Propagate and Prune Your Forsythia Shrub

Ilona Erwin

With its burst of warm sunshine yellow bloom, forsythias are often one of the first signs of spring in Ohio.

For how to grow instructions visit the Forsythia Page, or read further about cultivars of forsythia.

This page has specific help for those who want to propagate or prune their Forsythia bushes. Videos for the best advice on how to accomplish these tasks and information highlights to give you good success in the care and multiplication of your spring blooming shrub.

The instructions are applicable to most Spring flowering shrubs that we commonly grow in our gardens.

Forsythia bush

Full grown Forsythia bush

Several Methods Of Propagation

Since you will want to keep the special attributes of the forsythia variety, growing from seed would not be the best way to increase your shrubbery. Instead, either divide the bush ( that is how I made new plants from mine) or layer one of the long, flexible branches.

Grow From Cuttings

Using soft wood cuttings, trim lower leaves, dip in rooting hormone and place into a pot with growing medium. Keep in protected place until rooted.


Divide and Multiply

Dividing, the easiest way to have a good sized start, consists of separating some of the newer branches with a clump of attached roots. You will need a very sharp shovel to use on a young plant, or a spud bar for cleaving off starts from and older plant.

Dig up the entire plant, if it isn’t too old and large, or use a spud bar to separate a piece from the side. The growing piece needs to have some of the root. Otherwise you may use hardwood or softwood cutting techniques for your shrub propagation.

Pare down the growing stems to about eight inches, plant the divided piece into soil at the same depth it was growing previous to lifting. Pack good soil around the roots, water in well, and mulch.This can be done early spring or fall, I prefer the spring.

A Lesson In Layering

In early spring or fall, take a very long branch that will reach the ground, scrape a bit of bark off where it meets the earth, fasten to the ground with wire, or lay a rock on it (my way of weighting down the branch).

Allow it to remain until rooted (a light tug should have resistance) and either allow it to grow there, or cut from parent plant and move it to its permanent position in the garden.

Pruning Your Old Or Wild Forsythia

Remember These High Points

  • Prune just after blooming
  • Selectively remove a quarter of the oldest stems
  • Thin out the canopy of the shrub by hand pruning.
  • Always remove all dead or diseased wood.
  • Remove crossing, and inward growing branches and those which growing straight up from a main brain branch.
  • Don’t Shear Forsythia
  • Create an open habit.
Tools For Pruning

Tools you may need to prune a mature forsythia are:

A Few Trivia Facts About The Forsythia

First noticed by Carl Peter Thunburg in a Japanese garden, who brought it to Europe. Later it was named in honor of the horticulturalist William Forsyth. The Forsythia suspensa was then crossed with a Forsythia viridissima which was collected in China by Robert Fortune. From these two parents came Forsythia X intermedia, the shrub most of us recognize in gardens today.

“Pink” or “white” forsythia is a different plant, Abeliophyllum distichum.

It is non toxic, and in Chinese medicine forsythia is a detoxifier and used to treat colds and fever.

The meaning of forsythia blooms in Victorian flower language is “Anticipation”.

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Ilona Erwin, author

Meet the Author

Ilona Erwin

I started working on this website beginning in 1998, when it was part of Ilona's Reflecting Pool. Since then I've branched out into a number of online endeavors and work at writing lots of content for my sites. "Ilona's Garden" remains my primary site and is dedicated to home gardener's success.