Pruning Forsythia

The bold yellow springtime blooms of Forsythia make this shrub a well-loved addition to an outdoor space. Overgrown Forsythia can have a straggly and unkempt look. While the natural shape looks attractive and requires zero effort, some well-timed and well-placed pruning can keep the plant looking tidy and maintained. Maintenance pruning keeps Forsythia looking good, but a severe cut can rejuvenate an old shrub.

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When to Prune Forsythia

Forsythia blooms on old wood. Wait until the plant is done blooming before grabbing your pruning shears. Cutting the branches back before the plant blooms will limit the number of flowers. Shaping the plant after the flowers fade but before the end of July gives the shrub time to set new buds before next spring’s bloom cycle. Pruning Forsythia too late in the season will prevent the plant from blooming come spring.

Remove dead or damaged growth at any time during the growing season. Aside from a maintenance trim during the summer, there is no other time or reason to prune Forsythia. This plant does not need to be deadheaded or have blooms pinched back.

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Why Prune Forsythia

Some gardeners choose to prune Forsythia to achieve a desired shape. While this plant naturally develops an attractive vase-like shape, it can look overgrown after several years without a trim. Shaping Forsythia keeps it compact and tidy, fitting into a manicured garden, while a more natural look blends well in a cottage-inspired space. Overgrown plants will still bloom, but they may not produce as many flowers, so removing the oldest canes can elevate the flower show that spring. Pruning Forsythia will also improve airflow and prevent the likelihood of fungus forming.

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How to Prune Forsythia

Step 1 - Inspect the plant for dead or damaged growth

Cut back dead growth until you cut into healthy, green growth.

Step 2 - Wait until after the Forsythia is done blooming to prune

Prune Forsythia after the flowers fade, but before the end of July to ensure the plant blooms next spring. Remove up to one-third of the oldest canes at the base of the shrub.

Step 3 - Look at the overall size and shape of the Forsythia

Cut back branches that are lopsided, crossing, or uneven to expose the center of the shrub to more sunlight.

Forsythia Pruning Tips

  • Shape Forsythia after the flowers fade, but before mid-summer
  • Remove uneven or crossed branches
  • Cut back damaged or dead growth as needed
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Author Alison Cotsonas - Published 09-17-2022