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Early Forsythia

Flowers of early forsythia.

Early forsythia is a harbinger of spring when bright yellow, bell-shaped flowers lighten the spring landscape long before other plants are awake.  Shrubs reach 4 to 6 feet high and wide with a dense, erect habit and slightly arching canes.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Forsythia ovata

All Common Names:

Early forsythia, Korean forsythia

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Massing,
  • Hedge,
  • Mixed border

Size Range:

  • Large shrub (more than 8 feet),
  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet),
  • Small shrub (3-5 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7

Soil Preference:

  • Alkaline soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Occasional drought,
  • Road salt

Season of Interest:

  • Early spring,
  • Mid spring

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Yellow

Shape or Form:

  • Arching,
  • Irregular,
  • Multi-stemmed

Growth Rate:

  • Fast

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

Easy to grow in full sun for best flowering. Adaptable to wide variety of soil pH.
Prune to maintain a healthy, vigorous shrub by removing a few older canes to the ground every 2 to 3 years.
Flowers on old wood; prune after flowering. Overgrown shrubs can be rejuvenated to the ground.

Disease, pests, and problems

Crown gall, leaf spots

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Resistant to windy sites, aerial salt spray.

Native geographic location and habitat

Korea, China and Europe

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife

Early insects are attracted to flowers.

Bark color and texture 

Yellow brown stems with heavy lenticels.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Opposite, 3 to 5 inches long, upper third of leaf is serrated. Dark green leaves in summer occasionally turning pale yellow to a reddish tinge in fall.
Forsythia is one of last shrubs to drop its leaves.  

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Four-petaled, bright yellow, bell-shaped flowers appear in early spring. Flowers appear before the leaves in clusters along the stems. Blooms on old wood.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

A dehiscent capsule; not ornamentally important.

Cultivars and related hybrids

Meadowlark forsythia (Forsythia 'Meadowlark'):  A popular hybrid (F. ovate x F. europaea) reaching 8 to 10 feet high and 6 to 10 feet wide; semi-arching branches; bright yellow flowers; hardy to - 35 degrees F.

Northern Gold forsythia (Forsythia 'Northern Gold'): Upright, rounded habit reaching 6 to 8 feet high and 5 to 7 feet wide; golden yellow flowers, Canadian introduction cold hardy to -30 degrees F.

Northern Sun forsythia (Forsythia 'Northern Sun'): A dense rounded shrub with spreading branches; 8 to 10 feet high and wide; clear yellow flowers; hardy to - 30 degrees F.

Sunrise forsythia (Forsythia 'Sunrise'): Full, dense rounded shrub with spreading branches; 5 to 6 feet high and wide; bright yellow flowers; hardy -20 degrees F.


Location of Forsythia ovata (Early Forsythia) at the Arboretum