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Pruning Forsythia - How to Prune Forsythia


Forsythias are so easy to grow, that they often get overlooked when it comes to care and attention.

This is its downfall in many gardens. It simply need a bit of correct pruning at the right time of the year. Therein lies another problem - the time and way in which it should be pruned.

This is probably one of the most wrongly pruned shrubs of all!

If you prune it correctly then it will favour you with masses of good sized flowers. If you do it wrong, then nothing on your Forsythia but foliage!

Don't worry, we will show and tell you how to prune four forsythia properly.

Pruning Forsythias - including the Weeping Forsythia - Forsythia suspensa

Forsythia flowers on stems and buds made in the previous year. If you prune Forsythia too late in the year, then you will be cutting off the next spring's flower buds and flowering stems! Forsythia needs a long growing season in which to make its flowering stems and flower buds for the next spring. If you prune Forsythia too late in the year, then you will be pruning off the flowering branches for next spring.

For normal Forsythia shrubs - bushes - you will need to prune them as soon as possible after flowering in the early spring. If this is done, then you will have masses of flowers the following year.

When and How to Prune Forsythia bushes and shrubs

A flowering branch of Forsythia - ready for pruning as soon as flowers fade

Right after flowering, cut out all of the stems that have flowered - back to a good healthy pair of buds. Depending upon how vigorous your forsythia variety is, the pruning cuts may be from between 12 in (30cm) to 2ft (60cm) in length. At the same time - with an established shrub, it is a good idea to cut a few stems back down to within a few inches (cms) of the ground - say one out of every three stems pruned this way. This will encourage basal shoots to grow, which will keep the Forsythia well provided with strong stems to flower in later years.

This is a typical Forsythia stem that would be pruned out right after flowering has finished. The pruning cut would be right at the bottom of the picture. The stem will then re-grow during the year, to the same length as before.

Forsythia - Pruning diagram with red marks to show the pruning cuts

Basically >>>

a/ Cut back flowered growths at least 1/3rd of the way back into the shrub, to a new young shoot; or a strong bud (Leaf joint)

b/ Cut some of the growth - about 25% - right back to within a few cm of the ground. This will produce nice basal growth, which in turn will be part of your framework for the following year. If you don't do this, then the shrub will simply get taller each year, with the flowering growth right at the top.

Pruning cuts well back into the growth. It is no use just trimming the ends off this shrub. Cut back well into the bush as shown, low down the flowered stem - ideally to a pair of strong new buds.

But DO remember to do this as soon as possible after the Forsythia has finished blooming in mid-spring.

It will take a few years - 2 - 3 to see the effect, but it is well worth the wait. Once your weeping, multi-stemmed Forsythia is establishes, then all of the pruning should be aimed at getting this waterfall of gold from the tops of the main stems. After a few years of growth, then you can annually cut out one in three of the weeping branches back to the main stem, to allow even more weeping branches over time. Now you see why you need the strong stake to hold it up - especially in strong winds.

Forsythia - Pruning diagram with red marks to show the pruning cuts

Don't forget the lower cuts to force some basal growth. By cutting some of the main stems of your Forsythia bush back to near ground level, you will get a continued supply of new stems - which will ensure that your Forsythia shrubs flower from top to near bottom. Not just at the top of an untidy mess of a shrub.

Do this each year and you will get larger flowering branches - full of good coloured bell flowers, and afterwards, bright green foliage, which incidentally will be good for Autumn - Fall - colour. Gold to orange foliage.

Pruning Forsythia Hedges

Forsythia make good dense and colourful hedges, that can be kept well under control for a small (3ft) 1m high hedge - or as a larger hedge. If you want a well clipped hedge of Forsythia, the pruning is carried out with either a pair of shears or a hedge trimmer. The hedge can be cut twice each year, with the last cut taking place in Late July/August.

Providing that the pruning is a light trim, and not back hard into the stems, then there will be plenty of flowers the following year. If the hedge gets too 'open' then don't be afraid to prune it hard in Early Summer. It will soon send out a mass of new shoots with which you can re-form your hedge. Thereafter, prune as above.

Pruning Weeping Forsythia

Forsythia suspensa - The weeping Forsythia - grown as a hedge - should only be pruned the once, to allow plenty of long arching stems to form an attractive - but slightly informal hedge.

Pruning Weeping Forsythia as a tall shrub, is slightly different to the normal Forsythia bush pruning. As the Forsythia suspensa has a weeping habit, the way to go is to aim for the long arching branches from the top of he shrub. It may be necessary to train three or four main stems up a stout stake, and when the stems have reached the desired height - normally around 1.8 metres - prune the tops to encourage new arching shoots from the top - thereby giving you a weeping standard Forsythia bush.

Forsythia - Popular Spring Flowering Shrubs

Forsythia Spring Flowering Shrubs

Forsythia - full of flowers

Forsythia is one of the most popular of the spring flowering shrubs – so much so that some people class them as weeds! If you see a shrub with a mass of bright golden flowers in mid spring - March to April - is almost certainly one of the Forsythia group of deciduous shrubs.

They are very easy to grow in virtually any garden soil, and also withstand a bit of a dry spell in the summer.

The only drawback with the Forsythia, is the fact that once it has provided its mass of flowers, you are left with a nondescript green foliage shrub through until autumn, when the foliage takes on its autumn colours for a short time. The autumn foliage is attractive and can range from yellow through to orange, but with yellow being the predominant colour.

Most of the Forsythia group of shrubs - there are several popular types - can grow to around 2.4m tall though 1.8m is normal. It will have a similar spread - given to the space. Forsythia is quite quick growing to semi-maturity - in 3-4 years. Most of the Forsythias grow reasonable erect as shrubs, though there are a few that have arching stems – even hanging.

My first memory of Forsythia, is of my mother returning from the vicinity of the 'posh' house, with a few twigs of Forsythia in bud, after she had 'pruned' the bits that overhung the footpath! These were placed in a jar and held pride of place on the sideboard - giving weeks of bright yellow 'cut flowers'!

Where to Plant Forsythia

Forsythias grow and flower well in full sunshine or light, though they will tolerate and put on a good show in dappled shade. It is the perfect back of border shrub, with most of its flowers on the top half of the shrub. They are the ideal shrub for lightening up a dark corner of the garden in the spring flowering season – with a dark background to set off the masses of golden bell flowers.

Hedges of Forsythia

Forsythia are well suited to growing as a colourful hedge, though a little bit sparse at ground level. This can be overcome with a suitable planting of naturalized bulbs, or even Lavenders or Heathers. They clip well and can be restrained to a hedge of no more than a meter high if required.

For a taller hedge, the variety of Forsythia suspense is a good choice. It can be side clipped, but leave the top branches to arch over in the spring – full of flowers. Prune these off right after flowering.

General Care of Forsythia

Pruning of forsythia is quite simple, though if you do it at the wrong time, you will have no flowers the following spring.

You can plant forsythias in any garden soil – lime, neutral or slightly acid. Though they tolerate dry sites, they also respond well with their growth in a moist be well drained area. Full sun, or woodland shade are acceptable choices of planting positions.

Propagation of Forsythia

Propagation of Forsythia is quite easy with semi-ripe cuttings, or simply a 30cm length of stem inserted into garden soil during the autumn or early winter. This needs to be ripened current season growth.

No pests to worry about with Forsythia. They are generally trouble free, though they are sometimes affected with honey fungus if it is prevalent in the area.


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