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How to Force Forsythia Flowers

Forcing Flowers on Forsythia Stems

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forsythia flowering shrubs

Picture of forsythia bushes.

David Beaulieu

Are you impatient for winter to end? While only Mother Nature can hurry along spring, there is, nonetheless, something that you yourself can do to bring a bit of spring to your home while snow still smothers the yard. I'm talking about forcing flowers indoors. If you're impatient for spring, then you should learn how to force flowers. It's really quite simple.

The first step in forcing flowers is to determine which plants are good candidates for the procedure. It is certain woody plants that are susceptible to forcing. Forsythia bushes and pussy willows are two of the best candidates -- and two of the most widely available plants. Instructions for forcing pussy willows can be found in my article on pussy willows. The instructions below show you how to force flowers on forsythia stems.

The second step is to learn when to force flowers. February and March are the months to force flowers, since by February the plants have endured enough cold weather to satisfy their chilling requirements. After March, it would be rather pointless to force flowers from forsythia, since, by then, they're ready to burst forth outdoors, naturally.

With these preliminary considerations out of the way, now we can move on to the fun part of forcing flowers: namely, going out to cut the branches. Warning: this may become habit-forming! I derive a special satisfaction from walking through the snow on a February day, cutting my branches and bringing back to the house a bit of spring. Once you do it, it will become an annual rite of spring for you.

The only equipment you need is a sharp pair of pruning shears. Here's how to force forsythia flowers:

  1. Pick a day that is above freezing.
  2. Cut the forsythia stems in lengths of less than 3 feet, and bring them home.
  3. Put the stems in a bucket of warm water.
  4. With your pruning shears, cut another inch off the bottoms of the submerged stems. This second cut, performed underwater where air cannot act as a drying agent, will promote water intake.
  5. Allow the forsythia stems to soak up the warm water for several hours.
  6. Now it's time to change the water. When you refill, put floral preservative in the warm water this time. Once again, re-cut the stems, underwater. You'll speed up the forsythia flower forcing if you keep the stems in a high-humidity environment and give them some sun.

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