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.
All Common Names:
Tree or Plant Type:
- Mixed border
- Large shrub (more than 8 feet),
- Medium shrub (5-8 feet),
- Small shrub (3-5 feet)
- Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
- Zone 4,
- Zone 5 (Chicago),
- Zone 6,
- Zone 7
- Alkaline soil,
- Moist, well-drained soil
- Occasional drought,
- Road salt
Season of Interest:
- Early spring,
- Mid spring
Flower Color & Fragrance:
Shape or Form:
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.