Forcing Spring Flowering Branches

One of the simplest and most rewarding late-winter projects is forcing spring flowering branches. It’s a great way to get an early hit of spring when you’re feeling winter weary.

Forcing is simply the technique of getting plants to flower ahead of their natural cycle. By cutting spring flowering branches towards the end of winter and bringing them into the warmth of our homes, we can trick them into thinking it’s suddenly spring and enjoy their blooms a whole one to two months earlier. Most trees or shrubs that bloom in early spring make good candidates for forcing. My favourites include eastern redbud, forsythia, magnolia, quince, cherry, and pussy willow.

Materials Required: 

  • Early spring flowering branches
  • Pruning shears


  • Woody branches don’t take up water as readily as green, fleshy flower stems. So, to open up the branches vascular system and encourage water uptake, cut up the end of the stem, roughly an inch or two, with pruners. Relatively larger branches can be cut twice, essentially cutting an “X” up the bottom of the branch. You can also opt to lightly break up the stem end with a hammer instead.  

  • Place the branches into a bucket of warm water. Optional: Adding a tablespoon of bleach will help keep bacteria from forming in the water.
  • Keep the branches in a warm location, but out of direct sunlight.
  • Optional: To speed up flowering, increase humidity by covering the branches with plastic and mist frequently until the buds begin to swell and show colour.
  • Timing depends on when you’ve harvested your branches. Branches harvested in mid-winter can take 2 to 3 weeks for flowers to open. Branches harvested in late winter will bloom in 7 to 10 days.
  • You should get a good 10 days of vase life from most forced branches. Keeping them in a cool location once the flowers have opened and adding flower food to the water will help to extend their life.


View the how-to on CTV's Your morning: