7 Tips for Growing Formal and Informal Forsythia Hedges

7 Tips for Growing Formal and Informal Forsythia Hedges

If you live in the northeast, like me, or anywhere in USDA Hardiness Zones 5 to 8, it’s likely that you are well acquainted with spp., a deciduous woody shrub best known for its bright yellow spring blossoms.

A vertical close up picture of a formal hedge next to a pathway in full bloom with bright yellow flowers. To the top and bottom of the frame is green and white text.forsythia growing guide, we discuss all you need to know to cultivate this sun-loving, vigorous shrub in your landscape.

In this article, we offer 7 tips for growing forsythia as a hedge with either an informal, natural contour, or a formal, manicured appearance.

When shopping for plants, be sure to evaluate the unique qualities of each and how they can fill your gardening needs.

A Versatile Shrub

Forsythia is a versatile shrub.

It makes a lovely specimen plant, on an island of its own, with perhaps a few spring bulbs at its feet. However, it is capable of much more than standing about looking pretty.

A formal hedge with bright yellow flowers growing behind a white, wooden picket fence.7 Tips for Growing a Forsythia Hedge

As you begin to explore the best ways to use forsythia as a hedge in your landscape, you’ll need to ask yourself some important questions, and consider the level of maintenance you are willing to undertake.

The following tips will get you off to a good start:

1. Choose the Right Variety

There are 11 species of forsythia. Three you are very likely to encounter are:

, a 6- to 10-foot tall plant with weeping branches that may be trained as a vine or allowed to creep and take root as a ground cover.

, aka greenstem, a compact upright type that tops out at 10 feet tall.

x , a hybrid cross of  and  with both arching and upright branches, and a mature height of 8 to 10 feet.

A mixed planting of ornamental shrubs to create a hedge.2.  Commit to a Formal or Informal Style

You’ll need to decide if you want loose, trailing canes; dense, upright ones; or a combination of arching and upright.

An informal forsythia hedge in full bloom with bright yellow flowers growing along the side of a driveway under trees.with pruning shears, in an attempt to make them behave contrary to their nature.

Medium-sized varieties with an upright growth habit are especially useful in mixed hedges of medium height that include an eclectic variety of bushes with similar cultural requirements.

And medium-sized forsythia with a tendency to arch, – or to be both arched and upright – make wonderful informal hedges where they have room to spread in various directions at will.

3. How to Plant

Decide where you want your hedge and measure the distance from end to end. Allow enough space for mature widths, plus one to two feet between small shrubs, four to six between medium-sized ones, and eight to ten between the largest.

A close up of a spade digging a large trench in the earth ready for planting.4. Grow in Baby Steps

As your new shrubs become established, you’ll soon be thrilled by that first flush of growth that sends new canes up two feet or more.

A close up of green leaves and purple stems of Forsythia suspensa, a woody shrub ideal for hedging.Photo by Peganum, via Wikimedia Commons, via CC BY-SA.

Here’s where the discipline begins.

To train your shrubs into a formal hedge, you’ll need to begin pruning with that first flush of new growth.

A general rule of thumb is to cut six inches off every time there’s a new foot of growth. Prune just above a set of leaves, in order to promote even branching from the bottom up.

This means you’ll need to prune several times during the growing season, as opposed to once just after blooming. Be aware that you may have few to no flowers while your plants grow to the desired height.

If you were to allow the tall canes to remain on the plant, and just nip the tops off at the desired height, you would likely end up with a narrow base and a wide top. The next tip explains why this is not a good shape to encourage.

5. Let the Sun Shine In

If you choose to manicure your hedges into a boxy or rounded shape, you’ll need to keep in mind that all parts of the shrub need to receive sunlight in order to thrive.

A close up of a young forsythia shrub in full bloom with bright yellow flowers, growing under a tree in a woodland location.6. How to Prune

Formal and informal hedges benefit from routine pruning to remove dead branches, open up their middles to more sunlight and airflow, maintain a desired shape, or reduce unwanted volume.

A close up of a hedge with bright yellow flowers, pictured in the sunshine on a soft focus background.7. Periodic Deep Pruning

All forsythia, regardless of growth style, need a deep pruning every three years or so, because the middle branches tend to die as they get older.

A close up of a recently pruned hedge, showing the light green leaves of new growth and the dark green of the older leaves.Photo by Famartin, via Wikimedia Commons, via CC BY-SA.

For formal shrubs, it’s beneficial to move along the hedgerow, making random cuts deep into the center, cutting old canes just above a pair of leaves, to maintain horizontal branching.Opening up the center like this improves airflow and sun exposure, and encourages new growth.

In addition, forsythia has a tendency to grow low branches that root readily. Trim them off for a neater appearance.

Familiar, Yet Exceptional

Fast-growing, cold hardy, drought and salt tolerant, you can’t go wrong with hardworking forsythia on the job in your outdoor living space.

A hedge with bright yellow flowers next to a driveway, pictured in bright sunshine.growing ornamental shrubs in your garden, you’ll need these guides next:

Nan Schiller

Nan Schiller is a writer with deep roots in the soil of southeastern Pennsylvania. Her background includes landscape and floral design, a BS in business from Villanova University, and a Certificate of Merit in floral design from Longwood Gardens. An advocate of organic gardening with native plants, she’s always got dirt under her nails and freckles on her nose. With wit and hopefully some wisdom, she shares what she’s learned and is always ready to dig into a new project!

“7 Tips for Growing Formal and Informal Forsythia Hedges” was first posted here

Leave a Reply

Get Your Garden Right The First TimeLearn exactly how to build and care for your garden. Sign up and never miss awesome gardening tips and ideas.