Posted by: jeannineatkins | March 16, 2009

Forcing Blooms

Jo jbknowles just asked me how I forced forsythia, so I thought I’d share my shamelessly simple technique with everyone. In the past I’d read and followed directions about clipping the branches at an angle, putting them in tepid water and hiding them in the dark, changing the water daily, then putting them in sunlight when the buds begin to open. But these are forsythia, the bushes that are first to add ample yellow to spring in New England, but also truly no fuss plants. Dig a hole, set in a seedling, and they will grow and sprawl without another smidge of work from you.

I haven’t had so much success at forcing other plants, but I’m sticking with forsythia that I clip at any old angle, plop in a pitcher of just slightly warm water, set by a window, and wait. In about a week in this cool weather, the buds start to open. It will happen faster as the branches turn slightly greener and the air gets warmer. Here’s my vase, not all yet open, in front of a window where you can see the remains of snow and, um, our Christmas lights on the hedge. Another sign of spring in our town: as the snow melts, you can see decorations that had been partly buried in snow and no one yet wanted to dredge out from ice.

Here’s not the biggest and best of possible colors in the plant world, but if you can stand a metaphor, and one who points one out, I’ll say: Don’t fuss. Keep it simple. Blooming happens.

And, warning, Jo: your cats, like mine, may have some fun with this.



  1. My husband just tried this with some mulberry branches, off a tree he’d had to cut down. It’s a total experiment, but we’ll see. And the cat (old) was oblivious, but when we perched the bird on one, everything tipped! 🙂

  2. Oh, this is lovely to see. I always mean to do this, but it’s been years since I actually have.
    The metaphor is much appreciated, too. 🙂

  3. Thanks, Jeannine!
    It will be my mission tomorrow.

  4. Gorgeous! One thing I miss about living in upstate NY is having a garden. I’ll live vicariously through yours and my other friends’ gardens. 🙂

  5. When I’ve done this in the past, I’ve always hammered the bottom of the stem. I don’t know why…someone told me that’s how it’s done. Maybe to allow more water/oxygen up into the branch? Or maybe it’s like lopping off the end of the proverbial roast…the original intent (long forgotten) was to make it fit into a small kettle. 🙂
    Those yellow buds look so pretty against the postcard window backdrop. 🙂

  6. I bet the branches look pretty anyway. Maybe you should try the hammering method Melodye describes below? I suppose it lets more water leach in?
    I think my cat would really adore to tip one of these over..

  7. I’ve gotten in the habit, especially with forsythia right outside, and it really does help me get to the real big moments of yellow. And thank you for appreciating my metaphor! I notice you’re the only one…

  8. I think you’ll enjoy the mission. Even before they bloom, the branches and water, if you have a clear pitcher, look pretty in sunlight.
    Congratulations on your bookshelves! Now you have those pretty cases to look at, too!

  9. Nice to hear from you, Debbi. I’m vicariously enjoying your trip!

  10. The forysthia don’t seem to ask for this, but inspired by your mention of fruit blossoms, I cut some quince and those twiggier, branchier things probably benefit from the hammering.
    But I liked your mini essay on the ways of history! 🙂

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