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Forsythia

A forsythia shrub in spring with yellow flowers and no leaves
'Northern Sun' forsythia

(Forsythia spp.) are non-native shrubs grown for their yellow flowers that bloom in early spring. They are easy plants to grow because of their adaptability.

Forsythia's main season of interest is spring, but some varieties have yellow fall leaf color.

They are often used in groupings or as screen plants in the landscape.

Branches of forsythia with yellow, bell-shaped flowers
Spring flowers

Description

  • Deciduous shrub

  • Native to China and Korea

  • Height: 2 to 10 feet

  • Width: 2 to 12 feet

  • Fast growth rate; width increases gradually as plants sucker slowly

  • Mounded, rounded, or upright form

  • Bell-shaped, bright yellow flowers emerge in April or early May before leaf out

  • Non-ornamental seed capsules change from green to brown as they mature

Green seed capsules of forsythia on a branch
Seed capsule

Growing forsythia

Dark green leaves of forsythia in summer
Forsythia leaves in summer
  • Hardiness zone: 3b-8

  • Full sun

  • Adaptable; Sand, loam, or clay

  • Prefers moist, well-drained soil but is adaptable to other soils

  • Soil pH - 5.0 to 8.0; have your soil tested by the U of M Soil Testing Lab

  • The plant produces a lot of stems, so prune regularly after it blooms to maintain an attractive plant shape

Common pests and plant stress

  • Deer tolerant

  • Japanese beetle resistant

  • No serious disease problems 

Visit What's wrong with my plant? – Forsythia for a list of the most common forsythia pests in Minnesota.

Two forsythia shrubs with yellow flowers occurring only at the base of the plant, and one forsythia shrub covered in yellow flowers
Poor flower bud hardiness (left) vs. good flower bud hardiness (right)

Cultivated varieties of forsythia for Minnesota

One limitation to growing forsythia is flower bud hardiness. Dormant flower buds of non-hardy varieties 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.

Consult the list below for cultivars that are flower bud hardy to provide reliable bloom. Note that even the most hardy of forsythia may still suffer occasional flower bud death during mid- or late-winter thaws.

A forsythia shrub with green foliage in a landscape planting
'Northern Sun' after it's done blooming

The following cultivated varieties have been selected for flower bud hardiness, plant form and size, and pest and stress tolerances.

  • 'Fiesta' - 6 feet tall by 5 feet wide, variegated green and yellow foliage, red stems

  • Gold Cluster™ -  4 feet tall by 4 feet wide, compact growth habit        

  • 'Meadowlark' - 10 feet tall by 10 feet wide, excellent flower bud hardiness to -35

  • Show Off®Starlet - 3 feet tall by 3 feet wide, compact growth habit  

  • 'Northern Gold' - 8 feet tall by 7 feet wide, good flower bud hardiness    

  • 'Northern Sun' - 10 feet tall by 9 feet wide, good flower bud hardiness

Beth Berlin, former Extension educator; Kathy Zuzek, former Extension educator; and Julie Weisenhorn, Extension educator

Reviewed in 2018

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