My Everchanging Garden

Gardening That Grows With Me

Forsythia x intermedia ‘Spectabilis’

Height: 3 m (8-10 feet)
Spread: 3 m (8-10 feet)
Bloom: golden-yellow, early spring before foliage
Exposure: Full sun

Pluses: an early start to the season

One of the first signs of spring are the bright golden yellow flowers of forsythia. ‘Spectabilis’ (Showy Border Forsythia) is hardy enough for zone 5 so most years we see blooms however a severe frost will damage the flowers. Flowers appear in mid-April and last two to three weeks.

Forsythia 'Spectabilis' in bloom

Forsythia ‘Spectabilis’ in bloom in April 2009

A vigorous, vase shaped shrub, Spectabilis needs room to grow. Prune in spring just after flowering so that buds will develop on new shoots for next year. Forsythia are best left to grow in their native shape. Prune one-fifth to one-third of the oldest wood down to the ground and new shoots will develop and maintain the beautiful arched shape of this shrub.

Forsythia Specabilis

Second forsythia in the woodland garden

After blooming, forsythia are a basic green shrub. Because you may need to severely prune them in order to rejuvinate old stems, they are best planted at the back of the border or better yet at a distance. I have three planted in the back woodland where they shine in the early spring when very little else is even budding then recede into the background the rest of the year.

We do experience some rabbit and deer browsing damage to our forsysthia but I am finding the damage to be less as the shrubs grow. I prune out only a portion of the shrub each year since there is less likely to be browsing on older, thicker stems.

Garden Location: Woodland Garden planted in 2007


    • Everchanging Gardener on

      Hi Brian,
      I’ve never tried that but it’s a pretty big plant. And cutting it back enough to work in a pot would mean you would lose some blooms I suspect. I’d also be worried about the hardiness of the roots in my zone in a pot (zone 5).


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