How to Force Forsythia Flowers

Forcing Flowers on Cut Stems a Great Way to Hurry Spring Along

forsythia branch in bloom
Forcing forsythia flowers gives you a foretaste of spring. 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 am talking about forcing flowers indoors. Forcing is the process of causing a plant to flower before its natural season.

Preliminary Steps

If you are impatient for spring, then you should learn how to force flowers. It is really quite simple and begins with two preliminary steps.

The first step in forcing flowers is to determine which plants are good candidates for the procedure. It is certain early-blooming, 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 preliminary 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 are ready to burst forth outdoors, naturally.

Active Steps for Forcing Flowers

With these two preliminary, planning steps out of the way, now we can move on to the remaining six, active steps in forcing flowers. Are you ready to go out and cut some 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 a bit of spring to my house. 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 is how to force forsythia flowers:

  1. Pick a day that is above freezing.
  2. Cut the forsythia stems in lengths of less than three 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 is 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 will speed up the forsythia flower forcing if you keep the stems in a high-humidity environment and give them some sun.

What, all this seems too much trouble to you? Or perhaps you do not mind winter and are content to let spring come in its own good time? Then you will want to​ read this article on the earliest spring flowers and just sit back and wait for them to bloom outside. Myself, I am way too impatient for spring to do that.