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Forsythia xintermedia

Photo: Dr. Robert Polomski

Don’t be a Shrub Snob

Along with robins, border forsythia (Forsythia xintermedia) is also considered a harbinger of Spring. Although this deciduous shrub, which can grow 7 to 10 ft. tall and 10 to 12 ft. wide, hails from China and Korea, it's been used in the South for so long that many folks assume it's a born-and-raised native of the South. In fact, some folks renamed it "yellow bells" for its stupendous display of bright yellow flowers that appear along its arching branches in early to mid-March.

Others belittle the border forsythia and consider it to be a prosaic shrub that’s only for plain folks. Also, they complain that it’s a “two week wonder” because the entire shrub tends to fade away in the landscape after its explosive floral display in early Spring. I accept the opinion of these shrub snobs, but I don’t agree with them. When this easy-to-grow, relatively pest-free shrub blooms, it takes me to my happy place: Ol’ Man Winter’s gone and Spring has finally arrived.

Plant this spring-flowering shrub on steep slopes or banks, or interplant it among other shrubs and flowers. I prefer to use border forsythia as an informal screen, while friends of mine have pruned it into formal hedges. If you have full sun and well-drained soil, you can grow forsythia.

Despite its disappearance after flowering, expect a colorful return in the fall when the forsythia leaves turn a decent burgundy and purple color. While the falling leaves signal the onset of Winter, the plump flower buds that remain remind me of the beauty that awaits me in early Spring.