How do I prune an overgrown forsythia?

Q: My forsythia bush has grown out of control! What can I do to reduce the size, encourage more blooms, or otherwise tidy it up?

A: Most forsythia plants need to be regularly pruned. Why? Because healthy, full-sized forsythia shrubs can grow stems as long as 8 feet in one year! If your space is not large enough for that, you should probably remove the shrub and plant something else.

There are two common methods for pruning forsythias, depending on the health, size, and unruliness of the shrub.

Method 1: Rejuvenation Pruning (done every few years)

If the forsythia is very overgrown, tangled, or too large, this method may be best. It may seem extreme but cutting the entire plant to just above the ground can do wonders. Forsythia are vigorous shrubs (as long as they are healthy) that will quickly regrow from rejuvenation pruning.

Fertilizing your forsythia the fall before you plan to rejuvenate it can be beneficial but is not necessary. But if you want to give it a little boost, September or October is usually the ideal time to fertilize forsythia.

Method 2: Size Reduction and Shaping by Thinning (annually)

If your forsythia shrub is not in desperate shape but could benefit from some cleanup, then “thinning” the shrub is your best option.

Cut ¼ to 1/3 of the oldest stems (including in the middle of the shrub) to the ground. This method of thinning leaves room for new growth and allows sunlight to reach the interior of the plant – which is helps new leaves and flowers to grow.

Give Bay Landscaping a call if you have any additional questions or if you want to schedule a clean-up of your overgrown forsythia – they can be a bit of a beast to tackle!


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Answer Provided By ...

Jerry Somalski

Jerry is a Landscape Designer, Project Manager, and the President of Bay Landscaping. He began learning about plants and landscape design as a young boy, hoeing in the family nursery and tagging along with the landscape crews who taught him the tools and methods of the trade. After earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration at Central Michigan University, he returned to the family business. Jerry has an enthusiastic yet practical approach to landscape design, focused on choosing the right plants (ones that thrive in the mid-Michigan climate) for the right place to create sustainable and spectacular landscapes. He loves to share what he knows with gardeners throughout Michigan! Learn more about Jerry >>