University of Illinois Extension

Written by Susan Grupp, Extension Educator, Horticulture, DuPage County

A tall vase of blooming forsythia branches can chase away the winter blahs. Bring a bit of spring indoors by gathering branches of flowering deciduous shrubs and trees and forcing them to bloom or leaf out early in your home.

When temperatures rise above freezing in late January and February, select and cut branches that have many plump buds. Cut a few more branches than you expect to use because some may not absorb water satisfactorily. Use a sharp blade and take care not to disfigure the shrub or tree.

With pruning shears or a sharp knife, carefully split the cut end, one to four inches. Place cut branches in a container of warm water and recut one inch from the base of the stem. This will help prevent air from entering the stem through the cut end, blocking water uptake. Remove any buds and twigs that will be under water.

Place containers in a warm room (60 -70 degrees) and change the water every few days. You may add a floral preservative to the container water to help control bacteria.

It may take one to eight weeks for the blossoms to open. The closer to their natural bloom time that you cut the branches, the sooner they will open.

Here is a list of local favorites from the garden. You can also purchase branches from your florist.

Cercis canadensis-Redbud
Chaenomeles spp-Japanese or Flowering Quince
Cornus florida-Flowering Dogwood
Hamamelis vernalis-Vernal Witch Hazel
Crataegus spp-Hawthorn
Forsythis spp-Forsythia
Lonicera spp-Honeysuckle
Magnolia soulangiana-Saucer Magnolia
Magnolia stellata-Star Magnolia
Malus spp-Apple and Crabapple
Prunus spp-Flowering Almond, Cherry & Plum
Salix caprea-European Pussy Willow
Spiraea spp-Spirea
Syringa spp-Lilac
Viburnum spp-Viburnum