As a bright yellow herald of spring, forsythia has won a permanent place in the hearts of hobby gardeners. As is well known, their lavish bloom signals the end of the cold, dark season. So that the great appearance of this magnificent ornamental shrub is not impaired, knowledgeable hobby gardeners cut back the forsythia every 2 to 3 years. The specific growth form of a forsythia makes special demands that must be taken into account. This results, among other things, in the right time and the proper incision. The following instructions serve as a guide to the optimal shape and maintenance cut.


Growth behavior regulates the timing
A brief excursion into the theoretical basics gives even inexperienced hobby gardeners more security when pruning their forsythia. Anyone who memorizes the following 2 factors will be more self-confident in the future:

Spring bloomers on perennial wood
It is one of the classic spring bloomers. The forsythia shows its beautiful flower dream in March and April. The ornamental shrub lays the buds on perennial wood. This results in a precise time window for pruning: immediately after flowering. It is important to hit the exact period when flowering has ended and new buds have not yet started.

Mesotone growth behavior
The forsythia drives out its new long shoots mostly from the middle area of ​​the older branches. This fact is not very obvious when you are young. Without pruning, the ornamental shrub will gradually get wider and wider in the center. The older branches reveal broom-like ramifications in the upper section, which curve towards the earth in an arc. Flowering on these thin shoots decreases dramatically after 2 to 3 years. At the same time, the flowering bush begins to age from below and from within. Light and air simply no longer have a chance of getting there.

preparatory work

Well-considered planning is already half the battle. When the time window opens for the central cutting measure from the end of April/beginning of May, important preparatory work is on the agenda:

  • Sharpen, lubricate and disinfect the cutting tool
  • Prepare gloves and goggles
  • Get a stepladder for tall shrubs

If you have a day in mind, ideally there will be dry, warm weather without blazing sunshine. Direct sunlight on freshly cut wounds impairs the healing process of the wound tissue.

Tip: An old bed sheet or a special leaf catcher spread under the ornamental shrub catches the clippings and makes disposal a lot easier.

maintenance cut

The shrub receives a targeted maintenance cut every 2 to 3 years. Pruning at shorter intervals is not necessary on a healthy, vital forsythia, because in this case too many of the buds created fall victim to the scissors.

  • Shorten shoots with withered flowers and strong branches by half
  • Start each cut just above a strong bud
  • Hold the cutting tool at a slight angle
  • Cut off overhanging branches down to the nearest upright growing shoot

After this first passage, the forsythia already assumes a handsome silhouette again. Now step back a few steps and take a look at the crown. If it presents itself in an expansive form, it should be narrowed by a third so that the proportions are retained.

In the third phase, the forsythia is thinned out so that oxygen and sunshine can penetrate all regions again.

  • Cut off any deadwood at the base of the forsythia
  • Remove criss-crossing branches
  • Completely prune obviously diseased branches
  • Eliminate one of the rubbing shoots

In addition, they sacrifice about 30 percent of the basic instincts every 3 years. The older they get, the larger their girth becomes. The distinctive, light and airy appearance of the yellow flowering shrub is thus lost.

taper cut

The time for pruning a forsythia to shape and maintain it is probably the most labor-intensive time for a hobby gardener. Since the measure does not have to be carried out every year, it is not routine. So it is not surprising that the pruning is missed. The result is an ornamental shrub that has gotten out of shape and can only be saved by a radical action: pruning for rejuvenation. The same point in time applies as for the normal cut; this time spread over 2 years.

  • Cut off 3 to 4 strong main shoots to a distance of 20-30 cm from the ground
  • The branches inside the bush stay a little longer
  • Cut all other shoots close to the ground

The sleeping eyes are activated and will sprout again the following spring. After flowering, the rejuvenation pruning continues.

  • Thin out the forsythia so that a maximum of 3 side shoots remain per main shoot
  • Shorten these shoots by about a third
  • Below each cut is a stout, outward-facing bud

In the 2 years that now follow, the rejuvenation cut has an effect. The forsythia sprout willingly, as in its best times. In this phase, no cut is made so that the natural habit develops unhindered. From the third year, the rhythm described comes into force again. The 3 to 4 old main shoots that were used for the new growth can be cut off just above the ground during the next maintenance cut. They have fulfilled their task and are making way for the young wood.

Cut the forsythia hedge

With a growth height of 200 to 300 meters, hobby gardeners like to cultivate the forsythia as a flowering privacy hedge. Depending on the growth, an annual topiary is definitely recommended in this case. This is especially true when the hedge is on the property line and stretches out its long shoots in undesirable directions. The optimal time is again immediately after flowering.

  • For a straight line stretch cords for orientation
  • The preservation of the natural habit has priority over overly strict design
  • Only cut very cautiously on an annual basis – shorten by a maximum of 30%

After flowering, environmentally conscious hobby gardeners only cut a very dense forsythia hedge on the protruding long shoots. Only in July, when nesting birds have finished their breeding business, do they fully carry out maintenance pruning.

Observe legal regulations for rejuvenation cuts on hedges

If a forsythia hedge that has gotten out of shape calls for pruning for rejuvenation, this should not be carried out between March 1st and September 30th. To protect breeding birds, Section 39 of the Federal Nature Conservation Act prohibits any radical measures on hedges during this time. Complete clearing and burning are also punishable. It is therefore advisable to carry out a rejuvenation pruning during the winter, on a frost-free day.

Pruning dwarf forsythia

For the small garden, tree nurseries offer pretty dwarf forsythia with a maximum height of 100 cm. They are designed to be slow-growing and captivate with a wonderfully dense bloom. A shape and maintenance cut, as with the large relatives, is basically not necessary. If you want to maintain the vitality and flowering propensity of the ornamental shrub, grab the pruning shears every 2 to 3 years. After flowering, cut back a third of the oldest branches by 20-30%. However, avoid briefly snipping the shoot tips, as this causes poor broom growth.

Prefer manual cutting tool

Forsythia is considered to be extremely pruning-tolerant. Their individual growth form in connection with mesotonem growth behavior requires a special degree of sensitivity when cutting. Mechanically operated cutting tools are simply unable to provide the sensitivity required. Experienced gardeners avoid electric or petrol-powered shears even when trimming a forsythia hedge to shape and maintain it. More advantageous are anvil or bypass shears for one-handed operation as well as the classic pruning shears for two-handed operation.

anvil shears

Wherever a lot of effort is required when cutting the forsythia, anvil shears are an advantage. The cut surface is pressed onto a straight plastic surface. In this way, an optimal power transmission takes place. The disadvantage is that the branches to be cut could be crushed.

Bypass shears

Using bypass shears gives the gardener more feel for the individual cut. In return, more effort is required. Thanks to two sharpened cutting surfaces, however, there is no risk of injury to the wood.
Both models are available in specialist shops for right and left-handers. Branded scissors have non-stick coated cutting surfaces and blades made of high-quality steel. Ladies among the hobby gardeners will appreciate the ratchet function, which allows them to cut back strong basic shoots thanks to the increased power transmission.

pruning shears

If a forsythia has reached its final size and at the same time has not been pruned for a long time, the two-handed pruning shears are just the thing. In the anvil version, it even cuts shoots with a diameter of 6-8 cm. The longer the lever arms, the less effort is required. Bypass pruning shears can still handle branches up to 5 cm thick.

telescopic scissors

If the crown is out of reach, telescopic scissors can be used. Since precise cutting is important with a forsythia, the model should have a movable head and rotating handles. The scissors should not be too heavy either, so that you can concentrate fully on the individual cuts without tiring your arms too quickly.

Regular pruning and maintenance pruning preserves vitality and willingness to bloom over many years. This principle applies to forsythia every 2 to 3 years. Since the ornamental shrub flowers on perennial wood and presents its flowering dream in early spring, it occupies a special position in terms of timing. Only when all the flowers have withered do you use the pruning shears. Before the formation of new buds begins, the measure should have ended long ago. If you miss the regular pruning, you can save the wood with a courageous rejuvenation cut.

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *