How to Force Forsythia Branches to Bloom Indoors

Updated on February 5, 2018

Bringing Forsythia Blooms Inside

Bright yellow forsythia flowers will brighten up the house in the middle of winter.
Bright yellow forsythia flowers will brighten up the house in the middle of winter. | Source

Forsythia: An Early Spring Shrub

One of the first shrubs to bloom in the early spring, Forsythia is a wonderful sight to behold after a long, dismal winter. This shrub belongs to the same family as the olive tree, but offers delightful yellow flowers. Depending on the gardening zone you live in, Forsythia will bloom in late March or early April, about the same time that dandelions begin to appear in the lawn.

Forsythia flowers are bright yellow, with four separate petals. The flowers are held on long branches and will become pendulous after heavy rains. This habit helps protect the pollen held within each flower during the tumultuous spring months.

It is not necessary to wait for spring to bring the brightness of spring flowers into the house. Simply cut a few branches from a bush and bring them inside for fresh flowers throughout the winter months.

Step 1: Cut Forsythia Branches

Click thumbnail to view full-size
The leafless shrub in front of the pine tree is Forsythia. We noted the location of this shrub in an empty lot when it was blooming in the spring time.My six year old son holds Forsythia branches: we will bring these indoors to force a bloom.Place the branches in clean, tepid water and wait for the blooms to appear. Change the water every few days.
The leafless shrub in front of the pine tree is Forsythia. We noted the location of this shrub in an empty lot when it was blooming in the spring time.
The leafless shrub in front of the pine tree is Forsythia. We noted the location of this shrub in an empty lot when it was blooming in the spring time. | Source
My six year old son holds Forsythia branches: we will bring these indoors to force a bloom.
My six year old son holds Forsythia branches: we will bring these indoors to force a bloom. | Source
Place the branches in clean, tepid water and wait for the blooms to appear. Change the water every few days.
Place the branches in clean, tepid water and wait for the blooms to appear. Change the water every few days. | Source

Step 2: Gather the Branches

We do not have any Forsythia bushes on our property, so we usually prune a few branches from our neighbor's bush. This is a fun wintertime tradition for my children: we hike down to the empty lot, find the Forsythia bushes, and bring them home.

The first step is identifying the Forsythia bush: make note of bushes in your community in the springtime, because the bare branches are difficult to find in the winter.

Inspect the branches for mature buds. Tiny, unformed buds will not force well, so choose branches with small, oblong (about 1/8"-1/4" long) buds spaced evenly along the branch.

Cut long, whip-like branches about 12" to 18" in length from the bush, and bring them indoors.

Step 2: Submerge in Water

Strip the lower portions of the branches of flower buds and leaf buds. Place the Forsythia branches in a vase full of tepid water, and place the vase in a sunlit location.

Step 3: Wait for the Bloom

The earlier in winter the Forsythia branches are gathered, the longer they will take to bloom. The Forsythia in these pictures was gathered on January 10, and the branches were in full bloom on February 11. In general, branches gathered in early winter will take a full month to produce blooms. Change the water in the vase every few days to prevent bacteria from growing - foul water will rot the branches before they have a chance to bloom.

Forsythia is pure joy. There is not an ounce, not a glimmer of sadness or even knowledge in forsythia. Pure, undiluted, untouched joy.

— Anne Morrow Lindbergh

How to Propagate Forsythia

Forsythia: Shrub Basics

Forsythia is an extremely easy shrub to grow, and is easy to incorporate into the landscape. Gardeners who wish to have a ready supply of fresh flowers all winter long should consider planting a few Forsythia shrubs against a forest backdrop, or as part of a hedge. Personally, I prefer the look of the bush in its natural state - far too many people prune the shrubs into odd-looking balls or cubes. While topiary has a place in more formal gardens, don't prune Forsythia when it is placed in a more natural setting. The whip-like branches are absolutely beautiful when they are laden with flowers in the spring.

This shrub is used for ornamental reasons, though the branches of one variety are used to make a Korean instrument called an ajaeng. Forsythias prefer placement in full sun, though they will tolerate light shade. They will grow in USDA Gardening Zones 4-9, and require little maintenance once established. The height of the bush depends on the variety, with some shrubs remaining 12" high and others growing to a height of 10 feet.

It is possible to "propagate" Forsythia by taking a branch and bending it to the ground. Cover a portion of the branch with soil, and wait for roots to form. Once rooted, cut the branch from the parent plant and re-plant in a new location. This is a handy way of getting Forsythia bushes for free (make sure you get permission from the plant's owner before propagating)!

Medicinal Uses for Forsythia

Forsythia was featured in the movie Contagion (2011) as a cure to a fictitious viral pandemic that swept the globe. While the use of Forsythia as a panacea is obviously a work of fiction, the plant does have medicinal characteristics.

Ancient Chinese medicine hailed Forsythia as an anti-inflammatory and a fever reducer. The fruits of forsythia suspensa are harvested in the fall, and sometimes combined with honeysuckle to produce a medicine capable of treating respiratory infections. Other varieties (specifically forsythia viridissima and forsythia koreana) are also noted for medicinal qualities.

Forsythia should never be ingested by pregnant or nursing mothers - its safety to a developing fetus or newborn child is unknown, and it can stimulate uterine contractions (causing premature labor).

Forcing Branches to Bloom Indoors

Hands on Gardening: The Forsythia Plant

Questions & Answers

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      • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

        Leah Lefler 

        5 years ago from Western New York

        Our winters can be so very long, Peggy, and I am always happy when we have a burst of bright yellow on those dreary days. We still have a lot of snow on the ground now, and we are very anxious for spring! I have a vase of blooming Forsythia on my kitchen table right now.

      • Peggy W profile image

        Peggy Woods 

        5 years ago from Houston, Texas

        My parents had forsythia shrubs along the side of their home in Wisconsin when I was a child. I well remember them cutting some branches and forcing the blossoms. It is so pretty and is a definite mood lifter to see those pretty yellow flowers when there is still snow on the ground. Enjoyed this hub and thanks for the memories. Up and useful votes.

      • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

        Leah Lefler 

        6 years ago from Western New York

        It is such a nice burst of color - I love looking at that bright yellow on those gloomy days! Flowers are so easy to force - the same concept can be applied to crabapple branches, cherry branches, etc. Thanks for the comment, Dolores!

      • Dolores Monet profile image

        Dolores Monet 

        6 years ago from East Coast, United States

        A lovely way to banish late winter blahs. I have a vase of bright yellow forsythia in the living room - brought in the sticks just when the paperwhites were pooping out. I love that intense yellow of forsythia - it's so cheerful!

      • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

        Leah Lefler 

        6 years ago from Western New York

        Sgbrown, I really want a forsythia bush in our own backyard. I'm thinking of planting the bushes along the edge of our backyard. Our neighbor has a ton of bushes, so I'm sure we'll be able to propagate some from her side yard! I love spring flowers!

      • sgbrown profile image

        Sheila Brown 

        6 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

        Wonderful hub! I had a forcythia at the previous house I lived at. I so wanted to dig it up and bring it with me. I wish I had known then how to propigate it. I should by another one and plant this year...good idea! Thanks for sharing the useful information! Voted up, useful and sharing on my blog. Have wonderful day! :)

      • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

        Leah Lefler 

        6 years ago from Western New York

        Thank you, Stephanie! I love forsythia - I really can't wait for it to bloom this year, because it is so very gray outside. Spring is so lovely when the winters are long and dark!

      • Stephanie Henkel profile image

        Stephanie Henkel 

        6 years ago from USA

        When I was a child, my mother would bring in forsythia branches every spring to force. I still love the bright yellow blooms whether they are cut and forced or cascading in yellow waterfalls in their natural state! I never realized that forsythia had medicinal uses, nor that it is related to the olive. Thanks for an informative and lovely hub -- just right for early springtime! Voted up and shared!

      • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

        Leah Lefler 

        6 years ago from Western New York

        Leah, definitely give it a try. I love having fresh flowers in the house to brighten things up - our neighbor has a hedgerow growing in an empty lot, so she doesn't mind if we snip a few branches here and there. It does take a few weeks for the blooms to open up, but it is well worth the wait!

      • Leah Helensdottr profile image

        Leah Helensdottr 

        6 years ago from Colorado

        I found this very interesting. I don't have enough sun in my yard to grow forsythia, but maybe I can borrow a few branches from a neighbor. Thanks for this hub--voted it interesting and useful.

      • leahlefler profile imageAUTHOR

        Leah Lefler 

        6 years ago from Western New York

        Hyphenbird, it is always so fun to find the branches and bring them inside. We have a vase full of bright yellow flowers blooming on our dining room table right now, and it really brightens up the gloomy winter days!

      • Hyphenbird profile image

        Brenda Barnes 

        6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

        What a great idea. Thank you for this. I am in serious need of color and a bright spot of yellow shall make me happy and soothe my restless soul.

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