Blooms on Demand- How to Force Blooms with Native Shrubs

Forcing branches is a very old and time-tested way to experience some spring blooms indoors while you're impatiently waiting for winter to wrap-up. It only requires pruning branches of flowering trees and shrubs and putting the branches in a vase. If you choose shrub species that know when to bloom based on temperature rather than hours of daylight, you can trick them to bloom early simply by bringing them indoors. We'll help give you some options of shrubs and trees that work well for this. No special expertise is required.

The time to force branches to bloom inside is in late winter when the branches are budded but they haven’t bloomed on the tree or shrub. People commonly use Forsythia, Lilacs, Tulip Magnolia, or Crabapple branches for this, which are beautiful but there are some beautiful native shrubs you can choose as well.

Spicebush, Pussywillow, Black Cherry, Dogwoods, and Red Maple can all be forced to bloom early. Some of these can take up to a month to bloom after bringing branches indoors, but Pussywillow, Spicebush, Red Maple, and Forsythia usually bloom in 2 weeks or less. 

The process for all of these branches is the same:

  • Prune a 1 to 2 foot-long length of branch. Choose a branch with lots of buds. As a general guideline, the flower buds are generally fatter and more rounded than leaf buds. Cut branches diagonally. Steeply-angled cuts help with water uptake. 
  • Soak them in water to hydrate and warm them up for a few hours, especially if the temperature was below freezing outside when you gathered them. 
  • Set the soaked branches in a vase or vessel with about 1/4 to 1/3 of the length of the branches submerged. Make sure the vase won’t tip with the heavy branches. Keep vase in a bright room away from heaters and direct sun. The brighter the room, the better the quality of bloom. Recut the ends if you notice the branches are drying out and not uptaking water.
  • Change the water every few days to prevent rotting. Mist flowers if you have a mister or spray bottle.
  • Once blooms appear, display and enjoy!

If branches do not bloom the first time you try this with a plant it may be too early. Cut branches a few weeks later and try again.

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