Forcing Flowering Branches

If there ever was a year to try your hand at forcing flowering branches, this is it.  Yes, this year, spring can come early to your acreage; best of all, inside your home.  How is this possible?  Easy.  Just snip some branches of your favorite flowering shrub and follow a few simple steps.

By now, many shrubs have flower buds that are formed and ready to bloom.  There has been sufficient cold weather to break dormancy, all that they require to burst into glory is warmth and moisture.

University of Illinois Extension

Actually, anyone, even apartment dwellers, can succeed with this project.  Start by selecting branches loaded with flower buds.  You can identify flower buds because they are more rounded and plump than leaf buds which tend to be slender and pointed.  Then cut them off at a length of 18 to 30 inches or so.  Cutting some with an twist or curl to the stem adds interest to the eventual arrangement.

University of Delaware Extension

After cutting, immediately submerge the branches in a tub of water or deep pail, then keep them there for a couple of days.  This moistening and soaking will loosen the bud scales and helps them readily fall away as the flowers expand.

Next, stand the branches in a large vase and place them where you can easily control the temperature.  The ideal for forcing branches is cool, not cold or hot; 60 to 65 degrees will do the trick.  Forcing will occur at warmer temperatures, but the keeping quality of the stems will be reduced.  Keeping them out of direct sunlight is helpful as well.  Changing the water every other day helps to reduce bacterial growth and the development of a foul odor in the vase.

In general, plants that normally bloom early in the season are the easiest to force indoors.  If you’ve never tried this before, you may want to start with the stand-bys of forsythia and pussy willow.  If you’re ready for a challenge, red maple, horsechestnut, birch and quince will provide it.

The following list will provide an idea of how long it takes to coax flowers into bloom.

Amelanchier – 1 week

Forsythia – 1 week

Redbud – 2 weeks

Pussy willow – 2 weeks

Privet – 2 weeks

Magnolia – 2 weeks

Honeysuckle – 3 weeks

Spirea – 3 weeks

Quince – 3 weeks

Lilac – 3 weeks

Crabapple – 3 weeks

Pear – 4 weeks

Peach – 4 weeks

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