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One of the first plants to bloom in springtime is Forsythia. Its showy, golden yellow flowers brighten landscapes before its leaves appear. It can grow 8 to 10 feet tall and 10 to 12 feet wide. It has an erect habit, with most cane growing upright. Some canes are weeping, creating a wild; unkempt look. Larger varieties may become quite large and unruly, which may require more maintenance. While it is not one of our natives, it is easily transplanted, drought tolerant, relatively pest and disease-free, and adapts well to our Southern climate. It grows rapidly and is long-living.
The flowers are perhaps one of its best features. They will last for two or three weeks, unless killed by cold. The yellow flower color varies with varieties, ranging from pale to deep yellow. The flowers are 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 inches long and wide, bell-like and produced in clusters. They bloom on last year’s wood. For this reason, it is best to prune in spring after flowers to prevent cutting off buds with next year’s flowers. When pruning, it is best to thin out the older branches at the bast of the plant. This allows the more vigorous branches to take over. Shearing is discouraged as it takes away from the natural growth of the plant. Forsythia can be cut back to the ground, if needed, and will produce all new growth. The leaves appear shortly after bloom. In the fall, they may turn slightly yellow, maroon or purple, depending upon the cultivar and the amount of sunlight received.
In the landscape, Forsythia is used as a specimen or in shrub borders and groupings. They can be used to create a hedge in which they may be planted with a 3 or 4 foot spacing between plants.
Variety information can be found at the Forsythia plant detail page.