forsythia was discovered in China by the celebrated 19th-century plant hunter, Robert Fortune and introduced to English gardens where it remains a favourite springtime bloom.
Seasonality: Forsythia in flower
Part of the plant's charm is that the masses of small, four-petalled flowers appear on leafless stems, so they look like yellow spring blossom. Gardeners, who might not wish to have yellow blooms in their summer garden, welcome it at a less colourful time of year.
There are varieties of forsythia that make good hedging, screens, wall cover and ground cover. Forsythia x intermedia Lynwood, 3m high and Beatrix Farrand, 2m high, which has large flowers, both have upright growth and make good hedges. Karl Sax, about 2.5m high, has good autumn colour and an abundance of spring flowers. F Spectabilis is the familiar variety with deep yellow, narrow petals.
How to plant Forsythia
Forsythia is tough, hardy and will grow almost anywhere, but it will thrive in full sun, whereas in partial shade it is likely to produce fewer flowers.
Plant in fertile, well-drained soil.
As soon as the flowers have faded, cut out the oldest flowered branches to keep the shrub bushy and productive. Forsythia hedges should be trimmed at this time too. Leave pruning till summer and there will be few flowers the following spring.
Propagation of Forsythia
Take softwood forsythia cuttings in summer or hardwood cuttings in open trenches in autumn or winter. You can also layer shoots to root in the ground and form new plants.
Did you know?
Forsythia suspensa, a species of forsythia that can trail along the ground or be trained on a support, is one of the 50 fundamental herbs used in traditional Chinese medicine.