Did Your Forsythia Only Bloom on the Bottom?

did your forsythia only bloom on the bottom?

Forsythias are a harbinger of spring here in our Ottawa area, so we anticipate and appreciate their bright, cheerful yellow blooms. Are you wondering why your forsythia only bloomed on the bottom branches this spring? I have noticed this fact in several gardens, so wondering why that may be.

did your forsythia only bloom on the bottom?

Do You Have a Hardy Variety of Forsythia?

One of my garden-related pet peeves is the fact that many nurseries stock and sell perennial plants that are not cold-hardy in our area. Forsythias are one of them. In my opinion, the “Northern Gold” variety is one of the hardiest, and should survive in the Ottawa area. It is readily available in most nurseries here. Be sure to choose a variety that is hardy to your area when shopping!

Many times though, while the branches and leaves are hardy and resistant to cold, the flower buds are not. This may be the case this year as to why your forsythia only bloomed on the bottom branches this spring. The lower branches (and flower buds) were well insulated by the substantial snowfall we experienced this past winter.

This tiny forsythia bloomed on all its branches because it is so small it was completely insulated over the winter.


Was Your Forsythia Pruned Improperly or Too Late Last Season?

Forsythias, as one of the first shrubs to bloom in spring, should only be pruned after they bloom. If you prune it too late in the season, you risk removing some of the buds that are preparing to bloom the following spring. The new growth after the forsythia blooms is what will be blooming next season, so be careful how much you cut off and where you cut it from.

The general rule of thumb for shrub or tree pruning is this: If it blooms before June, prune it after it blooms. If it blooms after June, prune it in the spring. That is if pruning is even necessary. We seem to have become an over-pruning, over-zealous, perfection-striving, bunch these days. I have met a few gardeners that say they never prune their forsythia, yet get lots of glorious blooms each spring. I would be curious to see if these non-pruned forsythias only bloomed on the bottom branches this spring too.

It’s Not Just the Cold Temperatures But Also the Fluctuations in Temperature That Affect Blooming

When Mother Nature decides to give us a taste of spring in January or February, then slams the door in March, the fluctuations affect our plants. That’s because the thaws trick roots and flower buds into thinking spring is coming, then the cold snap afterward freezes them, killing them in the process.

This variation in weather, including the ice storm a few weeks ago, could very well have something to do with why our forsythias only bloomed on the bottom branches. The flower buds hibernating under the snow had not started their spring process yet so were unharmed by the nasty weather.

I’d love to hear from fellow enthusiasts if your forsythia only bloomed on the bottom branches or if you were lucky enough to have a tree or shrub full of spring cheeriness.

this is what they should look like!

Perennials in Pots

As an experiment this winter, I am planning to leave some (very) hardy perennials in their big pots on my back deck to see if any survive the winter.  I have planted perennials in containers before but never had much success with leaving them in their pots for the winter.  I have tried rose bushes and ornamental grasses but apparently, they are not hardy enough.  The general rule of thumb is they should be at least two zones hardier than your area to survive in pots instead of in the garden.

So, this season I am trying shrub roses, (much hardier than bushes) false spirea, forsythia, and lilac bushes, as well as a plum and a maple tree, all of which grow prolifically in my gardens.  With the exception of the plum tree that might be a bust, the others are reliably hardy for this area (zone 2).  The two mature plums trees in my gardens send up shoots all over the yard so I won’t feel so bad if the one in the pot does not survive.  These subjects of my experiment have all been grown from cuttings in my ICU...

Anything else currently in pots that I wish to save must be brought in for the winter.  This year that will include a beautiful non-hardy ornamental grass that was extremely expensive, too much so to replace each year…

perennials in pots

I will keep you posted on their survival rate!

Hardy Hibiscus Show Stoppers

October blooms

Hardy hibiscus are my show stoppers in my GARDENS4U gardens this August and September.  Their unbelievably vibrant blooms, often the size of a dinner plate, will literally make you stop and gawk at their incredible beauty…

I love the hibiscus so much this season that I tried some in containers and fertilized them heavily to keep them blooming all summer…

hardy hibiscus

As with any plants you expect to be perennial (they come back each year) read the labels before you purchase them!  These hibiscus are called hardy because they are considered perennials in colder areas than their less hardy cousins.  These are hardy to USA zone 4, which are perfect for my Ottawa gardens.  Just be careful and patient in the spring, as they are slow to recover from their winter hibernation.  Because they die back to the ground in winter here, I put a marker near mine so I don’t inadvertently disturb or throw it out during spring cleanup.

Another important fact to consider is that perennials planted in containers are less hardy (2 zones) than when they are planted in the garden.  For example, although these hibiscus are hardy to zone 4 when planted in gardens, they would only be hardy to zone 6 in containers. 

That means I will be moving these gorgeous containers inside before the first frost.

There are annual varieties of hibiscus as well, sold in 4-inch pots with other annuals, perfect for fillers in containers.