By Heather Rhoades
For many gardeners, mid to late winter can be near unbearable. But forcing early flowering branches in our homes can make the dreary snow a little more tolerable. Forcing branches to bloom inside is not at all hard to do.
Which Spring Flowering Branches Can Be Forced?
Almost any spring flowering shrub or tree can be forced indoors. But some of the more popular spring flowering branches for forcing are:
- pussy willow
- witch hazel
How to Force Branches to Bloom Indoors
When forcing branches to bloom inside, the first step is to select a branch. In mid to late winter, go out to the shrub or tree that you will be taking branches for forcing from. The branches you choose will need to be at least 12 inches long and should have several tight but plump buds on the branch. Carefully cut the branch away from the parent shrub or tree with a sharp clean knife. You may want to take a few more branches than you need, just in case some fail to bloom properly indoors.
Once inside, the next step in forcing early flowering branches is to first carefully split the base of the branch about 4 inches up the branch and then trim an inch off the base. Place the whole branch in warm water. If it is not possible to submerge the whole branch, at the very least the cut ends should be placed in warm water.
After the branches have soaked overnight, remove them from the water and place them immediately into the container or vase where they will be displayed. The water in the container should be warm. Place the flowering branches in a room that is between 50 and 70 degrees F. Forcing flowering branches will be faster at higher temperatures but you will have better and longer lasting flowers if they are kept at lower temperatures.
The flowering branches will need bright, indirect light in order to bloom indoors properly. Direct light can be very intense and may burn the branches or flowers.
The time it takes to force branches to bloom indoors can be anywhere from one to eight weeks, depending on the variety of flowering shrub or tree you are trying to force and how close it was to blooming naturally outside.
Like any cut flower, you want to make sure that you change the water in the container where you are forcing branches to bloom often. This will help the flowers on the branch last longer. Cool temperatures will also help keep your flowering branch looking lovely longer.