Forcing flowering branches is a timeless tradition that brings fresh spring aromas and beautiful blooms into the house. It’s also a smart way to use up pruned branches. The process is incredibly simple. You just cut some branches from your flowering tree or bush and treat them similar to cut flowers.
Typically you should collect branches in February or March. Be sure your trees and bushes have had at least six weeks of chilling under 40°F. This chilling period is important because without it the plants still think it’s fall and won’t open their flower buds.
First, select the branches to cut. Focus on ones that you’d prune, like those that are crossing over others or growing too thickly in the middle. Choose a branch that is at least 12 inches long and has lots of buds starting to appear. It is also best to cut the branches when the temperature is above freezing so the branches ae not shocked when moving into a warm environment.
Cut at the base of the stem on a diagonal. Arrange the branches in a large vase filled with warm water. Put your vase in a sunny, cool spot, preferable away from a heat source. If possible, mist them daily as the moisture helps the buds to swell and also combats the dryness of your heated home. Bright but indirect light is best.
To prevent bacteria from forming and causing disease, try change the water every few days. Some of the best branches forcing include: forsythia, witch hazel, magnolia, red bud, pussy willow, crabapple, flowering quince, cherry, lilacs, serviceberry and beauty bush.