Forsythia is a native to China and Southeast Europe and a part of the Oleaceae (olive tree) family, the forsythia is named after the director of the Chelsea Physic garden of 1770 and one of the founders of the Royal Horticultural Society in Great Britain, William Forsyth, a Scottish botanist. This yellow plant species known for early spring flowering on bare branches was discovered by the great eighteenth-century plant hunter Robert Fortune. This plant is a deciduous shrub with flowers that are said to produce lactose.
The explosion of yellow flowers signals the early arrival of spring, from the ground to the tips of each descending branch of the forsythia shrub. Before the leaves even appear, the bare branches fill with the sunshine-colored blossoms shaped like golden bells. Extremely fast-growing, between one to two feet per year, these shrubs benefit from regular pruning. Pruning encourages thicker growth and an increase in flower production. These plants are appealing to grown either as hedgerows or as a single bush. In a garden, the golden yellow shrub takes up a lot of space. However, many gardeners like to use flowering stems to frame or form backbones in different arrangements.
This common plant is often called "Golden Bells" due to the yellow, bell-shaped flowers born along the arching stems. The yellow flowers can range from light buttery to a deep vibrant gold color. The narrow toothy leaves grow two to ten cm in length and are aligned opposite each other down the gray-brown, long, weeping branches. Joining together only at the base, the four-lobed flower's petals are thick and protect the reproductive organs during rainy weather. Typically, the shrub can grow up the 9 feet 10 inches tall and sometimes even up to 20 feet and range up to 9 feet wide. The winged seeds are encased in a dry capsule. These vase-shaped shrubs grow in a splay-like or drooping pattern, and when pruning is not kept up, the bush can end up looking as if we're having a bad hair day. The hardy zones are 4 – 6, grow well in full or partial sun and well-drained soil.
There are twelve different species of the forsythia shrub, but two species are considered the founder members of the family. They are both hybrids, f. x intermedia (Lynwood gold) and f. x variables. These plants have been used to cultivate many different forms, such as dwarf (sugar baby forsythia) and compact varieties. The Lynwood gold variety is more commonly propagated, with a smaller but upright habit and more powerfully vibrant colored blossoms. This type grows between 6 to 10 feet tall and about 10 feet wide. It grows best in full sun and well-drained soil. This plant makes for a spectacular border. With individual shrubs spaced about 10 inches apart, they will grow into a naturally thick border. They have big and bright yellow flowers, with foliage of mid to dark green. During the autumn months, the foliage turns to a yellow-orange, red, or violet. The other significant shrub is the f. suspense variety and can be grown as a weeping shrub with pale flowers. The sticks of the f. suspension are used to make bows for the Korean instrument called the ajaeng, and the flowers are among one of the 50 significant herbs in Chinese culture. The sugar baby forsythia is a miniature, upright variety that blossoms a denser bloom display to create a more stunning spring exhibit, providing richer splashes of spring colors in tight areas. This particular species is deer resistant, grows to be about 30 inches in height, and 30 inches in width.
The propagation of the shrub is relatively simple by anchoring low-hanging boughs to the soil. Once new roots have developed, they can be dug up, cut from the main branch, and transplanted. Another method is
taking cuttings from the softwood in late spring and early summer when there is new growth and planting them in well-drained but moist soil. For a healthy start, you can add peat moss or compost to the soil. You can also take cuttings from November until February. An all-purpose fertilizer can be added mid-February through mid-May as a light feeding to benefit the shrubs. It is best to transplant the newly propagated plants during the dormant winter season. These plants do not attract wildlife such as butterflies or birds, so adding native plants to your display is advised.