Do you have forsythias in your garden? If no, then why not? These lovely yellow-flowering shrubs that foretell the coming of spring grow in almost any soil and are hardy into the Midwest.

Forsythia blooms

Because forsythias bloom so early, expect the plants to call attention to your spring landscape right away.

Photo Credit: David L. Morgan

Forsythia along fence

Tall forsythia varieties work well along walls and fences.

Photo Credit: David L. Morgan

Forsythia in landscape

A forsythia shrub can brighten an otherwise dull landscape.

Photo Credit: David L. Morgan

Forsythia in vase

Forsythias are show-stoppers when in full bloom – in the landscape or in a vase.

Photo Credit: David L. Morgan

Forsythias (also known as golden bells) are available in many sizes, require minimum care and tolerate city pollution. Plus, they’re represented by so many species and cultivars, you can choose the perfect one for your landscape (that is, as long as you like plants with amazing yellow flowers).

Probably no other shrubs you can name are as distinctive in late winter and early spring as forsythias. They just burst forth with golden, bell-shaped flowers on bare branches from February to April – what a delight to observe when the end to winter weather is near and spring temps are just around the corner!

There really is a forsythia for every landscape. This is a fast-growing deciduous shrub, increasing in size and width by 1-2 feet a year. Depending on selections, forsythias can be found as small as 1 foot tall, while others can grow to 10 feet high and as wide. They’re generally found in landscapes as graceful and informal hedges, planted in mass or used as striking specimen plants. Taller varieties can be espaliered against walls or fences. But no matter where they’re planted, one thing’s for sure: They’re blooming traffic-stoppers – with graceful, cascading branches of bright golden-yellow flowers!

The most popular of golden bells is Forsythia x intermedia, represented by at least 30 cultivars. ‘Spectabilis’ is a popular and vigorous selection that reaches 10 feet tall and wide. Another popular choice, as well as one of the best, is actually a selection of ‘Spectabilis’: a plant known in the nursery trade as ‘Lynwood’ (also called ‘Lynwood Gold’). Also growing 10 feet tall and wide, this forsythia might be the perfect starting place for those who are new to planting this brilliant shrub.

Because some forsythias are marginally hardy to northern climates and may suffer from sudden freezes and snow covers, cold-hardy selections have been introduced that may survive -30 degrees F or colder. Among them are ‘Meadowlark’, which grows 8-10 feet tall and up to 15 feet wide; ‘Northern Gold’, 6-8 feet tall and 5-7 feet wide; and ‘Sunrise’, a compact form at 4-6 feet tall with a spread of only 3-5 feet. (Of course, these may not be the best selections for your location. Ask your local garden center professional or Cooperative Extension officewhich ones perform best where you live.)

In addition to just being attractive shrubs, forsythias are good investments for your landscape, as they’re long-lived and take little care beyond annual trimming and feeding. They perform well in most soils, but like many other plants do best in well-drained sites.

Forsythias grow and flower in full sun or in light shade. For best flowering, they should be fed moderately in late winter to early spring with a balanced (10-10-10) fertilizer. Pruning should be done immediately after flowering, as the plants bloom on wood produced the previous summer. Older branches can be cut back severely, and others trimmed to the desired length. Older plants that don’t bloom at all should be cut to the ground; within two years, they should begin to bloom again – stronger than ever.

And speaking of cutting branches, if you want a brilliant display of flowers in your home, cut back some forsythia branches, place them in a vase and enjoy a fabulous spring bouquet from the comforts of your couch!

So what are you waiting for? Forsythias are now available in most garden centers. Plant one now and enjoy a golden spring!