Spring Fever? Bring The Outdoors In

How to Force Spring-Flowering Branches

Spring fever happens to most of us this time of year, and forcing a spring-flowering branch to bloom indoors is one of the best cures for spring fever in February. Trees that produce blooms in the spring, like apple, pear, plum, and dogwood and spring-flowering bushes like forsythia, are perfect candidates for forcing. Use these tips so you can cure spring fever and have a continuous supply of fresh blooms in your home during February and March.

Cut the Branches

On a sunny day in February, when the air temperature is above freezing, cut a few small branches from the tree(s) you have selected. Choose limbs that have an abundance of visible flower buds and cut them 1-3 feet long. Cut off with sharp pruning shears or a knife, so neither the tree nor the branches will be harmed, then cut a 1-inch slit into the bottom of the branch so it can easily absorb water and remove any smaller branches 6-inches from the bottom.

Have a container (a 5-gallon bucket works well for this) of lukewarm water with you so branches can be immediately submerged. Leave the cut branches in the water overnight to soften the outer covering of the buds and encourage the sap to start circulating inside of the branches. 

Longer cut branches may need to be submerged in a bathtub of water for their overnight hour soak. This will help the branches absorb the water and break their dormancy. As the sap and water move through the branch it will help force them into bloom. 

After Soaking

After soaking, place the cut branches in a deep container filled with water and put it in a cool, dimly-lit indoor location until the buds begin to show color. Every day you should increase the amount of light and heat that the branches are receiving until they are in a bright, warm location.This tricks the branches into thinking that spring has arrived and that it’s time to bloom. It will also prolong the time the blooms remain on the stems. Change the water in the container every day and mist the branches with lukewarm water. Try to keep branches out of direct sunlight and away from drafts caused by exterior doors or heating vents.

How Long Will It Take?

This forcing process will take 1-3 weeks, depending on the flowering tree or shrub type that you have selected. The closer to the tree or shrub’s natural bloom time that you cut the branches, the faster the blooms will appear on the forced branches.

To keep a steady supply of forced spring flowering branches blooming, cut new branches each week and put them through the forcing process. 

New Trees or Shrubs

Occasionally when forcing spring flowering branches, some of them will sprout roots. Allow the cuttings to remain in the water until the roots are 1/2 inch long, then remove it from water and plant it in a container of potting soil.  

Trim the branch down to about 8-inches and place containers in the same location where the branch was previously. When the weather warms up in a few weeks arrives, plant the new tree or shrub outdoors.

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 Photos via Unsplash: Emil Widlund, Jelleke Vanooteghem, Khurt Williams