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It is a very old tradition in many areas to cut barbara branches in early December. In the midst of winter cold and darkness, it always seems like a small miracle when the flower buds open in the vase right before Christmas.

Barbara branches bloom at Christmas

The Legend of Saint Barbara

The name "Barbara branches" goes back to the legend of Saint Barbara: A branch is said to have gotten caught in the martyr's dress on the way to the dungeon, which she supplied with water during her imprisonment. Exactly on the day of her execution, flowers are said to have appeared on this branch. The so-called "Barbara Day" to commemorate the miners' patron saint is set on December 4th every year. In practical terms, this date makes sense for pruning Barbara branches, because the period of about three weeks up to Christmas is exactly the right time for the blossoms to sprout on most types of Barbara branches. In rural areas of Bavaria, the number of blossoms on the cut Barbara twigs used to be considered to be a sign of agricultural success in the following year.

Suitable plant varieties for cutting barbara branches

Traditionally, the branches of the cherry tree are preferred for cutting barbara branches. But there are also a number of other plant species that can be considered for cutting Barbara branches. You can probably find at least one of the following plant species in your garden:

  • apple tree
  • plum tree
  • pear tree
  • forsythia
  • blood currant
  • cornel
  • Japanese ornamental cherry
  • Almond tree or ornamental almond tree

Choosing the right branches

If you cut off branches from trees and shrubs in the garden especially for the small, winter miracle of flowers in the room, then you should also consider the most decorative possible result when selecting the branches. You should know that sour cherries, for example, bloom on long, one-year-old branches without any cross-branches. Apples and plums, on the other hand, bloom on two-year-old wood, which you can recognize by the small side branches. Also pay attention to the number of flower buds already visible on the branches: while leaf buds on many plant species look rather pointed, flower buds are usually more rounded and thicker.

Barbara branches bloom relatively reliably in the vase

To ensure that the interfaces on the trees and shrubs in the garden can heal without any problems, the Barbara branches are cut off at a right angle with sharp planting scissors. In order for the flower buds in the vase to actually bloom, the branches need a cold stimulus. If the temperatures in the year in question were still relatively mild and without pronounced frosts, then you should put the cut Barbara branches in a freezer for about 12 to 24 hours. After a water bath in lukewarm water for several hours, the branches are then cut at an angle at the bottom before they are placed in the vase. This improves the ability to absorb water. You should change the water in the vase every two to three days so that germs and bacteria don't stand a chance. In addition, the Barbara branches should not be directly exposed to dry heating air, otherwise they could dry up quickly or drop the flowers.


The Barbara branches should first be placed indoors in a bright but not too warm place, such as in an unheated conservatory. The perfect splendor of flowers can be experienced if the vase with the branches is moved to the warm living room just before the buds bloom.

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