Not Your Grandmother’s Forsythia

Variegated Forsythia & Friend in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Variegated Forsythia & Friend (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

Buttery yellow blossoms of the popular harbinger of spring are brightening landscapes all over New England, but forgive me if I am not thrilled.  For as long as I can remember, I have had a strong aversion to the traditional forsythia that dominates the countryside.  Although some property owners keep it in check with diligent pruning, for others it has bulldozed over everything in its path, leaving a large mass of brown ugliness it its wake.  The brutish personality of forsythia is the stuff of nightmares.  I envision the Jumanji jungles, waking up with a machete in hand to hack my way out of the house . . . 

Forsythia 'Fiesta' in Mixed Shrub Bed in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Forsythia ‘Fiesta’ in Mixed Shrub Bed (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

Alas, you know that I wouldn’t leave you hanging without an option; one that offers the same early golden flower as its dastardly cousin, but without the overwhelming nature. Forsythia x intermedia ‘Fiesta,’ commonly known as variegated (yes, my variegata-loving friends, another one!) forsythia,

Forsythia Fiesta in Early Spring in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Forsythia Fiesta Blooming in Early Spring (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

has a much gentler character with the added bonus of showy foliage when the flowers have fallen.  Once traditional forsythia is done blooming, all you’re left with is unremarkable green leaves.  With ‘Fiesta,’ it’s quite the opposite.

Variegated Forsythia with Juniper & Cotoneaster in A Garden For All by Kathy Diemer

Variegated Forsythia with Juniper & Cotoneaster (photo credit: Kathy Diemer)

Having ‘Fiesta’ in the garden is cause for celebration.  Yes, I said in the garden. Because this petite shrub only grows up to four feet tall and wide, and in a smaller setting with minimal pruning, will not elbow its way into another plant’s territory.  I say this from personal experience, as I grow this delightful shrub in three different beds.  In addition to the showy foliage, Fiesta has red stems which accentuate the creamy yellow markings on its leaves.  Deer resistant, and tolerant of poor soils, this forsythia prefers a sunny site in zones 5-8.  Pair it up with some evergreens, or darker foliaged companions and have a garden party ♥


  1. Forsythia ‘Fiesta’ is definitely a Forsythia worth growing. Mine has been in the ground at least ten years and I’ve barely had to touch it to keep it in that four foot range. I tried F. ‘Kumson’, another variegated variety and was unimpressed. One of my garden friends has a gorgeous little variegated Forsythia ‘Citrus Twist’ that she got at Broken Arrow. If you happen to come across it, grab one. Unfortunately it’s not listed in BAN’s catalog this year but I’m going there today and plan to ask about it.

  2. Correction…that Forsythia cultivar is ‘Citrus Swizzle’, not ‘Citrus Twist’. I just reread the email from my friend. So many plant names, so little memory :).

    • Ha, ha. Can totally relate to that! I’m glad to hear you’ve had such great luck with ‘Fiesta’, as I think it’s highly underused. And, thanks for the tip on ‘Citrus Swizzle’-now I just have to find some room . . .

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