The Morton Arboretum logo

TREES & plants


White forsythia flowering in spring.

The white-forsythia is a small shrub with a rounded to arching habit that is great for specimen planting. Its fragrant, white flowers bloom in early spring.  This early bloomer is spectacular in spring, but offers very little seasonal beauty through the rest of the year.  Prune after flowering to promote new stem growth and a fuller plant.  

Botanical name: 
Abeliophyllum distichum
All Common Names: 
White-forsythia, white forsythia, Korean abelialeaf
Family (English): 
Family (Botanic): 
Tree or Plant Type: 
  • Shrub
Native Locale: 
  • Non-native
Landscape Uses: 
  • Specimen
  • Massing
  • Foundation
  • Mixed border
Size Range: 
  • Small shrub (3-5 feet)
Light Exposure: 
  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily)
Hardiness Zones: 
  • Zone 5
  • Zone 6
  • Zone 7
  • Zone 8
Soil Preference: 
  • Moist, well-drained soil
  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
Season of Interest: 
  • Early spring
Flower Color & Fragrance: 
  • Fragrant
  • White
Shape or Form: 
  • Arching
  • Multi-stemmed
  • Round
Growth Rate: 
  • Moderate
  • Fast
More Information: 

Tree & Plant Care

3 to 5 feet high and 3 to 4 feet wide. 
Best in full sun in well-drained soil.

Prune every 3 to 4 years after flowering to promote new stem growth and encourage a fuller more tidier plant.
Can be cut to the ground to rejuvenate. 

Disease, pests, and problems

No serious diseases or pests

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to Central Korea where it grows on hillsides

Bark color and texture 

Young stems are light brown while older stems take on a shredded appearance.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Simple leaves arranged oppositely (in pairs), oval, 2 to 3 inches long, smooth edges
Green leaves in summer; no significant fall color

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

White, 4-petaled flowers in elongated clusters

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Small, dry, winged capsule (not ornamentally important)