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Saturday, February 16, 2013

Forcing blooms indoors with cuttings from spring-flowering shrubs

I came home to beautiful winter-spring. That's what this time of year feels like to me. The morning was foggy as I drove my two daughters to school yesterday morning. But it was light out for a change. The fog burned off by 9 AM, and we had a glorious, sunny, but chilly, day -- so I call it winter-spring.

I walked the yard in the morning, looking for a hint of color. I found some primroses about to bloom.

butter-yellow primroses, all set to begin adding color to the spring garden

Crocus have broken through the soil,

in the garden, these creamy yellow snow crocus aren't ready for bloom

both in the garden and up on the deck.

but in a pot on the deck, Blue Pearl snow crocus are beginning their show

Rhubarb is just now popping up.

I can hardly wait for rhubarb pie!

Of the flowering shrubs, the flowering currant and forsythia are the first to bloom here. I can see the currant branches are aching to put on a show for me.

several of the red-flowering currant bushes have buds 

So, I ran and got my clippers and took several red-flowering currant branch cuttings and a couple of the forsythia as well. I think the forsythia still needs a few more days outside for good bud formation.

red-flowering currant branches standing in a sink of warm water

In less than a couple of weeks, I hope to have a nice show of color indoors!

I chose a wide-mouth canning jar for my branches.
I think they'll look lovely once in bloom.

How to force blooms on branches indoors
  • February and March are the months to force forsythia and flowering currant. In our area mid to late February is the ideal time. The shrubs need about 8 weeks of below 40 degrees F temperatures, for bud formation. If your winter was late in beginning this year, wait a few weeks longer
  • a woody plant such as forsythia is one of the best candidates for indoor forcing, but you can also force pussy willow, flowering currant and any of the early spring-flowering fruit trees. 
  • leaf buds are the smaller buds on a branch, while flower buds are the larger ones. Look for branches with plenty of larger buds 
  • take cuttings on a day when the temperature is above freezing. You can even do this while there is still snow on the ground, if the air temp is above freezing
  • using pruners, clip off several branches about 2 to 3 feet in length
  • bring indoors to a sink of warm water
  • under water, cut off about 1 inch more, to allow uptake of water into the branch
  • allow branches to stand in the water for 4 to 6 hours, 
  • we have a rainy climate here, so the branches were wet with rain when I cut them. Standing the branches in water is sufficient. But if your climate is dry in winter, then you may wish to submerge the branches for this time period, to hydrate them thoroughly. 
  • re-trim the ends under water once more
  • stand in a vase with clean water. You can add flower preservative, if you have some. But I've taken cuttings and had them last beautifully for a couple of weeks, without any of the preservative.
  • some people cover the branches with a plastic bag. In my experience, this just invites fungus to set in and ruin the blossoms as they form. But perhaps in drier climates this isn't an issue.
  • keep out of direct sunlight, in a coolish room, about 60 to 65 degrees F. Too warm and the blossoms mature too quickly, then degrade rapidly
  • keep out of direct air flow from heat registers. If air is particularly dry in your house, spray with a plant mister once or twice per day.
  • if the buds were large to begin with, then you should expect to see some color within 4 to 8 days. If the buds were small at cutting time, then it will take longer to see color
  • change the water and trim ends once per week
Enjoy your taste of spring!


  1. Good Morning Lili-
    I would like to thank you for visiting my blog! I am glad you like my table-setting post and my Grandmother's China! I have many beloved treasures all about the house!
    I am following your blog! I love all of this information on gardening, baking (your cinnamon rolls look fab!)and "Lets Talk About."

    1. Hi Jemma,
      I'm glad you came and visited here. As you'll discover, I have many beloved treasures in my home as well, even a few pieces of my own grandmother's china. My time with my grandmother was very special to me. And I fondly recall many lovely days spent with her, each time I pick up a piece of hers.

      I look forward to reading more about your life and home in future posts on your blog.

  2. Just a reminder for pet owners. Check to see if the plant you are bringing in is toxic for you animal. Turns out that you should be okay with forsythia for both dogs and cats. However, that doesn't mean that your cat won't chew a little of it and throw up.(Oh, the joys of pet ownership.) It just means that it isn't toxic for them.

    1. Hi live and learn,
      So true. If your pet is already allowed to roam the yard freely, then you've likely looked into what could be toxic. But if they are strictly indoor pets, then you may not have investigated this.

      We moved into our home when my youngest twins were infants, and I was concerned about what could be toxic to them as they gained more freedom to play in the yard. We had a landscape designer (with extensive knowledge on poisonous plants) walk through and point things out to us. Small children will try to taste just about anything! And I imagine some pets will do the same.

  3. Wow, look at all that green. We have a lot of ... white. On the ground and falling from the sky--although I did see some of my bulbs forcing their way through the ground the other day! I will enjoy winter-spring vicariously through you as we have a good month to go on that yet.

    1. Hi Kris,
      Green we have in abundance! A good friend of mine very recently came to Seattle on business, from Canada. She shared a story with me about the flight here. Upon the descent into the city, the lady in the row in front of her very loudly (and excitedly) made exclamations over the green grass everywhere!

      Sp we have the green here. but what we didn't get to enjoy was a good snowfall. For the last several years we've had at least one good snow, where we can sled and play in it. Not so this year. Oh well, there's always next year.

  4. Today at the grocery store I picked up a hyacinth that had bloomed and inhaled the wonderful fragrance. I just love them.

    1. Hi Belinda,
      Ohhh, I love the fragrance of hyacinth! The ones in my garden are just barely through the dirt.I still have a couple of months to wait. Enjoy yours!

  5. It looks like spring is well on the way for you :) And I feel like autumn is on the way for us - it's been freezing this week!

    1. Hi Economies,
      I'm hoping for an early spring! But I am sure that warm weather will return to your part soon.


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