Many people appreciate the graceful lines and cheery yellow flowers of Forsythia each spring without ever knowing the plant’s name. Much like the beautiful daffodil, forsythia flowers are a powerful symbol of the returning spring and the rising warmth. Here we’ll take you through everything you need to know about Forsythia flower meaning and symbolism, their history and origins, uses and benefits, and cultural significance around the world today.
- Forsythia Flower Meaning – The Essentials
- About Forsythia Flowers
- The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Forsythia Flowers
- Forsythia Flower FAQs
Forsythia Flower Meaning – The Essentials
Forsythia flowers have a sunny and cheerful appearance that belies their complex symbolism. In the language of flowers, the forsythia flower carries the symbolic meaning of excitement, anticipation, and a new start at the beginning of spring each year. In Korea, these blooms are also a symbol of devoted love.
About Forsythia Flowers
Forsythia is a common name applied to more than one plant, but they all share common symbolism due to their similar flowers and growth habits.
Family, Genus, and Taxonomy
Rather than being a single plant, Forsythia is an entire genus with 11 species included within it. The genus falls into the Oleaceae family, which includes olives, jasmine, and many other flowering shrubs and trees.
Botanical Characteristics, Colors, Fragrances
Of the 11 species that make up Forsythia, they’re all flowering shrubs and share a deciduous habit. The most well-known landscaping Forsythia, Forsythia x intermedia, is a larger shrub that can grow up to 5 feet tall without trimming. Some of the species have weeping habitats for the flowers, while others hold them upright, but they all tend to grow arching stems with multiple blooms. The flowers also appear before the leaves in most species.
History & Origins of Forsythia Flowers
When it was first noticed by European botanists in Japanese and Chinese cultivated gardens, it was wrongfully listed as a type of yellow Lilac. Instead, it’s a relative of the olive that was easily adapted to European and then North American climates, making it popular in landscapes by the 1800s.
Popular Types, Species, and Cultivars
Most landscaping and cut flower Forsythia varieties are hybrids between two or more wild species. This allows for better control of the exact height and number of blooms per stem to optimize the appearance of the flowers.
‘Goldilocks’ is one of the most widely planted cultivars, chosen for its smaller growth habitat that keeps it under 3 feet tall with minimal trimming. For a bigger and bold variety that’s covered in gold blooms, consider ‘Lynwood Gold’ that reaches 10 feet.
The common and genus name of Forsythia comes from William Forsyth. He was held to be the botanist responsible for introducing the plant from China to Britain in particular. While he was not the first to note or discover the plant, he was believed to be the first to cultivate it in Europe in the open environment.
What Regions are Forsythia Flowers Native to?
Most Forsythia species, including those most popular for landscaping use, are native to China and Japan. A few are also native to Korea, and species are found only in the Balkans in Serbia.
When are Forsythia Flowers in Season?
Forsythia is a spring-blooming shrub that tends to bloom flowers before their leaves appear each year. The buds form in the fall and stay on the stems over the winter in most cases. Cultivars with foliage that turns red or purple in the fall can be just as beautiful when they’re not blooming.
Uses & Benefits of Forsythia Flowers
There is a common claim that Forsythia is one of the only plants to produce lactose, but there’s no proof this is actually true.
In general, the plant is only used for ornamental purposes despite the fact that the flowers themselves are edible. They can be added to tea, salads, or baked goods for decoration. The leaves, stems, roots, and seeds shouldn’t be eaten and can be mildly toxic.
Forsythia flowers also highly attractive to bees and helps feed pollinators in early spring when other flowers haven’t opened yet.
The Meaning, Symbolism, and Cultural Significance of Forsythia Flowers
Forsythia is more than just edible blossoms and easy-to-grow ornamental shrubs. They’re also symbolic blooms that can send a message when worked into a larger arrangement.
Forsythia Flower Colors and Their Meanings
Start by considering the color meaning of the sunny yellow Forsythia flowers. While they can be found in pale lemon or darker gold shades, they all generally share the same color meaning. Yellow and similarly warm-colored blooms offer meanings like:
- Joy and happiness
- Skill and wisdom
- New beginnings
- Sunny days.
One of the Earliest Blossoms of Spring
As one of the first flowers to appear in Spring, Forsythia is a common symbol of hope, anticipation, and the renewal of fresh growth. It’s a natural pair for daffodils and crocuses, two other early spring flowers that share similar meanings.
No surprise that one of Forsythia’s alternative common names is Easter Tree. Since this links the flower to the resurrection story of Jesus Christ, it’s also a flower used to decorate during Easter celebrations.
Forsythia Flower Meaning in the Victorian Flower Language
Since Forsythia plants were brought from Asia to Britain by the Victorian period, the flower earned a place among the flower language of the era. It was considered a symbol of anticipation and even excitement for an upcoming event or occasion.
Combined with romantic flowers like roses, it was often used to indicate the desire for a meeting or even secret contact with a lover. If a date or wedding was already scheduled, sending Forsythias could help express excitement and anticipation in honor of the celebration.
The Easter Tree
Forsythia is not mentioned in the Bible or an official tree associated with Easter, but its blooming time makes it an ideal decoration for the holiday.
It’s not surprising it has become associated with the spring holiday in many countries. Using Forsythia for its resurrection and renewal symbolism can help inspire someone to make a new start.
If you’re trying to signal support for someone struggling with a hard time, cheerful Forsythia can help send just the right message.
Korean Folklore and Love
With many Forsythia varieties native to Korea, the flower has woven its way into the folklore of this country’s culture as well.
There’s a common story of a man who has to travel far from home for many years with no contact with his family. Depending on the era and region, the cause for his travels can range from war to work. Regardless, he eventually returns home to find his wife patiently waiting for him by a blooming Forsythia bush.
This has cemented the flower in Korean folklore as a symbol of devoted love that can overcome time and obstacles.
Japanese Language of Flowers
The Hanakotoba is the Japanese version of the Language of Flowers, making it a valuable way to explore this country’s culture.
Forsythia is native to the country, so they earned a place in the lineup as well. Forsythia flowers are used to symbolize anticipation and the arrival of spring in Japanese flower arrangements.
They’re only available seasonally, making them a beautiful statement to add to a sparse and line-focused Japanese style ikebana arrangement.
Forsythia isn’t just a beautiful shrub to grow in the yard, it’s also a great addition to any bouquet for expressing excitement and admiration. Devoted love may be a surprising theme for this cheerful flower, but it’s a great alternative to the usual romantic blooms.
Forsythia Flower Meaning FAQs
What do forsythia flowers symbolize?
Forsythia flowers have a wide range of meanings including renewal, anticipation for something pleasant, the arrival of spring, devoted love, and joyfulness.
What is forsythia used for?
The Forsythia flowers are edible and can be used decoratively on food. Otherwise, the main use for the shrub is ornamental landscaping or for cut flowers.
Is forsythia toxic to humans?
All parts except the blossoms are mildly toxic to humans and most animals.
Is forsythia an evergreen?
None of the Forsythia cultivars are evergreens, but some do feature eye-catching and colorful fall foliage.
Where does forsythia grow best?
Forsythia flowers thrive best in full sun and need well-draining soil, yet can handle a wide range of climates from USDA zone 5 to 9.
Andrew is the Editorial Director at Petal Republic. He holds a BSc degree in Plant Sciences and has trained professionally at leading floristry schools in London and Paris. In amongst overseeing a global editorial team, Andrew's a passionate content creator around all things flowers, floral design, gardening, and houseplants.