Today hope defied the burst of chilly winter that blew through Southern Ontario this weekend. About 7 or 8 days ago when it was a scant 1 celsius north of Toronto, I was squinting wishfully at my shrubs. Were the buds swelling with the effects of the above-zero temperatures we had been having?
I decided to err on the side of “yes”. Out I rushed with my clippers and a vase of water and tackled my forsythia. One of the best things about growing forsythia is that it can be clipped and brought indoors long before its actual bloom season. I knew there was a good possibility that I was too early (the first week of February in Ontario? Really?) but my shrubs are large enough now that there was nothing to lose, and I could just try again in a few weeks. I watched eagerly each day, willing those buds to leaf out.
This morning–success! While my outdoor garden is again cloaked in white, indoors it is all sunshine and springtime!
Well, one blossom is out today but the rest are ready to burst. A gardener’s cheap thrills unfold gradually. If you want to force forsythia indoors, here is how I did it.
Forcing Forsythia Indoors
- Choose a late winter’s day when the temperature is above freezing. You should, truly, see that the buds are slightly enlarged from their deep winter condition.
- Fill your vase with clean, warmish water. If your water is softened, use your purefied drinking water because cut plants do not like the salt from the softening process.
- Cut branches that curve out to the sides, including any that may improve the plant’s shape. The selected branches cannot be from the newest growth as these will not flower. Also, do not use the upright green shoots or suckers that forsythias are so prone to grow. Cutting must be at a sharp angle. Long stems look artistic and dramatic.
- Quickly place each cut stem in the water.
- Cut however many stems you want, taking off side shoots that will be below the water line.
- Once indoors, adjust the length of your stems, always at a sharp angle, and do not allow them to remain out of water for any length of time. Arrange as desired. (Last year I followed someone’s advice suggesting the stems be crushed or hammered before placing them in water. I was more successful with the sharply-angled cutting technique, which probably does not encourage deterioration of the stems as quickly.)
- Place vase in desired location, with abundant natural light.
- Change water frequently. For some reason, forsythia water is prone to getting very unpleasant and the stems will deteriorate and prevent successful blooming.
- When you change the water, add a sprinkle of floral preservative and swish it around before filling the vase, and make sure the new water is warm. Set the stems in a different vase of water while getting fresh water, and cut an inch off the bottoms. (You may cut less if you are changing water less than a week after cutting.)
- Wait patiently and enjoy the sunshine!