Content Detail

Early forsythia is a harbinger of spring when bright yellow, bell-shaped flowers lighten the spring landscape long before other plants are awake. Shrubs reach 4 to 6 feet high and wide with a dense, erect habit and slightly arching canes.

  • Family (English) Olive
  • Family (botanic) Oleaceae
  • Tree or plant type Shrub
  • Foliage Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Small shrub (3-5 feet), Medium shrub (5-8 feet), Large shrub (more than 8 feet)
  • Light exposure Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)
  • Hardiness zones Zone 4, Zone 5 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7
  • Soil preference Alkaline soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Occasional drought, Road salt
  • Season of interest early spring, mid spring
  • Flower color and fragrance Yellow
  • Shape or form Arching, Irregular, Multi-stemmed
  • Growth rate Fast

Native geographic location and habitat:

It is native to Korea, China, and Europe.

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife:

Early insects are attracted to flowers.

Bark color and texture:

The shrub has yellow-brown stems with heavy lenticels.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture:

Leaves are arranged in an opposite pattern and are 3 to 5 inches long. The upper third of the leaf is serrated. Dark green leaves in summer occasionally turning pale yellow to a reddish tinge in fall. Forsythia is one of last shrubs to drop its leaves.  

Flower arrangement, shape, and size:

Appearing in early spring before the leaves in clusters along the stems, flowers are four-petaled, bright yellow, and bell-shaped. Flowers bloom on the previous season’s woody growth (old wood).

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions:

The fruit is a dehiscent capsule and not ornamentally important.

Tree & Plant Care:

Early forsythia is easy to grow and should be planted in full sun for best flowering. It is adaptable to a wide variety of soil pH. Prune to maintain a healthy, vigorous shrub by removing a few older canes to the ground every 2 to 3 years. Flowers on old wood; prune after flowering to avoid removing next y ear’s flower buds. Overgrown shrubs can be rejuvenated by cutting them to the ground.

Pests, diseases and tolerances:

Early forsythia is susceptible to crown gall and leaf spots, but is resistant to windy sites and aerial salt spray.

Meadowlark forsythia (Forsythia ‘Meadowlark’):

This is a popular hybrid (F. ovata x F. europaea) reaching 8 to 10 feet high and 6 to 10 feet wide. It has semi-arching branches, bright yellow flowers, and is hardy to -35 degrees F.

Northern Gold forsythia (Forsythia ‘Northern Gold’):

This variety has an upright, rounded habit reaching 6 to 8 feet high and 5 to 7 feet wide with golden yellow flowers. A Canadian introduction, it is cold hardy to -30 degrees F.

Northern Sun forsythia (Forsythia ‘Northern Sun’):

This dense rounded shrub with spreading branches can reach 8 to 10 feet high and wide. It produces clear yellow flowers and is hardy to – 30 degrees F.

Sunrise forsythia (Forsythia ‘Sunrise’):

This full, dense rounded shrub with spreading branches can reach 5 to 6 feet high and wide. It produces bright yellow flowers and is hardy to -20 degrees F.


Your support is vital to the Arboretum, where the power of trees makes a positive impact on people’s lives.

Make a gift