How to Root Forsythia

By Christopher Lotito

Forsythia en fleurs
Forsythia en fleurs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
If you grew up in Pequannock, NJ you know what a forsythia bush is.  In fact, looking at aerial photos of the township, you might be tempted to say Pequannock is the Forsythia Capital of North Jersey, with literally thousands of plants in bloom on hundreds of properties throughout the township.

A relatively recent emigrant of the 1830's from only 2 cultivars in Europe and Asia, the forsythia has held the public interest since that time, taking the place in Pequannock at least that is often held by other flowering plants elsewhere (cherry blossoms anyone?).  Forsythia Suspensa, with its long drooping branches, is a Pequannock child's first play-fort, whether along the back of Hillview Elementary playground or at home, and is often the first decorator plant selected when later that child grows to own their own home.

One of the attractive features of the Forsythia is its ability to take up space and even to form a somewhat unrulier and much brighter alternative to a dogwood hedge.  Bolstering this use, the Forsythia is easy to propagate, being reproducible from cuttings and preferring shady locations and acidic soil.

To root cuttings of a Forsythia it's important to keep a few things in mind:

  1. Forsythia cuttings should always be taken when the plant is OUT of bloom.  6 inch long cuttings with 4 to 6 buds on the branch are your best bet.
  2. The easiest method, rather than cutting, is to weigh a low hanging branch down to the ground with a stone, then cut and transplant the offspring that develops after it has rooted of its own accord.
  3. If you choose to take cuttings, when planting leave about 3 inches below the ground and 3 inches exposed.
  4. Forsythia require well drained soil and will rot if left in very damp soil for long periods of time.  This is especially true of cuttings planted in the Summer months when shoots are young and have not achieved a protective woody bark yet.
  5. Forsythia love acidic soil and so make a great companion plant to your evergreens and pines.
  6. You can use rooting hormone to help your Forsythia cutting along, but it is not necessary.  If you use it, hormones that are rubbed on the end of the cutting will be more economical than those mixed with the soil.
  7. Forsythia cuttings being rooted can benefit from frequent watering, though it's important to remember to keep the soil relatively dry through good drainage.
  8. Though some cultivars of Forsythia are very hardy (and popular in the midwest for just that reason!), cuttings taken in the Fall will be best cultivated in a pot inside through the Winter months.

...and that's it!  With no care whatsoever, your Forsythia will probably live indefinitely and the plants have been known to reach over 10 feet in height and 30 feet in circumference, making it a focal point in your landscaping not for years, but for decades to come.

Christopher Lotito is the author of "Craigslist for Heroes, Rogues, and Middle Management" a book about selling things on the internet, marketing, and learning about the world from the crowds around you.

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