On behalf of forsythias everywhere, allow me to make one humble plea: Stop butchering us!
We love space. Lots and lots of space. A space 12 feet across would not be too large. When you visualize the ideal forsythia, you should think of a cascading shower of golden fireworks shooting towards the sky and arching elegantly back to earth. Not a cube. Not a sphere. Not a champagne-cocktail glass. We’re free spirits!
So when you’re planting a forsythia bush, choose a space we can be happy in. If you need a shrub that will be happy while hemmed into a 2-foot space between the foundation and the sidewalk, we’d rather you chose a boxwood or some other plant that doesn’t mind being manicured.
Once you’ve found our ideal spot, in full sun and well-drained soil, we won’t ask for much from you. Just a little compost now and then.
If we get a little out of bounds, here’s how to keep us looking pretty:
After we bloom in spring, give us a pruning. Remove any dead branches, and any that are rubbing against each other. Then, instead of shearing the tips of our branches all over, cut back some of the old growth to about 4 inches from the ground. If we need heavier pruning, this is the best time to do it, as we will recover quickly. Wait too long, and we won’t have time to produce the flower buds that will become next year’s blooms. Pruning us in the heat of summer will just make us stress out, and pruning in fall and winter may remove some of our buds, so we’ll give you fewer flowers in spring.
If we’ve become old and woody, you don’t need to give up on us. Cut us all the way back to the ground, and we will surprise you by rejuvenating ourselves within a few years. If you can’t bring yourself to do that, take down one-third of our branches to the ground every year for 3 years. We’ll soon look like an entirely new shrub!
Wishing you a golden spring 2013,
Forsythe A. Bush
As told to Nancy Rutman