living a well tended life... at any age

101: forcing forsythia branches

Well the snow is mostly gone here, the tulips are starting to peek out of the ground and the days are getting just a little bit longer.  Spring is around the corner…….

But it’s not quite enough. I need color – like, an explosion of it – and I’m imagining most of you do too.

It’s so easy to force branches to flower indoors, and you’ll get  almost immediate gratification for your efforts – something not usually associated with gardening.

Here’s how to do it:

forcing forsythia branches indoors

forcing forsythia branches indoors

forcing forsythia branches indoors

forcing forsythia branches indoors

forcing forsythia branches indoors

forcing forsythia branches indoors

Sometime in mid to late February – or once the temperature starts to stay above freezing – prune enough branches to fill your vase (make sure you cut enough to make a nice full arrangement without leaving your shrub misshapen). Using a hammer, smash the bottoms of the branches to open them up and allow for more efficient uptake of water.

Place the branches in warm water, making sure that no leaves, buds or branches are submerged below the surface. Place the vase in a warm room with good light. Change the water every few days.

That’s it! In a few weeks you’ll have a beautiful array of flowering branches. Keep in mind that the closer you prune to the shrub’s natural bloom time, the less time they’ll take to open up indoors.

So now that you’re hooked – and I know you’ll be – feel free to experiment throughout the season with other shrubs.  Quince, lilacs, cherries and viburnums all take well to this technique and make for a display that’s a refreshing change from the usual cut flower arrangement.

Happy (almost) Spring!


  1. Marcie on March 8, 2011 at 12:19 pm

    Sherri, thank you for solving this mystery for me! I have always wondered just how to force forsythia branches. So excited to have an indoor pre-spring spring! Love your blog and will keep peeking in to see what else you have up your sleeve….

    • sheri silver on March 16, 2011 at 6:46 am

      Thanks Marcie!

  2. Mother Hen on July 18, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    What about pussy willows, should the stem also be smashed to help draw water?

    • sherisilver on July 18, 2013 at 2:31 pm

      Yes – definitely!

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