Forcing flowering branches

After a long cold winter you just can’t wait to see some signs of spring. Bring spring indoors by forcing some spring-flowering branches into bloom.

Spring-flowering trees and shrubs such as crabapples, forsythia, lilac, magnolia, pussy willows, redbud, quince, wisteria and fruit trees can be encouraged to bloom indoors.

Blooming forsythia flowering quince
Here’s how.

On a mild winter day, as the buds start to swell (Feb/March) cut on the diagonal 1-2 ft stems. To distinguish which the branches will flower, look for buds that are plump and rounded, pointed narrow buds will produce leaves.

Bring the stems indoors to low light and cool temperatures (60-65F). You can submerge the whole stem underwater for a few hours. This will help soften the buds for qucker results.(optional). Strip buds from the lower part of the stems, and make a slit or crush the bottom of the stems. Place the stems in a tall vase of tepid water. Use cold water if you are taking frozen cuttings (below 32F) to slowly defrost the stems.

Mist the branches 2-3x a day or cover with a plastic bag to keep the buds from drying out. Open the bag periodically for air circulation. Be sure to change the water every other day to prevent bacteria or fungal growth. Buds should open in 1 to 6 weeks depending on the plant type and when it is collected.

To speed up the blooming process keep stems in slightly warmer temperatures. As soon as the buds start to open, move the branches to a bright cool room away from direct sun and heat; this will extend the blooming time. You can stagger the cuttings for prolonged late winter /spring bloom. Cuttings closer to spring produce better blooms.

Your flowering stems will be a reminder that spring is just around the corner.