Stems that develop roots to grow into new plants as they lay on the ground are known as ‘layers’. Because cane berries develop tall vertical canes that seem to leap as they arch over to touch the ground and root in, the new plants that develop where they do so are known as ‘leapers’. I sort of think that ‘layers’ sounds more like reliable hens than self propagating plants. I also sort of think that ‘leapers’ just sounds funny.

A big forsythia at work had become overgrown with several layers or leapers. I am not really sure which they are, but there was quite a mess of them. We needed to remove the superfluous plants. Also, we wanted a few forsythias in other parts of the landscape. Well, you can figure this out. We decided to kill two layers with one stone . . . or something like that. We decided to pull up the unwanted layers or leapers in one area, and plant them where they were actually desired. We decided to get it all done just prior to a big storm that would help settle the new plants in.

1. Forsythia before division.p90112

2. Forsythia after division. The entire left half of the original clump, which happens to be the original plant, as well as a few small layers or leapers, were removed. This remaining portion of the clump was not pruned yet. It will be pruned after later winter or very early spring bloom. This picture is approximately in the same position as the previous picture #1.p90112+

3. This largest of the new plants to be divided from the main plant was actually the original plant. The label was found on one of the old canes. Four smaller layers or leapers are to the right. The four smallest that are shown in picture #5 are not visible here. Because they needed to be pruned back to compensate for the root damage associated with the process, these plants were pruned almost as they would have been after bloom, which will unfortunately limit bloom in their first season.p90112++

4. This is the same largest clump in picture #3 after getting pruned and installed into another part of the landscape just before the rain. If it does not get pruned after bloom this year, the big older caned will be cut to the ground after bloom next year. By that time, there will be plenty of basal stems to replace them. Ideally, it will be pruned annually after bloom by a process known as ‘alternating canes’, which involved removing old canes to favor newer canes. Individual canes last no more than a few years before getting pruned out.p90112+++

5. After the largest of the freshly divided plants were installed directly into the landscape, the four smallest layers or leapers were canned and put into the nursery, just because we could not think of a place to plant them directly right away. A layer in the hand is worth two in the bush, and four in the nursery is even better.p90112++++

6. Another unassociated forsythia bloomed in the nursery at the shops early last year.4bd2

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

33 thoughts on “Six on Saturday: Forsythia Division

    1. Thank you. I was not all that pleased with the series because to me, they look like a few different pictures of the same thicket of bare canes. I almost added a picture of Rhody just because everyone loves Rhody.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow, they seem so happy here, that I would imagine that they would be even happier everywhere else where winters are cooler. Even though I prefer to take out the canes before they get to be a few years old, even the old canes continue to bloom until they get very old. We want to plant more here, but my concern is that gardeners in the future with not prune out the old canes.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. If I had known that people wanted to see the step by step procedure, I would have gotten more detailed pictures. These really do not show much about how to do it. It sure was cool though. I happen to like forsythia, and am am pleased that we now have a few more.


    1. That makes it easier. No one intentionally layered the forsythia. It just did it on its own. Although I am pleased that we got a few copies of it from the natural layering, I do not want it to get so overgrown again. It was quite a mess. Flowering quince does the same, and also makes many root suckers!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I like the step by step, because pruning is so specific to different plants and can so easily be done wrong (roses, for instance; I know I do them wrong). And most people just plant forsythia where they can spread and go crazy, so understanding how to thin and encourage bloom is helpful and the pictures really give an idea of what/how much to take out as well as why, given your comment about the roots.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ‘Alternating canes’ is probably a topic that I should write an article about. It used to be a common technique, but no one here does it anymore. ‘Gardeners’ just shear lilacs into nasty thickets that will not bloom. There is not point in growing some of these things if they will never be allowed to bloom.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m with you there. Our landscape company shears camellias, cherry laurels and rhododendrons after the buds have set for the next spring. We’ve finally got them trimming Nandina appropriately, but nobody’s even tried with the lilacs. Way too complicated for the people they send (but the people who do the walk through with you understand everything…).

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s a old-fashioned shrub I grew up with that divided properties or cascaded over fence lines, but the most striking I’ve seen in bloom is the Forsythia Dell in March at Dumbarton Oaks in DC, a breathtaking tangled mass of yellow on a slope as far as you can see. I can’t see how anyone could prune out the oldest canes yearly but maybe they do. I am fond of the shrub.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have heard of colonies of forsythia like that is a few locations in the East, including in Central Park in Manhattan. We have nothing like that here because we do not have public spaces like that. Only Golden Gate Park in San Francisco is almost comparable, but the climate is not conducive to plants that want cold winters and warm summers. Lilacs are another classic that we do not have much of.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. It is uncommon here in the West, so I am pleased that we could get a few more so easily. It actually does quite well here, so does not seem to require much of a chill. To me, it looks so elegant, like something from a garden in New England or Virginia.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. SERIOUSLY?!?!? I so dig them! They are rare here. I like them because they look so Eastern, like something that would bloom in a big city park in Philadelphia or some other cosmopolitan city. Although I am none too keen on yellow, it does not bother me because there is not too much of it. At the rate they reproduce, there might be too much in a century or so, but it will not be my problem.


  3. You make me laugh, sometimes with what you like and don’t like. Forsythia are common as muck in London and much more often than not become an unruly mess. I battled with a huge thicket last year. I also think they are a one trick pony. Lovely for a week or ten days, then rather dull. Still, I am no doubt guilty of the same thing with plants that are rare here!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The oleanders that people in Portland and colder climates grow in pots so that they can bring them in for protection from frost used to grow in the medians of the freeways here because they are so tough. Bonsai artists in Japan have no problem spending good money on rooted cuttings of the same coastal redwoods that grow wild here. It is a matter of perspective.


    2. Do you happen to grow weigela there? I noticed that modern cultivars are becoming available, but they are still uncommon here. If you grow them, how do they compare to forsythia? Are they completely different?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s