The Force is With You: Forcing Spring Branches Into Early Bloom

If you’re like me, you’ve lived in Wisconsin a long time.  We definitely have 4 distinct seasons here in the North, all with their own charms.  However, around March, the charm of winter begins to wear thin and one longs for just a little promise of spring.  Usually bulb plants don’t begin to pop up until April in my garden.  But deep within the trees and shrubs that bloom so profusely in May lies untapped beauty (that I want to tap into now!).  I believe the force is with us: to try forcing (or tricking) those bare branches into providing just a little promise of spring.  The trend in home decorating is to have just one large leaf or branch in a statement vase, to view its clean lines and individual beauty and enjoy the interesting silhouette.  So off we go this late February day, into the yard to clip some sleeping beauties!

  • Choose a branch that is full of buds, and inconsequential to the shape of the tree or shrub.  The ideal branches include:
    • Pussy willow
    • Magnolia
    • Forsythia
    • Honeysuckle
    • Redbud
    • Cherry or Apple Trees
  • Bring them indoors and cut off any branches that would impede the end from being under water.  Cut an “X” shape in the end of the branch to increase water uptake..
  • Place branches in warm water, but keep in a cooler, darker area.  Some instructions advise to place them in a bag to increase humidity.  I’m trying it without the bag, and right now the branches are in a bucket of water in our unheated production greenhouse (similar to an attached garage).
  • Change the water every day or so to keep clean.

Look for my next blog post – I hope to show SUCCESS in bringing my bare branches to spring beauty!


Look for branches with lots of buds… like this pussy willow branch.


Gently remove the bark by the end of the stem.


Using your pruners or knife, cut an “X” in the bottom of the stem to increase water uptake.


The “X” at the bottom of this crab tree stem should help supply the branch with water to force the new buds open.


Here are the branches! I tried pussy willow, forsythia, Star Magnolia and Saucer Magnolia, and Snowdrift crab tree. I’ll keep changing the water, checking them, and hopefully I will have successful results to show you next time!

About the Author: jane