Bring in some Spring: Forcing Flowering Branches

Winter always seems to end with a nasty weather surprise, just when you’ve had it with cold and wind and ice and snow. You can jump start spring early by forcing flowering branches indoors, and if you want to pretend it’s actually April, who’s going to stop you? Plus, it is SO easy!

First, go out there and cut off some branches of early blooming flowering trees or shrubs. You’ll have the best results if you can see the flower buds already starting to swell a little (flower buds are usually fat and round, while leaf buds are smaller and more pointed). Cut the branches back to where they join another branch, like you were pruning.

Bring your branches indoors and holding the ends under water, cut again at an angle to the size you need to fit your vases. For wider branches (½” or so) cut an “X” in the bottom of the branch. This allows more water to be taken up.

Place branches in very warm water with floral preservative (or add one tablespoon each of Listerine and lemon-lime soda per quart) and put the vase in a cool place, avoiding direct sun and heat sources that might dry out the buds-misting the branches helps too. Change the water every few days.

Depending on the type of flowering branch you’ve chosen, blooms will open in two to six weeks. Once they begin to open, bring them into a warm room to enjoy! Or go ahead and arrange the branches bare so you can enjoy watching them gradually open.

What can you force?

Just about any flowering tree or shrub that already has visible buds formed (in other words, spring bloomers.) Later blooming plants like crape myrtle or vitex haven’t formed buds yet, and won’t if cut.

Flowering Cherry
Flowering Apricot
Forsythia (classic, fast and easy for first-time forcers!)
Magnolia (saucer, lily, and star types)
Pussy Willow (another early spring classic!)
Flowering Quince
Bradford Pear (though the flowers are kind of stinky…)
Crab Apple
Contorted Filbert
Red Maple
Dogwood (be patient-these can take many weeks to “pop”)