"A World of Flowers"

 

 

Trick your spring flowering trees and shrubs into thinking that it's spring and forcing them to bloom!

You do this by cutting branches and bring them indoors. This is called 'forcing', making them think it is spring!

Introduction

Branches from flowering trees and shrubs can be forced into bloom easily and inexpensively. Flowering branches can bring the outdoors inside and add color during a long winter. These branches also give the floral designer some unique and inexpensive alternatives.

Trees and shrubs which bloom early in the spring form flower buds the previous fall before dormancy. After at least 8 weeks of cold weather (under 40 degrees F) the branches are ready to overcome dormancy and are capable of blooming. By undergoing spring-like temperatures and moisture, the flowers are forced open.

Successful forcing depends on the type of plant, cultivar, stage of dormancy, and temperature. This publication provides guidelines for successful forcing.

Procedure

To insure good results and to be sure that branches have fulfilled their dormancy requirements, it is best to wait until after January 1 to begin forcing branches. Carefully prune out branches, taking care not to injure the plant or ruin the shape of the plant.

Select branches that are well-budded, i.e. with a large number of flower buds. Best results will occur with younger branches because they have more flower buds. Flower buds are usually larger and rounder than leaf buds. If there is a question, cut a few buds open and look for flower parts. Some fruit trees bear flowers on short fruit spurs. Watch for these on apples, pears, and ornamental crabapples.

Select branches at least 12 inches long, pruning them flush with the trunk or main branch. By pruning flush, the wound will heal over quickly, with little danger of insect or disease damage. Be sure to use sharp pruning shears to minimize damage.

Once the branches have been cut, bring them indoors and place the stem ends in water immediately. If possible, totally submerge the branches in room temperature water overnight. A washtub or bathtub works well for this. This soaking allows the branches and buds to begin to break dormancy. Following this, place the branches in a bucket of water. Water may need to be changed often to prevent it from becoming foul.

Another method, if soaking is not possible, is to place the cut ends of the branches directly into buckets of water and mist the branches frequently the first few days. A piece of damp burlap should be wrapped around the branches to help maintain high humidity.

After spraying or soaking, the branches are ready for forcing. The branches should be placed in a relatively cool place (60 - 65 degrees F) to develop. Higher temperatures will cause the buds to develop rapidly, but size, color, and quality may be sacrificed. Along with higher temperatures often goes lower humidity which may cause buds to dry out and fall off. Branches need light for forcing, but not direct sunlight. Heat from direct sun is too intense. If you remember the springtime conditions when these plants bloom naturally, it will be easy to remember the conditions they need.

To help the buds open and keep them from drying, mist the branches occasionally during the forcing period. The closer to spring that branches are forced, the shorter the time required until bloom.

Using Branches

When the flower buds are well developed and showing color, remove the branches from the buckets and arrange them for display. Branches that are removed from the buckets at this stage are less likely to have bruised and broken flowers. Arranging the branches at this stage also allows the enjoyment of watching the flowers open.

Flowering branches may be displayed with other flowers, foliage plants, or by themselves for striking displays. The branches should be kept in a bright, but not sunny location. They will last longer if they can be moved to a cool (40 - 60 degrees F) location at night.

PLANT TYPE

BLOOM COLOR

WHEN TO CUT

WEEKS TO FORCE

COMMENTS

Acer rubrum (Red Maple)

Pink to red

Late February

2

leaves come out as the blossoms dry

Aesculus hippocastanum (Horsechesnut)

White-yellow & pink to shades of purple & red

Mid-March

5-6

umbrella like foliage, pyramids of flowers

Alnus incana (Alder)

Catkins

February

1-3

long lasting

Amelanchier spp. (Serviceberry)

White

Early February

1-4

cherry-like blossoms

Betula spp. (Birch)

Catkins

February

2-4

long lasting

Chaenomeles spp. (Japanese Quince)

Red-orange

Mid-February

4

especially colorful

Cornus mas (Cornelian Cherry)

Yellow

January

2

bright color

Corylus spp. (Hazelnut or Filbert)

Catkins

Late January

2-3

long-lasting

Crataegus spp. (Hawthorn)

White, pink or scarlet

Mid-March

4-5

---

Daphne sp.

Pink

February

2-4

fragrant

Cytisus scoparius (Scotch Broom)

Lavender

Late January

4-6

leaves outlast the blossoms, valuable as line material

Deutzia spp. (Deutzia)

White

Early March

3-4

---

Forsythia spp. (Forsythia)

Yellow

Mid-January

1-3

---

Fothergilla spp. (Fothergilla)

White

March

2-3

fragrant

Hamamelis vernalis (Witch Hazel)

Yellow

January

1

very early, spicy fragrance

Kolkwitzia amabilis (Beautybush)

Pink

Mid-March

6

---

Lonicera spp. (Honeysuckle)

White to pink

March

2-3

some with fragrant flowers

Magnolia (Magnolia)

Creamy white to deep red

Early March

3-5

beautiful flowers

Malus spp. (Apple/Crabapple)

White, pink, dark red

February to Mid-March

2-4

double flowering types force more slowly but last longer

Philadelphus spp. (Mockorange)

White

Mid-March

4-5

---

Populus spp. (Poplar)

Catkins

January

3

long lasting

Prunus spp. (Cherry)

White & pink

Early February

2-4

many types

Pyrus spp. (Pear)

White

Late January

4-5

flowers on fruiting spurs

Quercus spp. (Oak)

Catkins

March

2-3

young leaves are pinkish

Rhododendron spp. (Rhododendron or Azalea)

White through pink, lavender, lilac to red

Late February

4-6

many different types

Rhus spp. (Sumac)

Yellow

Mid-March

2-3

flowers in clustered spikes

Salix discolor (Pussy Willow)

N/A

February

1-2

remove bud scales to help preserve, display out of water to prevent rooting

Salix spp. (Willow)

Catkins

January & February

2

---

Spiraea spp. (Spirea)

White

March

4

double flower types last longer

Syringa spp. (Lilac)

White to deep crimson, lilac, pink, some near blue

Early March

4-5

very ornamental, fragrant

Colorful/Artistic Stems

  • Cornus sp. (Red-stem Dogwood)

  • Corylus avellana Contorta' (Corkscrew Hazel)

  • Elaeagnus angustifolia (Russian Olive)

  • Myrica pennsylvanica (Bayberry)

  • Fagus sp. (Beech)

  • Sorbus sp. (Mountain Ash)

 

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