919 Forsythia spp.Common Names: forsythia, weeping forsythia Family: Oleaceae (olive Family)
One of the first shrubs to bloom in spring, weeping forsythia erupts with bright golden yellow flowers all along its bare leafless branches when most plants are still in winter dormancy. The flowers are 1-2 in (2.5-5.1 cm) across with four narrow petals that spread out at right angles from a short tube. There are 1-3 flowers per node. Weeping forsythia grows in a fountainlike mound up to 10 ft (3.1 m) tall and 15 ft (4.6 m) across, with multiple stems that arch up and outward like the canes of a Lady Banks rose. The slender stems are hollow between the nodes and dotted with numerous raised lenticels. The leaves, which begin to emerge after the flowers are already open, are arranged in opposing pairs along the long, arching stems. They are toothed on the margins and 2-4 in (5.1-10.2 cm) in length, and some may be divided into three lobes. Most cultivars of Forsythia suspensa belong to var. sieboldii, the true weeping forsythia. Var. fortunei is more upright, with stiff erect stems, and var. atrocaulus has purplish young shoots and pale yellow flowers.
Border forsythia (F. X intermedia) is a hybrid species, created by crossing weeping forsythia with green-stem forsythia (F. viridissima). It is a bushier shrub with both upright and arching stems, and more numerous flowers. There are dozens of named cultivars of border forsythia, and many are showier in bloom than either of the parents. Most of the forsythias commonly available in garden centers are cultivars of border forsythia, and these are grown in the same way as the parent, weeping forsythia. One of the commonest cultivars of F. X intermedia is 'Lynwood' or 'Lynwood Gold', with rich golden yellow flowers on a 10' shrub that is both erect and sprawling.
Forsythia suspensa, the weeping forsythia is native to China.
CultureLight: Weeping forsythia (and border forsythia) can take full sun or light, dappled shade. Moisture: Forsythias do best in well drained soils with supplemental watering during dry spells. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 8. Weeping forsythia and its hybrids do best in cooler climates where they can get the required number of chilling hours below 45ºF (7.2ºC) degrees. Forsythias sometimes bloom too early in the season causing the flower buds or the flowers themselves to get destroyed by late freezes. Propagation: Greenwood cuttings taken in spring or early summer are easy to root in moist sand. Semiripe cuttings taken in later summer also are easy to root.
Use the forsythias in mixed shrub borders, mixed hedges or, better yet, as a specimen shrub so that its long arching canelike stems can be allowed to develop freely. Be sure to give it enough room. Weeping forsythia is often planted at the top of slopes, banks or containment walls so the stems can trail down. They can also be trained up a wall or allowed to grow up and into a tree or large shrub. This is especially attractive on a deciduous shrub or tree, covering it with happy yellow flowers in the very early spring before it gets leaves and flowers of its own. Weeping forsythia is not a good choice for foundation plantings.
Periodic pruning of old, nonproductive stems at ground level will help maintain a healthy, vigorous plant by stimulating the growth of new stems. Prune soon after blooming because the buds for next spring's flowers are produced on stems that grew the previous summer.
White tailed deer love forsythia and will keep the leaves stripped all summer long if allowed half a chance. Let it grow up into a tree where the deer (unless they have step ladders) can't reach it.
Steve Christman 3/15/01; updated 12/6/06, 12/19/15