The Q&A Archives: Forcing Branches in Spring

Question: I would like to cut forsythia and pussy willow to force into bloom. When and how do I do it?

Answer: It's very easy! Simply cut branches that have numerous buds on them just as the buds are beginning to swell, about six weeks before their natural bloom time. Try to pick branches that you've slated for pruning out anyway so you don't ruin the shape of your forsythia or pussy willow bush. Wait until the buds are nice and fat; once you bring them indoors, it should take between one to three weeks for forsythia, and one or two weeks for the pussy willow to bloom.

Using a sharp knife or shears, make a clean diagonal cut. Crushing or making a slit in the base of the branch where it will be submerged in water will help it take up the necessary water. Soak them completely submerged in water for several hours and then set the stems in water and keep them in a cool location (about 60 degrees) that is bright but out of direct sunlight. The blooms last longest in cool temperatures. I guarantee that although this may be the first time you do this, it definitely will not be the last! (Try it with fruit tree branches as well!)

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