Forsythia pruning: Bush renewal produces more blooms

by | Apr 11, 2010

Forsythia blooming after renewal pruning

Here’s our forsythia bush this afternoon.

Okay, it may not be breathtaking to you — but it is to us because we know how it looked last year, and the year before that.

Last summer, we did a “renewal pruning” on this shrub. This forsythia was here when we bought our house in August 2005, and probably had been here for decades before that. It was overgrown and hardly bloomed at all.

“Renewal pruning” (or “rejuvenation pruning”) is a method of thinning out a shrub’s branches over time. You prune out about 1/3 of the plant’s branches the first year — cutting the oldest, thickest, and woodiest branches to within 6 inches of the ground. Then you repeat the pruning the second and third years, each year taking another third of the oldest branches.

This way, your shrub consists entirely of newer growth after three years — and in the process, the plant’s blooming power and overall vitality is rejuvenated.

Last year, Amy was plotting to get rid of this forsythia. This year, we’re both astonished by its bright yellow burst. I can’t wait to see it after two more rounds of renewal pruning.

For more detailed information about pruning, see “Pruning Woody Landscape Plants” at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension website.

Bonus tip: If you want to grow another forsythia from an existing forsythia, you can simply injure the tip of a long branch and bury it in the soil. There are simple instructions for this layering method of propagation at


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