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Extension > Garden > Yard and Garden > Trees and Shrubs > Forsythia (Forsythia spp.)

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Forsythia (Forsythia spp.)

Beth Berlin and Kathy Zuzek

Plant description

Mature height: 2 to 10'
Mature width: 2 to 12'
Growth rate: Fast
Plant form: Mounded, rounded, upright
Deciduous or evergreen: Deciduous
Native range: China, Korea
Native to Minnesota: No
Invasive in Minnesota: No

Culture

Light: Full sun
Soil texture: Sand, loam, clay
Soil pH: 5.0-8.0
Soil moisture: Prefers moist, well-drained but adaptable to other
Hardiness zone: 3b-8
Pests and stresses: None serious. Visit What's wrong with my plant? – Forsythia for a list of the most common forsythia pests in Minnesota.
Other: Deer tolerant, Japanese beetle resistant, slowly suckering plant

Forsythia in the landscape

Forsythia are non-native shrubs grown for their early spring yellow bloom. They are typically used as specimen or screen plants in the landscape, require full sun, and are easy plants to grow because of their soil adaptability. Stem production is prolific and plants require regular pruning to maintain an attractive plant habit. Prune immediately after bloom. Plant width increases gradually because these plants sucker slowly. Forsythia are not bothered by deer or Japanese beetles.

One limitation to growing forsythia in Minnesota is flower bud hardiness. Dormant flower buds of non-hardy cultivars are often winter-killed in Minnesota. When spring arrives, these plants only bloom at the base of plants where snow cover insulated and protected flower buds. Cultivars that are flower bud hardy and provide reliable bloom in hardiness zones 3b-5 include 'Meadowlark', 'New Hampshire Gold', 'Northern Gold', and 'Northern Sun'. University of Minnesota cold hardiness testing showed these cultivars to be flower bud hardy to -33° F although they may still suffer occasional flower bud mortality during mid- or late-winter thaws.

Forsythia's one season of interest is spring. Bell-shaped, bright yellow flowers emerge in April or early May before leaf out. 3-5" dark green leaves cover the plants soon after. Non-ornamental seed capsules change from green to brown as they mature. When it occurs, fall color is yellow.

Some cultivars grown in Minnesota:

yellow bush

Bailey Nurseries

'Northern Sun'

close up of yellow flowers

Julie Weisenhorn, UMN Extension

Spring flowers

flower-less bush next to flowering bush

Kathy Zuzek, UMN Extension

Poor flower bud hardiness (left) vs. good flower bud hardiness (right)

large green bush

Kathy Zuzek, UMN Extension

'Northern Sun' after bloom

close up of green leaf

Kathy Zuzek, UMN Extension

Summer foliage

green pointed seed capsules on branch

Kathy Zuzek, UMN Extension

Seed capsule

Cultivar selected for:
Cultivar Good flower bud hardiness Compact growth Improved plant habit Ground-cover Variegated foliage
'Fiesta' unknown       X
Gold Cluster™ unknown X    
Gold Tide™ no     X
'Meadowlark' yes      
'New Hampshire Gold' yes      
'Northern Gold' yes      
'Northern Sun' yes      
'Sunrise' no   X  
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