The Q&A Archives: Forsythia

Question: I have twenty year old very large forsythia bushes that have grown along our property edge. It is a great barrier for many birds, especially against winter weather and prowling cats, so I hate to cut it back. My question is why does it bloom so poorly especially at one end? How can I prune it to maximize the overlapping protection for the birds?

Answer: Forsythia produces flowers on new shoots from the previous summer's growth. So, if you aren't pruning your forsythia, it won't bloom well. Pruning not only removes old, twiggy growth, but encourages the production of new, flowering wood. Prune your forsythia by removing dead wood and cutting the productive wood back by one-third. If you reach inside and cut back some of the stems and branches, the plant will respond by producing new wood. You'll be doing your forsythia a favor by cutting it back this spring. By wintertime it will have grown lots of new shoots which will produce flowers in the early spring.

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