Forcing Flowering Branches to Bloom Indoors

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The practice of coaxing flowering branches into bloom indoors, well before they would be flowering outdoors, is a simple and gratifying way to satisfy that intense itch for spring’s beauty and renewal. Don’t be put off by the term forcing – no bullying is involved – just an assist for plants to do their spring thing a bit sooner!
If you have access to flowering trees or shrubs that could spare a few branches, you are well on your way to a blossoming bouquet of spring. Don’t despair if you lack the traditional crabapples, dogwood or forsythia – even the easy to overlook flowers of maples and other shade-providing trees become worthy of attention when blooming up close, in the house.
“Forcing” is as easy as: snip them, soak them and show them off! Here’s everything you’ll need:
  • Hand pruners to cut the branches.
  • A bucket or tub and water for soaking.
  • A cool holding-spot of about 60-65°F that’s out of direct sunlight.
  • A sturdy vase to display your branches in once they burst into glory.


  1. Do not cut branches until they’ve had at least 6 weeks of winter cold (in most places this is probably around late January).
  2. Cut the branches from areas of the shrub or tree where they won’t be missed. Choose branches with lots of flower buds.
  3. It can help to cut the ends of the stems at a sharp angle or crush them lightly with a hammer. This can improve water uptake by increasing the surface area for absorption.
  4. Fill your bucket or tub with water and put the cut end of the branches into the water.
  5. After bringing the bucket of branches indoors, you can either keep them in the bucket until the buds start to “pop” or arrange them in a vase filled with water. Branches are best kept in a cool location, away from direct sunlight during this time.
  6. Change the water every few days to keep it fresh. Once the flower buds start opening you can move your vase of branches to a warmer location for display.
  7. To prolong flowering, you can add commercial cut flower food to the water.
Branches can take anywhere from two to five weeks to bloom. Here’s a list of some of the easiest plants to force and the estimated time it will take before flowers open:

2 Weeks

Blooming forsythia branch in vase Pussy willow branches in vase Branch of redbud flowers Branch of blooming serviceberry flowers in vase
Forsythia Pussy Willow Redbud Serviceberry

3 Weeks

Flowering birch branches in vase Branches of flowering almond shrub in vase Branches of flowering cherry in vase Wisteria blooms in vase
Birch Flowering Almond Flowering Cherry Wisteria

4 Weeks

Branches of flowering crabapple in vase Branches of Japanese quince flowers in vase Cut flowers from lilac shrub in vase Flowering branches from mock orange shrub in vase
Flowering Crabapple Japanese Quince Lilac Mock Orange

5 Weeks

Flowering branches from Azalea shrub in vase Flowering hawthorn branches in vase Flowering magnolia branches in vase Flowering dogwood branches
Azalea Hawthorn Magnolia Dogwood

When cutting branches, it’s important to protect the health of your trees and shrubs by using proper pruning techniques. To learn more, see our article on How to Prune Landscape Trees and Shrubs.


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