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Forsythia - when do I need to prune?

ren.bren.b Posts: 164
Hi all
Below are two photo's, first one is of a newly planted area (approx 5-6 years ago) and the second picture is recently.  I have NO idea what to do with that Forsythia - apparently it is pruning group 2 (did you know there were THIRTEEN groups .... ??)
I think I've only ever trimmed this when there were long straggly shoots (for fear of killling it) but I would love to know what I SHOULD be doing, I've read the RHS info but to be honest I don't understand what I'm reading.  What do you do with your Forsythia?

And now - notice how wide the laurel has grown in this time (the nieghbours planted it - thank goodness the tree people are going to cut it back for me when they do the trees.

what is the massive plant at the top?  Should I reduce its size?

Last question - how is it cats always manage to insert themselves into a photo?



  • Blue OnionBlue Onion Posts: 2,995
    I prune mine back immediately after spring flowering, then again as needed to maintain shape.  They look nicest just left alone to grow large and bow down.. but that isn't the space for it.  
    Utah, USA.
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 30,008
    Forsythia produce flowers on the last season's growth so you prune it immediately after flowering finishes.  You can either cut the whole plant back to a good pair of leaves on each stem or you can take one third of the stems back to the base and just trim the tips of the remaining stems.  The latter method is better for shaping the shrub to your needs.

    The bushy plant behind it looks like a hebe to me but hard to be sure without a closer look at the leaves.  You can control its size by gentle pruning all over every year once flowering is over.  They don't appreciate being cut back hard and can sulk or die.   

    That laurel hedge will respond to pruning by growing back with equal vigour so be prepared to give it an annual haircut or else quickly extend that fence once it's been cut back.  That way all the growth will be on the neighbour's side..
    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,789
    I'd agree - it's far too big a shrub for that tiny wee space. 

    Personally, if I had forsythia, I'd prune it as often as possible - to the ankles  :D
    I find the colour of it brutal. 

    Which plant do you mean in your post - 'the massive plant at  the top' ? Do you mean behind the forsythia in the 2nd pic? It looks like the Hebe [?] showing in the 1st pic, but I can't see the foliage well enough. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • I think I’d remove that forsythia and let the hebe fill the space. It’s far more suited to that spot than a forsythia which needs to be much bigger to look half decent. 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • JennyJJennyJ Posts: 10,423
    The plant behind the forsythia looks like a hebe in the first picture.
    I would take the forsythia out too, maybe try moving it to a spot where it'll have enough room to grow. Mine (F. suspensa) gets a third or so of the old branches taken out low down after flowering, and some of the flowered branches taken back by less, and it makes easily 4 or 5 feet long new arching stems over the summer which will flower the following spring. Trying to keep them small/narrow next to paths, drives etc turns them into ugly clipped blobs, cubes, bog-brushes etc that don't show off the flowers to advantage (even for those of us who do like them), if they flower at all.
    Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Soil type: sandy, well-drained
  • Totally agree @JennyJ 😊 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • ren.bren.b Posts: 164
    thanks everyone - I don't really know if I have anywhere else to put that Forsythia, I didn't put it there (the guy who made the little rockery did to soften the edge of the new wall) - Is it deciduous?  I can't remember ....what would be the best time to do any cutting or transplanting?  It does look gorgeous when it flowers.  Fairygirl - you say to the 'ankles' - this is what I really struggle with - knowing where to cut/how to cut - I know it sounds ridiculous but on telly when they say stuff like ' flower bud' or 'leaf node' or 'side shoot' I don't know what theyre talking about ... do I sound really stupid?
  • ren.bren.b Posts: 164
    I've got some space at the back of my rockery - do you think it would thrive up there?  there will be lots more light when the trees are thinned out. Will get a pic to show you.
  • FairygirlFairygirl Posts: 54,789
    Sorry @ren.b - when I said that it was a jokey comment. I hate the stuff, so hacking it to the ankles is just a way of saying I'd keep cutting it back till it gave up and died  ;)

    Not stupid at all. No one knows what those terms mean until they've been doing it a while.  :)
    If that little spot was mine, I'd plant smaller alpines etc, so that the lovely wall wasn't hidden, but it depends on what you'd like to have. The Hebe has already outgrown the space. There are loads of little plants that would work though, depending on the soil and aspect etc  :)

    Forsythia will grow practically anywhere, so if you have somewhere else it could go, it would be a good idea to shift it sooner rather than later, before it become a big chore. 
    It's a place where beautiful isn't enough of a word....

    I live in west central Scotland - not where that photo is...
  • ren.bren.b Posts: 164
    I really liked that expression 'to the ankles' - makes sense lol.  I thought everyone liked Forsythia :D- it will be my first 'transplant' (if you don't count lifting & dividing Iris - at which I am now expert :p- smug face).  Will add it to the list .... still got 50 bloody alliums to plant, half a dozen tulips and some daffs .... it is now raining like crazy - typical!
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