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The Plant Guide

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White forsythia

Abeliophyllum distichum

ah-bee-lee-oh-FIL-lum DISS-tih-kum

This deciduous shrub is related to the forsythia, but differs in that it has white (rather than yellow) flowers that open in early spring before true forsythia. It is a member of the olive family (Oleaceae). In early spring, before the new leaves form, purplish buds all along the grey naked branches open into small white four-petaled, almond-scented flowers with yellow stamens. After flowering, green, glossy abelia-like leaves appear.

Noteworthy CharacteristicsWhite forsythia is native to a small area of central Korea. It is seriously endangered in the wild as it is regarded as a medicinal plant with properties similar to witch hazel, and is illegally harvested for the black market trade in Korea. It is widely grown as a cultivated garden plant, however, so there is no risk of extinction other than in the wild.

CareWhite forsythia likes full sun but will tolerate some shade. It is not fussy about soil conditions but will do poorly in drought-like conditions. In the coldest areas, it is best to either protect the plant from dessicating winter winds, or grow it close to a wall for extra warmth. Prune after it flowers to encourage new wood for next year's flowers. As much as one-third of the shrub may be removed annually. A hard prune every three to four years will control twigginess. Its branches can be cut and brought inside in early spring for forcing in vases.

PropagationRoot greenwood or semi-ripe cuttings in summer; layer in summer.


  • Genus : Abeliophyllum
  • Plant Height : 3 to 6 feet
  • Plant Width : 3 to 6 feet
  • Zones : 5, 6, 7, 8, 9
  • Characteristics : Fragrant Flowers
  • Light : Full Sun to Partial Shade
  • Maintenance : Low
  • Moisture : Medium Moisture
  • Growth Rate : Moderate
  • Foliage Color : Purple/Burgundy
  • Plant Type : Shrubs
  • Bloom Time : Spring
  • Plant Seasonal Interest : Spring Interest
  • Flower Color : White
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