Force a branch to flower inside

  • Forsythia branches can be forced to bloom indoors.

    Forsythia branches can be forced to bloom indoors. Courtesy of Chicago Botanic Garden

By Tim Johnson
Chicago Botanic Garden
Posted2/21/2021 7:00 AM

Branches with interesting foliage, as well as flowering branches, can be forced into flower inside.

Prune those branches that are not essential to the plant's basic shape or save branches from your winter pruning. Branches should be at least 1 foot long, full of fat flower buds and cut on a day above freezing.


Cut the ends at an angle and put the branches into water, in a cool room and out of direct sunlight. When the buds color up or the foliage begins to unfurl, arrange the branches in a vase and display them, also in a cool room out of direct sunlight.

Good choices for forcing this month and next include: serviceberry (Amelanchier), magnolia (Magnolia), flowering quince (Chaenomeles), forsythia (Forsythia), crabapple or apple (Malus), flowering pear (Pyrus), flowering cherry (Prunus), spring-flowering witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) and redbud (Cercis).

I have also been able to force branches cut in early April.

• If you feed birds in your garden, then it is a good idea to prevent dogs from eating the fallen birdseed.

The birdseed alone is probably not going to cause any problems. Most dogs can pass small amounts of ingested bird seed. However, when the dog eats so much that the intestines become impacted, it could develop a life-threatening condition that requires immediate emergency veterinary attention.

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Should a dog develop a large amount of gas in the stomach from the seeds fermenting, it can cause the stomach to bloat, which can lead to a condition in which the stomach twists on itself.

Another potential problem is that your dog can eat bird droppings, which may contain salmonella bacteria along with the bird seed. Salmonella can cause severe digestive upset with lots of vomiting and diarrhea that can be fatal in very young or old dogs. The salmonella bacteria can also be passed on to you.

• Tim Johnson is director of horticulture at Chicago Botanic Garden,

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