Forcing Branches

Compiled by Pat Salner and Claire Burnett

With spring just around the corner, its time to start thinking about those spring flower arrangements and buckets of beautiful spring branches in bloom. Now is the time to cut branches for spring flowering; it is easy and requires little equipment. Take a walk around your yard and you will see any number of trees and flowering shrubs suitable for forcing. Late January and February is the best time to cut branches, look for those have swollen buds. It is also suggested that you may want to wait until closer to the plants natural flowering date as the blooms will be faster and more uniform. Either way, be sure to cut more than you need as some branches may not soak up water properly. Use very sharp pruners and be careful not to disfigure the shape of the plant.

Here is a list of plants to consider.

Cercis Canadensis – Redbud

Chaenonmeles spp – Japanese or Flowering Quince

Hamamelis Vernalis – Vernal Witch Hazel

Forsythis * spp – Forsythia

Lonicera ssp – Honeysuckle

Magnolia soulangiana – Saucer Magnolia

Magnolia stellata – Star Magnolia

Malus spp – Apple and Crabapple

Salix caprea – European Pussy Willow

Spirea – Spirea

Syringa spp – Lilac

Viburnum spp – Viburnum

* Spp – Unspecified species of the genus

Tools and Equipment

  1. Sharp pruners or a sharp knife
  2. Garden twine
  3. Bucket
  4. Flower food
  5. Bleach
  6. Plastic garbage bag



  1. Split the cut end of the branches 1-4 inches
  2. Tie branches together
  3. Place in warm water and recut one inch from the stem underwater
  4. Remove any buds or twigs that are below the water line
  5. Add flower food and a tablespoon of bleach
  6. Place the containers in a warm room (60-70 degrees) or
  7. Place containers in a cool room (50-60 degrees) and cover the branches with a plastic bag
  8. Change water, food and bleach every few days
  9. It should take anywhere between 1-8 weeks for the blossoms to open


Susan Grupp, “Forcing Branches Indoors.” University of Illinois Extension, Jan. 2016

Mueller, Phil, “Forcing Branches.” The Martha Stewart Show, Feb. 2007, web. 22 Jan. 2016


Comments are closed