Last year and again this year, our forsythia is producing only green leaves. Is there anything we can do to get the yellow flowers back?
Hardiness Zone: 6a
By L. Kuhne from Newmarket, NH
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Hardiness Zone: 5a
Sandy from WI from Stoughton, WI
One of the best ways to perk up your bushes is through rejuvenation pruning. This is a great solution for plants that are getting thin and straggly or when their flower production starts to drop off. Each year for three years, remove 1/3 of the largest branches nearest the ground. You can either cut them back by 1/3 or remove them completely. Both Forsythia and Spirea can withstand severe pruning, so instead of taking three years to complete the process, gardeners with less patience will be happy to know that they can get away with cutting back the entire plant back in one year. After that some patience will be required though, as you wait for the plants to come back. Because Forsythia blooms on old wood, a good time to cut it back is shortly after it finishes flowering. Spirea can be pruned in the late winter or early spring. If it's been a while since you refreshed their soil, add some compost this fall.
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You didn't say if they are old shrubs or new. Mine were old when I bought the house. I had them cut back because they were in terrible shape and the next spring they bloomed well. I also put wood ashes around old shrubs during the winter so the snow/ice can drip it into the ground, they've been there so long that the potash (wood ashes) kinda gives them a boost.
Spirea blooms on new wood. Forsythia blooms on wood grown the previous summer/fall (old wood). If you choose to cut back, don't cut more than 1/3 of the shrub. They need a chance to come back so you may be trimming for a few years. You can "peg" a long branch of the Forsythia to the ground and cover that place with some dirt and you'll get a baby forsythia so you can put it in another place for bright yellow there.
If they are new and no blooms check again about their sun and growth needs.
Good luck. (08/30/2006)