Now is the perfect time to give yourself an early glimpse of the spring to come! Here’s how to force forsythia branches and enjoy their blooms inside your home!
I always love when the forsythia start to bloom. They’re the first thing to really show some color in the spring and they just bring so much hope with them. We have two big forsythias right outside our living room windows and we can always see their cheery yellow flowers peeking it. The other great thing about forsythia is that they’re super easy to force so you can enjoy their cheerfulness right when you need it most in the dead of winter. Today I thought it might be super helpful to share how to force forsythia if you feel like you could use a little bit of spring color in your home and in your life right now.
What is Forcing?
Forcing is basically the practice of tricking spring-blooming branches into thinking spring has arrived by bringing them into your house where it’s warm. Anything that blooms before it puts out leaves is considered a great candidate for forcing, but I’ve even forced branches in the past just for their bright, fresh green leaves at Easter time.
When is the Best Time to Force Forsythia?
Once it’s gotten cold enough outside to freeze for a few weeks, the forsythia will typically feel like they’ve had their winter and will be ready to bloom when spring temperatures arrive. You can try it as early as mid-January if you want to, but most people force branches around the end of February or March, just a few weeks before spring. I find I’m not really ready for spring until spring actually arrives in March these days. It usually still feels like winter here at that point, but I’m happy to have it feel like spring is really here, in the house at least.
We’re having a bit of an extra sunny winter this year though and we already have a few things poking up in our gardens around the house, so I guess it’s time to get into spring mode around here!
How to Force Forsythia
Cut and Prepare
Head out to your forsythia and cut an armful of branches that are at least 12″ long and that have plenty of fat flower buds on them. You can use this as an early pruning session, so cut away any that are growing in weird directions, or rubbing against any other branches.
Bring the branches inside and soak them in your bathtub or a big sink in room temperature water overnight, keeping them fully submerged.
The Greenhouse Stage
After the soaking step is done, place your branches in a bucket of warm water and tent them with a plastic bag. Leave them in a cooler room where the temperature is somewhere around 60 degrees. Light requirements aren’t a big deal at this stage, so any cool basement or storage area will do. Our back stairwell is pretty much perfect right now because the walls are half ripped open and there’s no insulation in that part of the house yet. So that worked out well for this year!
Check your branches every few days, give them fresh water, and mist the buds. When you see the buds started to get longer and show some color, you’re ready to move them to a vase to display!
The Vase Stage
Move your branches into the vase that you intend to display them in and give them fresh water. Place the vase in a bright, warm part of the house, and enjoy watching the forsythia bloom!
If you time it just right, you can have forsythia blooming on your table for Easter!… if not, you can always make these jelly bean branches that I made last year. Those are super fun too. 🙂
Do you force forsythia? What other favourites have you found for forcing at this time of year?
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Courtenay Hartford is the author of creeklinehouse.com, a blog based on her adventures renovating a 120-year-old farmhouse in rural Ontario, Canada. On her blog, Courtenay shares interior design tips based on her own farmhouse and her work as founder and stylist of the interior photography firm Art & Spaces. She also writes about her farmhouse garden, plant-based recipes, family travel, and homekeeping best practices. Courtenay is the author of the book The Cleaning Ninja and has been featured in numerous magazines including Country Sampler Farmhouse Style, Better Homes and Gardens, Parents Magazine, Real Simple, and Our Homes.