Spotlight On: Forsythia, The Herald Of Spring

By March 3, 2020 Plant Spotlight
forsythia in spring

Spring is in the air! It’s time for fresh blooms and exciting bursts of garden color. There’s no shortage of springtime delights to thrill the senses, from tiny shoots peeking up through thawing soil, to soft buds emerging on tree branches, and sweetly scented petals unfurling on early-blooming flowers.

As the weather warms and our landscapes come alive, we anticipate the months ahead filled with flowers and foliage, birds and butterflies, pond gazing and patio entertaining. There’s a lot to look forward to, but there are only a few very special spring pleasures, plants and trees that are as fleeting as that quiet lull between winter chill and summer heat.

These unique plantings are often the first sign of a shifting season, and they fill us with renewed hope and joy. Their colors and scents appear in a moment and are gone again, making them all the more special for their brief and cherished appearance.

In this Spotlight series, we’ll explore some of these treasures as we collectively prepare for a breath of fresh air this spring. Today’s gem is the golden yellow Forsythia, in all its wild and playful glory.

forsythia early bloomThe Promise Of Forsythia

Nothing says spring like these tiny, vibrant yellow flowers. The Forsythia bursts into color long before a single green leaf emerges, casting its golden flames up through even a snow-covered ground.

It is one of the earliest spring bloomers, and a gloriously untamed promise of things to come. Its graceful, natural growth patterns make it perfect in a naturalistic landscape, whether you choose a smaller, more compact variety, or a ten-foot-tall arching beauty.

One of the great things about Forsythia is that it can be planted at pretty much any time of year. As long as the ground isn’t frozen you can even plant during winter for a spring bloom. And if you’ve had enough of winter right about now, you can still enjoy its early signs of spring by planting right after the last frost.

You can even plant this amenable shrub in a container to adorn your patio or front porch. You’ll need to keep it well watered and properly drained to maintain root health, and prune each year so that it doesn’t become unruly, but it makes an easy and enjoyable gardening project to practice your green thumb.

bird sitting in forsythiaCare & Maintenance

Forsythia grows quickly, so beware the beginner’s mistake of planting shrubs too closely together. Depending on the variety, it can add up to two full feet in height each year, which means it can quickly take over your garden!

But don’t worry – if you end up with a bit too much shrub, it’s relatively easy to transplant, and very forgiving of even the most inexperienced pruner.

Left to its own devices it can become a bit straggly, but that can be easily remedied with strategic yearly pruning. Do be careful not to turn this free-flowing beauty into a boxy hedge – it’s possible, but it hardly does justice to the natural elegance of this majestic plant.

Forsythia grows in full sun to partial shade, but puts on its best show with at least six hours of sun each day. It prefers well drained soil and will not do well in soggy conditions, but it can do well in clay, and once it’s established it’s drought-tolerant.

If you have a smaller space and you’re worried about overcrowding, you can still enjoy one of the dwarf varieties. And if your blooms start to look less impressive over time, you can prune more aggressively and sacrifice one springtime of flowers in the interest of better results for years to come.

forsythia decorWhy We Love It

Its stunning springtime enthusiasm is reason enough to love this garden staple, as is its durability and ease of maintenance. But there are even more benefits that can fly under the radar.

Forsythia makes a great privacy screen, especially against a wall or fence. Whether it’s in full bloom or relaxing through summer in a cloak of simple, green leaves, you can count on this plant to create lovely borders and thick, lush barriers.

Speaking of green leaves, they may not be quite as dramatic, but they make an excellent backdrop for late spring and summer blooms.

It’s pretty easy to grow a new plant from cuttings, too, which can be fun if you enjoy participating in the gardening experience! And even if you’d rather not get your hands dirty, you can still have tremendous creative fun with Forsythia branches.

Cut some to weave into a fresh, spring wreath for your front door. Stand a few in a narrow-rimmed vase or tall planter and decorate with ribbon or some colorful hanging Easter eggs. Gather a large handful into a rustic pail and set it against the corner of your house, beside the front door, or along porch steps. Use your imagination and make the most of this delightfully cheerful plant!

Forsythia is a garden favorite for good reason. It heralds spring, makes us smile, creates cozy spaces, and lounges patiently behind our bright summer gardens. It may even treat you to some orange and purple hues before its leaves fall in autumn.

If your garden is missing this wonderful spring plant and you’d like to enjoy it as part of your landscape, contact us for a consultation. We’ll show you all the ways that you can bring spring (and all-season!) joy to your outdoor space.