Border Forsythia

Early spring brings us the bright yellow blossoms of the Border Forsythia (Forsythia x intermedia) scattered across campus. This multi-stemmed shrub is deciduous, with leaf emergence that is dark green in summer, lightens to yellow-green in the fall, and maintains its foliage until November or later, often turning red or reddish-purple. However, this plant is used almost exclusively for the bright yellow flowers covering the stems in the spring.

The fruit, a small brown capsule, adds nothing to the landscape over and above what the fall leaf color and especially the spring flowers contribute. The plant grows to 5 – 8 feet tall at maturity and can tolerate some shade, although full sun is best to maximize the blooms. Many people use it as a hedge or border as well as individually as a focal point in the garden. The shrub is aesthetically best as a somewhat wild-looking specimen, and so pruning to shape it is not recommended, although rejuvenation pruning is beneficial to older plants to encourage fuller growth. This should be done just after the flowers are finished for the season, as it blooms on old wood.

Opinions differ on whether forsythia is overused in landscape design, although for many, especially those from northern climates, the blooms of this shrub herald the promise of spring after a long, cold winter.

Information was collected from Michael Dirr’s Manual of Woody Landscape Plants (Champaign, Illinois: Stripes Publishing, LLC, 1998) as well as the University of Connecticut Plant Database ( and the Missouri Botanical Garden (