How To: Force Branches Inside

              At this point in the year, you may be going a little stir crazy. The official First Day of Spring is still over a month away, and even though the snow has melted, things are still looking very gray and “blah” outside. A great way to chase away the winter blues? Bring spring indoors by forcing branches of flowering deciduous trees and shrubs to bloom in your home! It may sound like a mad-scientist experiment, forcing branches to bloom weeks before they naturally do, but this quick and simple project is a fun way to make spring come early!

              When temperatures start to rise above freezing in mid-late February, select and cut branches from flowering deciduous tree and shrubs. Select species that typically bloom in spring, such as Forsythia, Redbud, Quince, Witch Hazel, Apple/Crabapple, Cherry/Plum/, Spirea, Magnolia, and Lilac. Blooms may take one to eight weeks to open, and the closer they are to their natural bloom time when you cut them, the sooner they’ll open.

              Choose branches with many round, plump flower buds, and take care to make proper pruning cuts. You may need to cut a few extra stems to serve as back-ups because some branches may fail and not absorb water properly. Be sure to use clean, sharp pruners.

              With your sharp pruners, or a knife, submerge the base of the stems in warm water, and make a fresh cut on the bottom. Then, carefully split the cut end of the branch vertically, one to four inches up the stem. This will allow the branch to take up more water, and prevents air from getting into the stem and blocking water from being taken up. Place freshly cut branches in a container or vase of warm water, and remove any small branches or buds that are below the water line.

              Place your containers in a warm room, ideally away from direct sunlight and direct heat sources, and change the water every few days. You may add a floral preservative if desired to prevent bacterial growth.  Cut several new branches every week as winter turns to spring, and you’ll be rewarded with a continuous show of color!