Forcing blooms on woody plants


Are you anxious for winter to be over?  Are you looking for that  dramatic burst of color announcing the return of Spring?  Unfortunately, we are unable to rush Mother Nature but there is something you can do to bring a bit of spring color into your home.  One way to do this is a process of forcing a plant to flower.   Forcing is  way of tricking certain flowering shrubs into bloom before its natural season. This is done by cutting stems and bringing them indoors where it is warmer so you can have early blooms to brighten to home.You have to pick an appropriate plant for forcing with woody plants working the best.  My favorites for forcing are  Forsythia and Pussy Willow.  February and March are the best months to force flowers since by February the plants have endured enough cold weather to satisfy their cold requirements.  Branches won’t flower until they’ve had a proper cold period, usually about six weeks. If you try to force a particular plant into bloom and it doesn’t work, it may be too early. Try it again in a couple of weeks.
Forsythia Forcing

  1.  Cut the forsythia stems in lengths of less than three feet and place in a bucket of warm water. For branches larger than 1/2 inch diameter, using your pruners, split the end of the stem in half for about and inch to allow the stem to take up more water.
  2.  With the stems still under water, use your pruning shears to cut another inch off the bottom of the stem.  This is easier if you fill your sink with warm water and cut while holding the stems underwater.
  3. Allow the forsythia stems to soak up the warm water for several hours.
  4. Change that water and add floral preservative to the new warm water. The preservative will promote hydration and retard bacterial growth, keeping the water clear for up to a week.
  5. Once again, re-cut the stem while they are still underwater.  
  6. Place in a relatively cool area to display and keep out of direct sunlight.

Forsythia is one that forces well, its yellow columns of flowers add such bright, cheerful color at a time when dreary seems to be the order of the day. The stems can take anywhere from four to seven days to bloom, depending on the amount of sunlight and heat.  The blooms can last up to two weeks by changing their water often and keeping them in a relatively cool place.

Pussy Willow Forcing.

French Pussy Willow

Pussy willows are named for their buds’ silky softness similar to a soft young kitten.  Instead of flowers, the Pussy Willow develop catkins which make them popular for use in flower arrangements.  Best time to cut the stem is when you see swelling of the nodes along the branches.  This is where the catkins will appear. Cut a branch about two to three feet long and follow the same directions used for Forsythia forcing.

So give it a try and enjoy beautiful blooms early.  Now is the time so don’t wait!

Note:  Homemade floral preservative:  1 Tablespoon of Listerine or 1 Tablespoon of lemon-lime soda per quart of water.


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