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Forcing branches to bloom indoors is an elegant way to bring spring indoors before winter has officially lost its grip.
Essentially, it’s trimming a few branches from flowering shrubs and trees and bringing them indoors.
It’s fascinating to see gorgeous blossoms emerge from seemingly barren branches.
The process is incredibly easy and the result is beautiful!
When to Trim Shrubs and Trees For Forcing
Most flowering shrubs and trees need a minimum of 6 to 8 weeks of winter before they can be trimmed for forcing.
In the Midwest, forcing can begin in mid-January.
It’s a great time to selectively trim branches to shape or reduce a plant’s overall size.
If you are concerned about altering the plant’s shape, a trick is to cut from the backside that isn’t visible during the growing season.
Shrubs and Trees that are Ideal for Forcing
There are quite a few flowering shrubs and trees that ideal for this process.
Since they bloom in early spring, they can be some of the earliest to be trimmed.
However, there are a lot of other beautiful flowering woody ornamental trees and shrubs that can be forced to bloom indoors.
I encourage you to experiment with the plants in your yard.
There may be an unexpected gem in your landscape!
Also, some ordinary trees such as red maple can make a gorgeous arrangement.
This list of shrubs and trees are ideal for forcing:
- Cherry trees & shrubs (Prunus)
- Crabapple (Malus)
- Deutzia (Deutzia)
- Dogwood (Cornus)
- Eastern Redbud (Cercis Canadensis)
- Forsythia (Forsythia)
- Fothergillas (Fothergilla)
- Honeysuckle (Lonicera)
- Lilacs (Syringa)
- Magnolias (Magnolia)
- Mockorange (Philadelphus)
- Peach (Prunus persica)
- Pear (Pyrus)
- PJM Rhododendron (Rhododendron ‘PJM’)
- Pussy Willow (Salix discolor)
- Quinces (Chaenomeles)
- Red Maple (Acer rubrum)
- Serviceberries (Amelanchier)
- Spirea (Spiraea)
- Viburnum (Viburnum)
- Wisteria (Wisteria)
How to Force Flowering Branches
- Select a vase to display the branches. Generally, the taller and sturdier the vase, the better. However, smaller vases can be used, the branches will have to be cut to shorter lengths, thus decreasing the number of blooms on display.
- Cut the branches and bring them indoors
- Fill the vase about two-thirds with warm water. If you have a floral preservative, that can be added as well.
- Re-cut the branches to an appropriate size for the vase. Make the final cut at the base of the stem a steep, angled cut. This will create a large surface for the stem to absorb water. If possible, place the stem in a sink or bucket with water and make the cut underwater. This will prevent air from rushing-in and plugging the vascular system.
- Then place the stem in the vase so that it can continue to absorb water and begin the forcing process.
- Place the vase in an area away from direct sunlight and vents. Forced air systems and sun will dry-out the flower buds before they have a chance to open.
- Add water as needed so that the base of the stems stay below the water at all times
- Change the water every 2-3 days to keep bacteria from forming
- If the water level doesn’t go down over a few days, then the stems aren’t absorbing water. Recut the stems (at an angle) to activate the absorption process.
- Depending on the type of tree or shrub and time of year, it can take several weeks for the flowers to open.
- Cut branches every week to have a succession of flowering blooms in your home throughout the late winter and early spring!
Pro Tip: If you want to speed up the flowering process, before putting the branches in the vase, soak them in a bathtub of lukewarm water for several hours to break their dormancy!
Forcing flowering branches is a great way to bring a bit of spring indoors before it arrives!
Trimming a few branches every week will create gorgeous arrangements that will fill your home with color and beauty.
It’s like having a private preview of spring!