Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Western Mountains and High Plains
January, 2006
Regional Report

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Dream about these cheery yellow blooms if you planted forsythia in your landscape.


Just when it seems that spring will never arrive, forsythia shrubs unveil their sunny, bright yellow blossoms and light up the garden. A tough and hardy shrub, forsythia has a dense framework of stems that grow upright until the shrub matures, then they arch to create a handsome background effect. The plump clusters of buds on the stems stand out in the winter garden. This is one shrub that requires little care, which makes it one of the mainstays of a Rocky Mountain landscape.

While forsythia may lose its appeal in summer, its bright green foliage works well as a foundation planting or screening. It can be planted on banks for soil stabilization and as a shrub border. There are several new varieties available, even one that can be utilized as a ground cover.

When to Plant
Container-grown plants can be planted from spring to early fall. Bare-root plants should be planted in early spring as soon as the soil can be worked. In some areas, this means bare-root plants can be set outdoors as early as mid- to late February. Be sure to have a site ready for the shrub's permanent home.

Where to Plant
Choose a site that will allow plenty of room for the arching branches to spread. Plant it in well-drained soil, and prune the dead wood every year, and forsythia will thrive. For a screen or hedge, plant 2 to 3 feet apart. In mass plantings, space 9 to 12 feet apart. Locate in full sun for the most prolific and best blossoms. The brilliant yellow flowers show up well against a backdrop of dark evergreens.

Coax an Early Bloom Indoors
For the impatient gardener who can't wait, forsythia branches are extremely easy to coax into bloom indoors in late January and February. On a warm January day, get outside and prune or thin out some of the branches with plump buds, and immediately place them in a bucket of warm water. Bring the cut branches into a garage or other location where it doesn't freeze. Allow them to soak up water for about a week or so, then bring them indoors, recut the bottoms, and place them in a decorative vase. Within a few weeks, the room will be brightened with the emerging flowers, weeks ahead of its normal outdoor blooming time. It's a great way to bring spring indoors in the dead of winter.

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