Forcing Cut Branches To Bloom Indoors

Forcing branches to bloom indoors is a lovely way to decorate a home, and the process is simple really...just grab your pruners, snip off a few crossing branches with plenty of big buds and plop them into a vase of water indoors. In a few short weeks, they will bloom, bringing spring right into your home!

To cut a branch for forcing, pick a day in late winter with temperatures above freezing. For early spring bloomers like forsythia and witch hazel, January to February is the perfect time. For later bloomers like lilacs, willows, and honeysuckles, time the pruning for mid-to-late February.

Cut about 1-2 feet off the branches and make cuts at an angle. Some people like to bruise the ends of the branches with a hammer to help the branches absorb water. Set the branches in warm water overnight. Recut the branches every few days to promote water uptake, and change the water daily to prevent a buildup of bacteria. 


Which Trees Should You Cut Branches From? 

Any tree or shrub that blooms in the early spring is a good candidate. Classic choices include forsythia (bright yellow!), star magnolia (white and pink) and even redbud (little pink blooms). You can prune anything that has developed buds though -- you might check out weigela, lilac, or willows. It never hurts a tree to have crossing branches pruned out, so experiment a little and see what blooms!


How Do I Know Which Branches To Prune? 

Crossing branches at the top of the canopy are your best bet. Crossing branches rub against each other and cause wounds on the bark. You can also prune dense areas where branches are competing for sunlight. Look for branches with fat, swollen buds, which are the flower buds. Late winter is also the time to remove dead and diseased wood, but it won't bloom for you.  

How Do I Know That The Branches Will Make Flowers 

Any tree that blooms in the spring should have a fair amount of leaf buds and flower buds. Any apple or cherry tree will have plenty! The leaf buds are slightly smaller than the flower buds in most cases, so look closely and you should be able to tell how many flowers you will eventually have.

Once the branches have bloomed, you have a couple choices. 1) Toss them in the compost to add a little air to the pile (the branches will create air pockets amidst the heavier, thicker items like leaves). 2) Root the branches in soil. Some will take off and make new plants for you. Dogwood, willow, and forsythia are classic spring bloomers that will root easily.

So if you aren't able to break out the bird feeders, barbecues and trowels just yet, force a couple branches to hold you over!

Chris Link Profile Pic

Author Chris Link - Published 1-31-2022