How and when to prune Forsythia


A group of 7 species of shrubs native to Asia and Europe is known as Forsythia. In good conditions this deciduous shrub can reach three meters in height. Being a plant that requires very little care, and also has a beautiful and abundant flowering, it is highly sought after to decorate gardens around the world. As you can imagine in this article, we will discuss how and when to prune a Forsythia, what tools to use, and more.


Before you think about pruning Forsythia, keep in mind that you need to care for it properly. To do this, start by placing it in a place with many hours of sun, in a soil with good drainage capacity. In the summer months, water it abundantly and reduce the amount of water during the winter. In general, it is not attacked by any pest, but in the same way it is good to control it with some regularity.

Interesting fact:This shrub owes its name to William Forsyth, who was one of the founders of the Royal Horticultural Society. Coincidentally, this organization sent him to China in search of peonies and tea plants, and on that trip he found what we know today as Forsythia.
Pruning Forsythia - How and when to prune

1. What tools will you need to prune a Forsythia?


As we always say in this blog, the ideal tool will depend on two fundamental factors: the age or size of the tree and the type of pruning. When the plant is small you will have no problem pruning it with simple hand scissors, but as it grows you may need other tools.

When your Forsythia is adult, exceeding two meters in height, a simple hand scissors will not be enough. In that case, you should look for some lopping shears, which will make it easier for you to work with longer branches. Ladders can also be helpful for this job, and never forget to wear protective items like gloves and goggles. 😉

Whatever type of scissors you are going to use to carry out the task, it is always advisable to disinfect it. Read the next section to find out how.

1.1 How to disinfect your tools

There are many ways that you can disinfect your pruning tools. Here we will see three of the most common and easy to do.

  • Method 1: rub the scissors blades with a cloth dipped in alcohol (ethanol). After cleaning, allow the tool to sit for a couple of minutes for maximum disinfection efficiency.
  • Method 2: prepare a mixture 1/9 of chlorine and water (one part of chlorine and 9 of water). Then soak the scissors for half an hour in that mixture. After those 30 minutes you can start pruning.
  • Method 3: this third method is effective but from my point of view not so recommended. Here what you should do is pass the blade for a few seconds through a flame. This will disinfect but also burn the blade.

You already have the three methods to disinfect your scissors before trimming your forsythia, which one do you choose?

2. When to prune Forsythia


Without a doubt, the most prominent aspect of Forsythia is its flowers. So it won’t surprise you to learn that the right time to prune is closely related to flowering.

The first thing to know is that flower buds occur on new shoots that occur in season. That said, you can imagine that if you prune the bush before it blooms, you will lose much of the bloom. Since it is about cutting branches from which flowers can be generated.

It is because of what was said in the previous paragraph that the most advisable thing is to prune the Forsythia as soon as it ends with the flowering. Therefore, knowing that flower production occurs in the spring months, pruning should be done in mid-July (in the northern hemisphere).

Note that for cleaning pruning, where we cut dry or diseased branches, pruning can be done at any time. It is not necessary to wait for the end of flowering. It is more in cases such as diseased branches, the sooner the cuts the better, thus you will be avoiding a spread of the plague in other plants.

3. Tips for pruning Forsythia bush


We already know when to prune, so we can start talking about the methods by which pruning should be done. In this first section we will analyze some tips in a general way, and then in the following sections we will study some more specific cases.

The first thing to do before you begin pruning is to take a moment to observe the bush. Look for all those dead, diseased, or growing branches. Those branches are the first that you will have to prune, make the cut well at ground level.

Then in case your Forsythia is well cared for with regular pruning, what you should do is maintenance pruning.

Since you are interested in knowing how to prune a laurel, I have no doubt that it will be useful to know about the pruning of any of these shrubs:

With maintenance pruning, what we seek is to clarify the bush and stimulate it to generate new and young shoots. To do this, you should cut about 1/4 of the total branches, making the cut at ground level. When you go to cut the branches, always try to remove the oldest branches, leaving the younger and stronger ones.

If you consider that you do not need to cut 1/4 of the total of branches, since the size of your Forsythia is not very large. At least try to cut off some branches from the center of the foliage. This will thin it out a bit and help the air circulate better and with more light.

This maintenance pruning of Forsythia should begin when the plant is more than three years old. Before that age it is better not to carry out any pruning, allowing the bush to grow freely.

4. Special cases for pruning Forsythia


Let us now analyze two particular cases that are widely consulted. Prune a overgrown forsythia and a Forsythia hedge.

4.1 Overgrown forsythia

How we got to have an overgrown Forsythia? Easy to answer, this happens when we neglect the bush. Allowing a couple of years to pass without doing any maintenance pruning.

When this happens, the pruning task will be more difficult, having to cut many more branches. What needs to be done is a rejuvenation pruning. Fortunately, Forsythia responds very well to this type of pruning.

If the size and clutter of the bush is very large, do not be afraid, you can cut all the branches at ground level. The growth of this plant is quite fast, in a season it will have recovered a large part of its size.

Unlike regular pruning, rejuvenation pruning is best done in late winter or early spring. Although with this you will lose the flowering of the season, the plant will have the spring and summer months to grow and recover from the hard pruning we have done.

4.2 Forsythia hedge

Like most shrubs, Forsythia can form like hedges. Are they the best shrubs to use as hedges? in my opinion they are not. There are many other shrubs that are much better for hedges. Especially since Forsythias have beautiful flowers, which are mostly lost if what we do is form a hedge.

But hey, if you insist on pruning your Forsythia in the form of a hedge you can do it, and it is very easy. You just have to look for a couple of hedge trimmers and help you with previously leveled threads that guide us to follow the shape we are looking for. Once we have achieved the shape, you will need to do regular pruning to control the shape.

5. Pruning forsythia in Spring (video)


To finish this post, and since the spring months are the most important for pruning a Forsythia, we will close the post with a special video on this topic (RuggedHomestead channel). I hope you can get some helpful tips when you see it, or at least go over in a more graphic way what you’ve seen in the post so far.

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