Though it's originally from China and Korea, this harbinger of spring has adorned Southern gardens for so long that folks assume it's native. At garden centers, it's often the top-selling flowering deciduous shrub because it's inexpensive, easy to grow, and dependably colorful. From late winter to early spring, countless yellow, 34- to 112-in. flowers smother the arching, leafless branches. During the rest of the growing season, the medium green foliage blends well with that of other shrubs. Fall color is inconsistent, but leaves may turn purplish or burgundy.
Forsythia can be used as a clipped hedge, an informal screen, a bank cover, or part of a shrub border. It thrives in most well-drained soils. Somewhat resistant to damage by deer. Rejuvenate after bloom by cutting a third of the oldest canes to the ground in late spring; also remove dead wood and old, woody branches. Prune to preserve graceful, fountain- like form; do not shear into balls or boxes. Cut branches are easy to rootjust stick them into moist soil.
F. 'Arnold Dwarf'. Grows 1123 ft. high, to 6 ft. wide. Flowers are sparse and not especially attractive, but plant is a useful, fast-growing ground cover.
F. xintermedia. BORDER FORSYTHIA. The most widely grown forsythias are in this hybrid group. Most grow 710 ft. tall and have arching branches; smaller selections are also included in the following list.
'Beatrix Farrand'. Upright to 10 ft. tall, 7 ft. wide. Branches thickly set with 2- to 212-in.-wide flowers in deep yellow marked with orange.
'Fiesta'. Grows 34 ft. tall and a little wider. Deep yellow flowers are followed by green-and-yellow variegated leaves that hold their color all summer long.
'Golden Times'. To 68 ft. tall and wide. Variegated selection with yellowish green leaves edged in gold; extremely attractive, especially when grown in light shade. Remove any branches that revert to green. Soft yellow flowers.
'Gold Tide' ('Courtasol'). Compact growth to 20 in. tall by 4 ft. wide; profuse bright yellow flowers.
'Goldzauber' ('Gold Charm'). Erect to 68 ft. high and not quite as wide, with large flowers in deep yellow.
'Karl Sax'. Resembles 'Beatrix Farrand' but is lower growing, neater, more graceful.
'Lynwood Variety' ('Lynwood Gold'). Stiffly upright to 7 ft., with 4- to 6-ft. spread. Profuse tawny yellow blooms survive spring storms.
'Magical Gold'. Upright grower to 5 ft. high, 4 ft. wide, with large golden-yellow blooms.
'Spectabilis'. Dense, upright, vigorous shrub to 9 ft. tall and 6 ft. wide. Deep yellow blossoms.
'Spring Glory'. To about 6 ft. tall and wide, with a profuse show of pale yellow flowers.
F. ovata. KOREAN FORSYTHIA. Zones US, MS; USDA 6-7. To 46 ft., with wider spread. Heavy crop of bright yellow blossoms appears early in the season. Flower buds are hardy to -20F. 'Tetragold' is lower growing (35 ft. high and wide) and has deep yellow blooms.
F. suspensa. WEEPING FORSYTHIA. Dense, upright growth habit to 810 ft. tall, 68 ft. wide. Drooping, vinelike branches root where they touch damp soil. Golden yellow flowers. Useful large-scale bank cover. Can be trained as vine; if you support main branches, branchlets will cascade. F. s. fortunei is somewhat more upright, more available in garden centers.
F. viridissima. GREENSTEM FORSYTHIA. Stiff-looking shrub to 610 ft. high and wide with deep green foliage, olive-green stems, greenish yellow flowers. 'Bronxensis' is a slow-growing dwarf to 1112 ft. tall and 24 ft. wide; good for shrub borders or ground cover. F. v. koreana (F. koreana), to 8 ft., has larger, brighter yellow flowers and attractive purplish fall foliage. Its selection 'Kumsom' has striking silver-veined leaves and purple branches; grows just 6 ft. tall and 5 ft. wide.