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Forsythia finds it easy to be yellow

Tehachapi Gardener's Choice

Spring can arrive slowly and leave quickly in the mountains of Southern California, so it's nice to have a variety of spring-blooming bulbs, shrubs and perennials to help celebrate this all-too-brief season. One ornamental shrub that likes Tehachapi and lights up in spring is Forsythia, a graceful plant that is covered with yellow blossoms when longer days trigger the onset of blooming.

Forsythias are primarily native to Asia and were imported to England and Europe to the delight of Western gardeners, and they are believed to be among the earliest shrubs imported from the Far East. The genus is named in honor of 18th century Scottish botanist William Forsyth.

Forsythia is a deciduous shrub that blooms before the new leaves come out, which means you get an unimpeded view of the yellow flowers, which have four lobes with the petals joined at the base. When Forsythias flower, nearly every inch of the stems bear lemon yellow blossoms, and the sturdy whips of flower-covered stems are attractive to use as cut flowers to add background accents to indoor flower arrangements.

Most deciduous trees and shrubs are still bare when Forsythia blooms, but the flowers stand out beautifully against a backdrop of evergreens. These likeable shrubs flower best with full or substantial sunlight, and they benefit from regular pruning.

Careful annual pruning not only keeps them more compact, but also stimulates better flowering. Like lilacs, it's best to prune Forsythia shortly after they finish blooming, so they can re-grow throughout the summer. Waiting until winter to prune means that you're cutting off the coming year's flowering stems and reducing the number of flowers you'll get.

Forsythias are pretty tough and you don't need a green thumb to raise them in the Tehachapi Mountains. They are available in containers at local nurseries, inquire about different varieties.


Genus: Forsythia x intermedia

Perennial flowering shrub

Starting: Usually transplanted from a container.

Size: Some varieties are more compact and others sprawl, but most grow from 3 to 9 feet tall.

Exposure: Full or partial sun, does fine up against a fence or wall.

Watering: Weekly watering in the summer, keep mulched.