Forsythia is a fast-growing deciduous shrub best known for its distinctive yellow flowers—and their exceptionally early bloom time. Just when it seems the gray days of winter will never end, forsythia announces the coming of spring with a showy display of bright yellow blossoms on arched branches.
According to folklore, the appearance of forsythia flowers is a sign of spring, but only after three more snowfalls. Indeed, depending on your region’s climate, you may be treated to the sight of flowers surrounded by a blanket of snow.
A member of the olive family, forsythia is native to Asia and Eastern Europe. The plant has long been prized in China, where its inconspicuous fruit is considered a very important component of traditional herbal medicine.
Given its native surroundings, forsythia prefers a temperate climate, thriving in USDA plant hardiness zones 5–8, but will adapt to its surroundings. If given plenty of sunlight, forsythia’s low-maintenance needs and drought tolerance will enable it to thrive—even in poor quality soil.
Forsythia’s surfeit of yellow flowers, which have earned it the common name “golden bells,” blossom each year in early spring, before the shrub produces leaves. After the flowers bloom, the plant sets lush foliage that retains its bright green color through the heat of summer, turning shades of pale yellow to deep maroon in the fall.
Forsythia shrubs grow very quickly—up to two feet annually—making them especially helpful in landscaping new construction or creating a much-needed natural privacy hedge. At peak maturity, forsythia averages 8–10 feet high, making it an excellent addition for garden backdrops, landscaping schemes, and hedgerows.