Forsythia Bush Pruning

Jul. 15, 2013

Forsythia bush pruning is one of the more satisfying garden tasks. Its ‘time’ when its done flowering, when the weather’s just turned awesome and I WANT to be in the garden, some time in May. Forsythia is such a good grower, you cant screw it up. I feel like such a pro, hacking away branches pruning out large pieces, shaping it to my hearts desire, then watching it GROW again right before my very eyes. It truly feels like art.

Here’s a general guide for pruning any shrub.
1. Prune when its finished flowering
2. Cut out dead or diseased branches.
3. Take out 1/3rd of the oldest branches for new fresh growth, sunlight and air circulation (rejuvenation pruning)
4. Prune the top for shape and size.

Forsythia Bush Pruning

Because this plant can be such a beast, I do it differently than the experts suggest. Forsythia has this habit of attaching itself when it touches the ground (layering) Great if you would like more forsythia! Not so great if you want a single tidy shrub. It can get out of control fast. We had one forgotten area of the yard where the forsythia completely took over. Like a 50×50 foot area! Boy what a mess, and such a huge job to clean up. Knowing what I know now, it will never happen again.

The first thing I do when approaching this forsythia bush is to cut out and clean up all of the lower branches, so none of it touches the ground. I personally think it looks better. Working from bottom up (just like bonsai) I take out branches that are too close, cross each other and rub together, or are growing in weird directions.


This is my little ‘Kumson’ Forsythia. I started it from a cutting and have raised it ever since. Its more like my baby than any of the other plants in the nursery, I have no idea why. It was pruned in early July for propagation, and you can see it already needs some touching up. Pruning Kumson is even more rewarding, because new growth is REALLY variegated and you can see how much its growing.

pruning-forsythia-fiestaHeres a new variety called ‘Fiesta’ Forsythia. Obviously, it doesnt need pruning yet, but if youre saying ‘oh wow’ Im right there with you. I cant wait to see how this guy grows.

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8 Responses to “Forsythia Bush Pruning”

  1. Jon says:

    Hmm… Forsythia. From what I have noticed is any pruning of forsythia has to be done 2-3 weeks after flowering. As next years flower buds are set extremely early! So its either let it be a wild beast, or sacrifice next years flowers. With all the new “dwarf” cultivars out there, its best to find one that will grow to be the size you want it to be. But I must say WOW on the fiesta. I cant wait till I get that one.

    • Trisha says:

      so, Jon, youre saying it’s good that I cut back my forsythia so hard? 😀 I noticed you werent fond of ‘shape’ I created… but it started to grow out in just a few weeks. I’ll still continue to prune the lower branches. Heck yeah, Ill sacrifice a few flowers to keep this guy in check. Choosing a dwarf variety for a smaller plant… great suggestion! I didnt even know there were smaller versions. Yes, if the Fiesta grows as well as the other forsythia, well have some nice sized plants next year. Whats mine is yours 😀 Oh, by the way, you forgot to link your blog!

      • Jon says:

        Yes, the harder the better. I like to remove most of the thickest branches all the way down after they bloom. This keeps them much more compact and tidy looking. A flush of new growth will happen, and with the Kumsum variety, new foliage is much more variegated. Another thing I’ve noticed with all forsythia is the older branches will usually get a borer. The borer will eat all the way down through the branch into the roots. Killing that branch and some of the roots.

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  3. sandy says:

    I have a 300 ft Forsythia hedge. Its gotten way out of control almost 4 ft thick and 8 ft high in places. Some branches are 2 or 3 inches around. How can I get rid of it. Do I have to dig it up? I’m sick of dealing with it.

    • Trisha says:

      yikes. thats a lot of forsythia. yeah. i think youll have to dig them out. if you try to cut them down they will grow back from the base. Its a really hardy, tough plant. Burn them??? 😀

  4. Kathleen says:

    My neighbour was trying to help with my way out of control bushes and just yesterday cut them down to about 6-8 inches do you think they will come back next year?

    • Trisha says:

      most likely, they will come back. Forsythia is a very hardy bush. If you want them GONE, you could spray them with weed killer if they do come back, or dig them out totally. However, all that fresh new growth will probably look very nice and rejuvinated. It wont flower until the following spring (not next spring, the one after), but you might have some nice forsythia bushes for all your effort.

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