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How to Force Flowering Branches to Bloom Indoors

Are you longing for the spring season, and all the fabulous flowers that come with it? Today I’ll show you how easy it is to force flowering branches to bloom indoors so you can enjoy an “early breath of spring.”

If you’re a flower girl like me, you’ll be happy to know that there’s a process that allows you to have all the color and beauty of early spring blooms in your home during these gloomy weeks of winter ahead.

This is the time of year when a little pick-me-up is needed to cure those wintertime blues. The good news is that you can brighten up the inside of your home through late winter very easily. It’s as simple as bringing fresh-cut branches from spring-flowering trees and adding them to a vase filled with fresh water.

force bloom spring-flowering branches:  cherry tree in bloom

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force bloom spring-flowering branches:  forsythia

Forced branches are a wonderful way to bring a touch of spring indoors while the outside garden still sleeps during the winter.

This practice involves cutting branches from flowering shrubs and trees, like forsythia, cherry, magnolia, or pussy willow, before their bud’s natural bloom time.

Once the branches are brought inside and placed in water, they’re exposed to warmer temperatures and more consistent light than they would outdoors during winter.

This ‘forcing’ process tricks the branches into thinking that spring has arrived, causing them to bloom weeks ahead of the plant’s natural blooming time. The result is an early burst of color and beauty in your home, offering a sneak peek at the upcoming spring season.

Here are some of the spring-flowering trees and shrubs you can force to bloom indoors during the several weeks of winter that are left:

  • Forsythia branches
  • Witch Hazel
  • Flowering Quince
  • Eastern Redbud
  • Flowering Cherry/Plum
  • Crab Apple
  • Pussy Willow
  • Magnolia
  • Lilacs
  • Dogwood

The best time to begin forcing spring-blooming branches is once the night temperatures are consistently between 33-41°F.

After at least 6 weeks of cold weather, the buds on many flowering trees and shrubs have already formed from the previous year. At that point, they’re still in a period of dormancy for a few more weeks until the warmer weather arrives.

January through late February, and even early March, are great months for force-blooming flowering branches. However, you can also bring branches indoors just before they’re ready to bloom outdoors with plump buds that are already starting to swell.

The time it takes to force branches into bloom varies depending on the type of plant and the conditions you provide them.

Generally, most branches will bloom indoors within 1 to 3 weeks after being cut. Early-blooming species like forsythia, witch hazel, and pussy willow tend to awaken more quickly, often in as little as one week.

On the other hand, late bloomers such as magnolia or cherry can take up to four weeks. The key factors that influence this process include the maturity of the buds at the time of cutting, the indoor temperature, and the amount of light the branches receive.

Keeping them in a warmer, well-lit room accelerates the blooming process.

force bloom spring-flowering branches:  forsythias

To force spring-flowering trees and shrubs into blooming this winter, here are some simple steps:

Force Flowering Branches to Bloom

1: Choose branches from spring-flowering trees with lots of plump flower buds that are evenly spaced along the length of the branch.

branches in the deck

2: Cut off healthy-looking branches, leaving a couple of inches of stem at the end.

3: For best results, submerge the cut end of the branches in water for several hours before bringing them indoors.

cut forsythia branches when first brought indoors

4: Once inside, place the branches in a tall vase filled with warm water. Optional: Add flower preservatives to help promote blooming.

5: Keep the vase in a cool location with indirect light and high humidity.

6: Once the buds have opened, move the branches into a well-lit indoor location.

cut forsythia branches after a week of being brought indoors

Branches should flower within 1-2 weeks, depending on how far along your flowers are when cutting them from the tree.

I usually start cutting forsythia branches in mid-January and it takes about a week for mine to bloom.

forsythia branches just cut

All you need to prune spring-blooming branches for force blooming is a pair of clean, sharp pruners, a bucket, a floral preservative, and a vessel. And of course, a flowering tree or shrub.

When pruning any branches, pick a day when the outdoor temperature is above freezing to help them transition from outdoors to the inside of your home.

Select branches that aren’t essential to the form of your shrub or tree. I always choose branches that are located in the back of a tree or an area where it wouldn’t hurt to thin out to prevent overcrowding.

Be sure to use pruners that are both sharp and clean to ensure that your cuts are clean and smooth. Cut stems that are 6-18 inches in length, although it’s a personal preference.

It’s important to prune the branch properly in order not to damage the rest of the tree or shrub you are cutting from, right above a branch or side bud so there is no stub.

Force Flowering Branches to Bloom

Trim off any parts of the branch that aren’t aesthetically pleasing, and any branches that would be touching the water once placed in the vessel.

Cut the base of the stem at an angle. and crush the ends of the branch with a hammer to allow the water to absorb more quickly.

According to The Spruce, there’s another alternative to crushing the ends with a hammer. You can cut another inch off the bottoms of the stems when they’re submerged in water. This second cut, performed underwater where air cannot act as a drying agent, will promote water intake.

forsythia branches cut in the winter
This is the day I cut the branches.

Place the branches in lukewarm water for several hours overnight. The next day, switch them to a vessel or vase, filled with warm water and floral preservative.

Move the vessel of branches into a cool place with no direct sunlight until the buds start showing color. Then move them to an area with bright indirect light for more quality cut flowers.

force bloom spring-flowering branches
Here they are just 3 days later.

Re-cut and crush the ends of the branch every few days for longer-lasting blooms. To prevent bacteria from forming, change the water every 1-2 days.

It will also help speed up the flowering process if the air is relatively humid. If it’s not, mist the branches every few days to provide some moisture.

Flowering blooms should appear in a few weeks depending on the variety. The branches of forsythia seem to take the least amount of time.

force bloom spring-flowering branches:   forsythias in full bloom

That’s it! It’s so simple to force bloom these spring flowering branches. What a great way to make leaf buds bloom in less time than waiting for the higher temperatures to arrive.

You can experiment with just about any flowering tree or shrub you have in your yard. I’ve never forced lilac blooms, but I’m going to try it, as well as rhododendrons, azaleas, and magnolias.

winter living room with forsythia blooms

The amount of time that forced branches will last indoors can vary. Typically, they maintain their beauty for about 1 to 3 weeks after blooming.

The lifespan of these blossoms indoors is influenced by several factors such as the type of branch, the environmental conditions, and the care they receive.

Branches from early bloomers like forsythia and pussy willow tend to last longer, while delicate flowers like cherry and apple blossoms may have a shorter display life.

To maximize their lifespan, keep the branches in a cool room away from direct sunlight and heating vents, as excessive heat can quicken wilting. Changing the water regularly and making a fresh cut on the stems every few days can also help prolong their vibrancy.

If you love bringing in the natural elements outdoors, try force-blooming your fruit trees and other spring branches to create the most beautiful display for your home until the end of winter.

If you have any questions or additional suggestions, feel free to share them in the comments below. And be sure to share this blog post link with anyone who may find these tips useful.

Until next time,

Happy Blooming!

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  1. This is the most wonderful and informative article on how for force spring branches! You only make me wish I had spring branches here in Florida! My daughter has the most beautiful cherry trees up in Maryland, I am sharing this with her and encouraging her to bring a little spring inside! I am also sharing this with my readers! Thanks for the detailed information!!

  2. Kim, I JUST this week trimmed back my peach and apricot trees. I felt so bad all those branches were on the ground so I did this very thing! I have several branches in a large jug by the breakfast room fireplace and I’m hoping for some early blooms. Since I am mentioning this on my Saturday Meanderings, I want to include this post which has more information.

    1. Hi Mary! I’m so happy to hear that you are enjoying your blooming branches in your home. I just got a bundle of forsythia stems from a neighbor. I can’t wait for them to bloom.

  3. Thanks for the tips. I had no idea you could do anything to a branch once it’s cut, but makes sense. Yours are so pretty and colorful.

  4. Love this so much!!!! Would you mind if I shared this on Thistlekeeping?

    Happy day friend!

  5. Your posts make my day – I always look forward to your gorgeous pictures. Makes me feel as though I can stop by for a cup of tea & enjoy your wonderfully comfortable home. Thx for all you do to make us smile. Happy New Year!? Michelle

  6. Kim, I’ve tried this before but did not use floral preservative…maybe that’s why I had underwhelming results. Thanks for sharing. I just pruned my peach and apricot trees, but tossed the branches because I thought they may be diseased. Oh well, there is always next year.

  7. I cannot wait to start forcing branches this year!!! Thanks for all of the tips (I never thought of waiting until above freezing). I’m sure that makes a huge difference.
    Let’s hope for some beautiful early blooms!!!!!!!!!

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