If yellow is your color, then forsythia (Forsythia spp.) is your plant. You’ll have yellow coming out of your ears when this shrub hotfoots it to the front of the pack in its quest to be the first bloomer of the spring season. Ann Rivers Siddons described the forsythia’s exuberant golden mounds as “lemon icing” in her suspense novel “The House Next Door." If you envision your backyard frosted with yummy, lemony yellow, take oodles of forsythia cuttings. Forsythia roots so easily that even your kids can grow them successfully from plant cuttings. Take greenwood cuttings in May or June to give your new plants plenty of time to set healthy root systems before winter.
Take an unblemished 6-inch stem tip cutting from the current year’s growth with a clean, sharp knife. The stems should still be succulent and not at all woody. Softwood is mature enough to break if you bend it sharply. Your forsythia cutting will grow into an exact clone of the mother plant, so pick a healthy, attractive one that you like. The best time to take cuttings is early in the morning when the plant’s water content is at its highest for the day.
Cut the bottom 2 inches off an empty plastic 1-liter bottle with sturdy scissors to create a dome for a mini-greenhouse. Leave the cap intact. Use an ice pick to poke a few holes in the dome to allow for air circulation. Set the dome aside, and toss the bottom of the bottle in the recycling bin.
Fill a 4-inch pot with sterile potting mix. Set the pot in a shallow container of warm water until the soil surface feels evenly moist. Take the pot out of the water, and allow it to drain for at least 30 minutes. Use a pencil to poke a 2-inch-deep hole in the center of the soil.
Strip all the leaves from the bottom half of the forsythia cutting. Dip the lower 2 inches of the cutting into warm water. Roll the moistened end in powdered rooting hormone. Tap the excess powder off. Stick the treated end of the cutting into the hole, and firm the soil around it gently. Use a plastic spray bottle to spritz the soil with water to evenly moisten the surface.
Cover the cutting with the plastic dome. Set it in a warm, brightly lit room out of direct sun. A temperature range of 70 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit is optimum. Because bottom heat is beneficial, a spot on top of your refrigerator or above a hot water heater is ideal. Your forsythia cutting should root in about six to eight weeks.
Remove the dome daily to check the soil for moisture. Do not allow the cutting to dry out. Spritz the soil surface as needed to keep it evenly moist, but not soggy or wet. Mist the cutting every day.
Check for rooting progress in about six weeks. Tug the cutting’s stem upward gently. If it resists, rooting has begun. If it pulls easily out of the soil, replace it and check it again in a couple of weeks.
Take the dome off for good when the cutting roots and you see new growth emerge. Move the plant to a bright windowsill out of direct sun in a warm room. Keep the soil evenly moist, and mist the forsythia daily. Transfer it to a 6-inch pot of sterile potting mix about two or three weeks later. Move it outdoors to a partially shaded spot.