Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia ‘Lynwood’) is somehow underappreciated and overused. How does that even happen? The first yellow blooms you see in Virginia, often as early as February, are Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum). They’re a pale, sort of washed-out yellow. The next set of yellow blooms you see are a vibrant, grab you by the lapels and shake you like in an old movie kind of yellow visible from hundreds of yards away. THAT, my friends, is forsythia.
The problem with forsythia comes down to wrong plant, wrong place. Forsythia wants to get big, growing to between 6 to 9 feet tall and wide. Where do people plant them? In a space that’s way too small. That means constantly shearing the heck out of them, resulting in – best case scenario – a lumpy, twiggy, pitiful wretch of a plant. Worst case scenario, the forsythia gets sheared into a box shape right at bloom time and ends up looking like someone who lives in a pineapple under the sea.
Forsythia can be stunning if treated right. It’ll tolerate shearing if that’s what has to happen, but it’s a sprawling, loose plant. Let it be sprawling and loose. A sprawling and loose plant doesn’t make a very good specimen all on its own, so don’t use it as one. Forsythia look their best when used as a massing plant. Much like dogs, they’re going to be happier in a pack. I bet you never knew that social plants were even a thing, did you? Look how gorgeous this forsythia hedge looks:
Bottom line – give them room to do what nature intended and you will love forsythia. Trying to make it something it’s not is where we have problems.