How to Force Spring Branches to Bloom Indoors

By: Julie Day


Flowering Quince brings a touch of pink to my kitchen.

If the late-winter blues (or grays) have you begging for spring, try bringing some spring-flowering branches indoors for a bit of early color. Here are some tips for successfully forcing spring branches to bloom early:

  • You can bring branches indoors as soon as the flower buds begin to swell – flower buds are more rounded than leaf buds. Or, choose leafing branches for a splash of green instead.
  • Choose a branch with plenty of buds that is not integral to the overall shape of the plant. Ideally, do your late-winter pruning at the same time, and save the cuttings!
  • It’s best to wait until temperatures are above freezing. If the branches are frozen, you’ll need to soak them in water for a few hours after cutting.
  • Cut the branches at least 12” long, and cut a few extras in case some don’t bloom. Once you get them indoors, hold them under water, cut about an inch off the stem, then split the bottom of the stem with a knife. Keep the cut ends under water as much as possible.
  • Stand the branches in a vase of water and place in a cool location (60°- 65° F) with low to medium light. Leave them here until they’re ready to bloom.
  • Change the water every few days. To keep the buds from drying out, you can lightly mist the branches with water. If desired, you can also add a packet of floral preservative or cut-flower food.
  • As soon as the flower buds start to open, bring the vase out into brighter light to be enjoyed. They’ll last longer if they don’t receive direct sunlight or too much heat.
  • Be patient – your branches may take from a week two months to bloom! The closer you are to the plant’s normal blooming time, the faster they will force indoors.


Impatient forsythia begging to be brought indoors.

Trees and Shrubs for Forced Blooming

Flowering Quince, Forsythia, and Pussy Willow are some of the earliest and easiest to force to bloom indoors. Other suggestions include:

  • Flowering Almond
  • Crabapple
  • Dogwood
  • Fruit Trees
  • Hawthorn
  • Honeysuckle
  • Lilac
  • Magnolia
  • Redbud
  • Serviceberry
  • Spirea
  • Viburnum
  • Witch Hazel

Further Information

For a longer list of spring-flowering branches, as well as information about the particulars of forcing each species, check out this article from Michael Weishan’s World of Gardening.

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