When Forsythia Blooms
WE KNOW SPRING ISN'T FAR BEHIND
One of the first signs of spring is the gorgeous yellow flowers of the forsythia. This versatile flowering plant is a 'must' in many gardens because of its early flowers, value as a source for cut flowers and use as a privacy screen or background landscape shrub.
The late winter bare branches of the forsythia are covered with golden yellow flowers from February to April. During the months of December and January, the branches may be cut and forced into bloom for winter color indoors.
Forsythia grows and flowers best in full or partial sun. It has many uses in the garden. The plants are often used as a summer screen for privacy; as a specimen plant; and for espaliering against a wall or fence. Planted in an evergreen border, the golden yellow flowers really stand-out with the green background of the evergreens.
They are not really fussy about soil, but will perform best when planted in well-drained soil that is enriched with organic humus. So the addition of peat moss; processed manure or compost at planting time is really beneficial in getting the plant off to a good start. Simply mix about one or two shovel-fulls of these organic materials with the existing soil.
Since forsythia is a deciduous shrub they are best planted or transplanted during the winter dormant season when the plants are not in growth. However, with the advent of container growing many nurseries and garden centers now carry the plants year-round. Container grown plants can be safely planted at any time throughout the year.
Here's one plant that really benefits from pruning. A regular schedule of pruning does several things; 1) provides cut flowers for forcing; 2) keeps the plants within bounds, creating a bushier growth habit; 3) encourages better flowering.
When is the best time for pruning? Good question, and it's really up to you. If you do some pruning in December or January it provides branches for forcing. If some pruning is done when the plant is in bloom it again provides cut flowers for use in indoor arrangements. Additional pruning after flowering encourages better branching and the potential for more flowers in future years.
My recommendation for the main pruning, which is done after flowering, is this: Cut out about one-third of the old woody growth. This encourages new young growth, which will supply the next season's flowers. However, you must be on the lookout for new growth that develops quickly, in whip-like form. If it is not trimmed or trained it will ruin the shape of your plant and will result in limited flowering. So here's what you need to do: any whip-like growth that develops, pinch or prune out the tip growth when it is about 15 to 18 inches high. This tip pruning will result in several new growths developing at that point, and consequently, the plant will become bushier and more prolific in its flowering.
FORCING CUT BRANCHES
In December or January when the branches are covered with tight-flower-buds, cut them at the length needed for your indoor arrangements. Next, place them in warm (not hot) water over-night in the garage or other cool place. Then, the next morning place the cut branches in your arrangement and move them indoors.
Average room temperatures of 60 to 75 degrees are ideal. If you want to bring them into bloom quicker, put them in a warmer spot. Like wise, if you want to slow down the blooming period, then put them in a cooler spot.
Forsythia plants benefit from a light feeding of a Rose or All-purpose garden type fertilizer. The best time to feed them is in mid-February or mid-May. Most varieties of forsythia have medium to light green leaves, so don't be mislead into thinking the plants need continual feeding. In fact, I have seen old plants around abandon homes that obviously haven't been fed or pruned in years, yet they are just doing fine.
Many new varieties have been introduced in recent years, with deeper flower colors and larger flowers. Some varieties have weeping growth habits, others are low and spreading enough that they can be used as large ground cover plants. Unfortunately, many of these types and varieties are not readily available, so here are three of today's favorites:
SPRING GLORY - Very popular because it produces a heavy crop of brilliant medium yellow flowers. On average the plant grows about eight feet tall and 5 or 6 feet wide.
LYNWOOD GOLD - Deep golden yellow flowers, with dark green foliage. Plants average height is about 6 to 8 feet, quite upright and spreads about 4 to 5 feet or more.
BEATRIX FARRAND - Showy large deep yellow flowers with orange markings. Plants grow up to 8 to 10 feet tall and 6 or more feet in width.
Keep in mind, growing heights and widths can be reduced with simple pruning.
If you need to add a bright spot of color to your garden at this time of year, consider the easy to grow, prolific flowering forsythias.