Forcing Branches for Winter Bloom

Spring is my favourite time of year. I like the frenzy of it… the way the landscape turns from snowy and barren on March 21, to the being lush, green, full and colourful by June 20. Each year I celebrate an early arrival to my favourite season by cutting branches from the forsythia shrubs outside and forcing them into bloom indoors.

Forsythia is one of the first shrubs to bloom in the Spring, it’s bright yellow blossoms appearing before its’ leaves in late April or early May. But by cutting the branches now and bringing them into the house, I can enjoy it all the sooner.


I look for branches that have a lot of twigs on them (see picture) so I’ll have a nice full arrangement. Using my hand pruners, I cut lengths about 2 feet long until I have a nice handful. I then take them inside, cut the ends one more time on a 45 degree angle and immediately place them in a pail of cool water. As the stems are still frozen I like to move the pail to a cooler area in the house, either the basement or garage, and allow a slow thaw for a few days so the buds hydrate themselves in a way that simulates nature.

After a few days they’ll be ready to be arranged in a sparkling clean vase. I cut the stems once more on a 45 degree angle, maybe an inch or so above the previous cut. Larger stems can also be split up the center for additional hydration. The water needs to be treated with a preservative to keep bacteria at bay, which in turn gives you a longer lasting flower. One ounce of Listerine mouthwash helps, or add a teaspoon of sugar and a few drops of chlorine bleach. Place the arrangement in a cool area, out of direct sunlight.

It is important to keep the water in the vase clean and clear. Should the water become cloudy, remove the stems, wash the vase, cut the stems once again and arrange in treated water. Over the next few weeks the buds will start to swell and swell until they finally burst open, revealing the golden blossoms inside.

Forysthia is the most rewarding, but other branches can be forced inside using the same technique. Apple, pear, cherry and plum, quince and magnolia will flower within 3 weeks. I often force alder, birch or hazel for their catkins, or red dogwood twigs which add a lovely contrast to the flowering branches.

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Kool Breeze Farms sells hand pruners, vases and many, many more shrubs to make your home beautiful both inside and out! Our knowledgeable staff can answer all of your questions on gardening and growing.