Forcing Forsythia Branches

Forced Forsythia blossoms

Forced Forsythia blossoms

After the holidays I enjoy the bare, clean look of the house for about two weeks.  After all the dust-catching clutter of ornaments, trinkets and greens, it’s a relief to see some clear space.  But then the house starts to feel empty (of plant life, we have almost too many dogs) around here.

Houseplants* are helpful in keeping some green around, especially those that are blooming.  My eight-year-old white Mandevilla vine has stopped shedding leaves and is blooming nicely now.  The amaryllis are helpful, and the geraniums I overwintered are putting on lots of new leaves as are the stephanotis and the asparagus ferns.

Of course, there are seed catalogs and plans for the outdoor gardens, but for bringing the outdoors in, the best way I know to get through the next few weeks is with a few blooming projects and a few citrus fruit.  One of the easiest is to cut and force some blooming branches.

In the interest of being a more globally responsible green person, I try to avoid buying cut flowers unless they are locally grown.  For a great source of eco-conscious growers of flowers in the U.S., click here for access to slow, one of my heroes, Debra Prinzing’s websites.

But let’s face it, buying flowers is not the same as growing your own and being creative with your own designs.  So I like to force blooming branches indoors.  Most of us have a forsythia shrub in our garden (or maybe your neighbor wouldn’t mind if you asked?) and a short walk, some water and patience will result in fabulous yellow blooms like these.  Even the branches that don’t bloom but just get green leaves are exciting.  Forsythia are among the easiest blooms to force, but I’ve also had good success with crabapple and quince branches.  Generally, the closer to the time the shrub would bloom naturally, the easier it will be to get it to bloom.  Just

  • cut at a natural growing point with clean, sharp clippers
  • make sure to keep your clippers sterilized (10% bleach solution with water) between cuts
  • put the cut end in lukewarm water for a few weeks
  • change the water to keep it clean every couple of days
  • cut the end of the branch every few days
  • when you start to see the buds swell
  • arrange them in an attractive container and
  • display!

Do you force any blooming shrubs or trees for winter bloom?  Which ones?  What are your successes?

*I define a houseplant as a plant that lives in the house for at least a few months of the year.  Some live in the house in the winter, some in the summer and some all year round.  My mother said only those that lived indoors during the winter were really houseplants!  But she came from the deep South.  Another interesting topic for discussion.

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