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Forcing Pussy Willows and Preserving Them

Making Dried Flower Arrangements With Pussy Willows


For lovers of pussy willows, enjoying the furry catkins on outdoor plants in March is hardly sufficient. We bring them indoors to grace our homes, and, once inside, we become spoiled by their presence and recognize their potential in dried flower arrangements. We don't want nature to take its course with them, which causes them to "go by." Thus we engage in preserving pussy willows to make dried flower arrangements.

Depressed by winter's gloom, we also want to rush the pussy willows along -- enjoying them in the artificially warm temperatures of our January and February homes. This is called forcing pussy willows.

Preserving and forcing are two different jobs, so I treat each of them below, separately:

Preserving Pussy Willows for Making Dried Flower Arrangements

Perhaps you are seeking pussy willows for making dried flower arrangements. Either by arranging them with other dried flowers or letting them stand on their own, dried pussy willows can spruce up your indoor decor for years to come. But if this is your goal, reverse the thought-process under which you would operate for forcing pussy willows (see below). Water intake is central to the forcing process. By contrast, preserving pussy willows for dried flower arrangements entails depriving them of water at the right time. If you pick the pussy willows, bring them inside, and keep them in water for weeks, they'll "go by" -- and lose their beauty.

There are two schools of thought on the process of preserving pussy willows -- one simple, the other more complex. The simple method is to cut your pussy willows when they have reached the stage that you find most attractive (whether tight or more open). When you bring them home, put them in a vase -- but without water. Just an empty vase. The steps of the more complex method for preserving pussy willows are as follows, as detailed by GardenCompass.com:

  • Cut the pussy willows outdoors just before they are about to burst out of their brown caps. This means waiting till later in the winter to pick them than you would if you were forcing pussy willows (see below).
  • Immerse the cut ends immediately in cold water.
  • After about 4-5 days, remove your pussy willows from water, bundle the branches loosely in bunches of 5 and hang upside down in a cool, dry room such as a closet, for a couple of weeks.
  • Then gently remove the brown caps that cover the buds and arrange them in a vase without water.

Forcing Pussy Willows Indoors

In early or late February (depending on where you live) you can pick pussy willows and force them inside. After successfully forcing them, you may or may not want to preserve them (see above) as well for use in dried flower arrangements. Follow these steps:

  • Watch for swelling at the nodes along the branches of pussy willows. This is the first indication of the catkins to come (you'll just be hastening their arrival).
  • Pick a day with temperatures above freezing, if possible, to begin the operation.
  • Cut a length of branch about 2'. Repeat for as many branches as you desire or are available.
  • Bring pussy willows inside the house.
  • Place the bottoms of the branches in a vase filled with lukewarm water. With their bottoms thus submerged, cut approximately the bottom 1" off. This second cut, performed underwater where air cannot act as a drying agent, will promote water intake. If you can add a floral preservative to the water, so much the better.
  • Wrap the exposed areas of the branches in damp newspaper or cloth to preserve humidity.
  • Place the vase in a cool, dark spot for a day or two, until the stems begin to show color.
  • Remove the newspaper or cloth.
  • Now place the vase in a cool spot (60-65 degrees, Fahrenheit) in indirect sun. Mist the branches occasionally until the pussy willows appear.
  • If you wish to use your forced pussy willows in dried flower arrangements (see above), remove them from the water once the catkins have reached the stage that you prefer.

Back to => Spring Flowers
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