May Bouquet: Gold-leaved Forsythia

Here's how to grow this month's colorful beauty, gold-leaved forsythia:

Latin Name

Forsythia x intermedia 'Gold Leaf'

Common Name

Gold-leaved Forsythia


Oleaceae, the olive family.

What kind of plant is it?

Deciduous flowering shrub.


Zones 5 to 8.


Upright when young, but sprawling with maturity.

Rate of Growth


Size in ten years

6 - 8 feet tall and 10 - 12 feet wide.


Small numerous leaves and sprawling many-twigged growth create a haystack appearance over time.

Grown for

typical yellow Spring flowers, although in no where near the abundance of green-leaved forsythia. 

pure-gold foliage of a softer yellow than the flowers is a more restrained pleasure Summer to frost.

Flowering season

Mid Spring:  Late April in Rhode Island.


Any reasonable soil and drainage.  The only hard rule is morning sun only:  The foliage can scorch badly in hot afternoon sun.  North-wall planting is also very successful.

How to handle it

As long as there's enough shade to escape leaf scorch, and yet still enough light to permit growth, this is a tough and very successful shrub.  Its shade-loving ways and, hence, slower growth don't prevent it from growing into a messy twiggy tangle, though.  Renew the shrub every two or three years by cutting it down to a couple of inches right after it's done blooming.  New growth will have attractive soft-gold foliage all season, and will bloom regularly the following Spring, too.

Like all forsythias, its most satisfying floral use is not in the garden at all—chances are, there's too much forsythia in the neighborhood already—but when cut and forced for late-Winter bouquets. 


The gold foliage saves this form from the twin curses of green-leaved forsythia: Being interesting only for a few weeks a year, and being omnipresent in your neighborhood whether or not you have some yourself.  Only the occasional Spring massacre to renew the whole shrub is tedious.  Otherwise, a long-lived and long-performing asset to any shade garden.


Forsythias with interesting foliage have gotten quite diverse in recent years.  Among the best: 'Kumson' has green leaves with showy white veins.  'Citrus Swizzle' is a dwarf with strong green-yellow variegation. 


On-line and at "destination" retail nurseries.


Cuttings root easily.  The shrub also layers spontaneously wherever it touches ground.

Native habitat








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