Instead of buying a flower bouquet to lift the spirits in winter, simply prune a (non-essential) branch of a spring-flowering tree for natural beauty! Soon enough, it will be blooming! This practice is called forcing branches. Here’s how to force branches into bloom indoors, as well as a list of trees and shrub branches that can be easily forced.
Not all branches take the same amount of time to bloom when forced. For example, a twig from a cherry tree may blossom after three to four weeks indoors, while a pussy willow takes only two weeks.
How to Force Branches into Bloom
All you need is a pair of clean, sharp pruners (and a spring-flowering tree or shrub!)
- Choose a day when the temperature is above freezing. The milder temperatures help ease the transition the plants must make from outdoors to indoors.
- Select branches that are not essential to the form of your shrub or tree, in a crowded section, and towards the back of the plant.
- Cut medium-sized branches with lots of buds, preferably buds that are beginning to open.
- Remember to cut branches on the diagonal. This encourages water uptake.
- It helps to “bruise” the cut ends: Crush the stem ends with a small hammer; they’ll soak up the water faster.
- Once you’re inside, set the branches in a vase or vessel of warm water for a few hours. (Make sure it won’t tip with the heavy branches.)
- Keep in a sunny, cool spot (not on a radiator) and mist frequently.
- Change the water every few days so the branches don’t rot from build-up of bacteria forming.
- Once blooms appear, display in a warm area and enjoy!
Trees and Shrubs for Forcing Branches
The numbers in the chart below indicate the approximate number of weeks that the branches will take to flower indoors.
(Note that the trees tend to be stubborn and their blossoms may not be as rewarding as those of the shrubs.)
|Cornelian dogwood||2 weeks|
|Crab apple||4 weeks|
|Flowering almond||3 weeks|
|Flowering dogwood||5 weeks|
|Flowering quince||4 weeks|
|Horse chestnut||5 weeks|
|Pussy willow||2 weeks|
|Red maple||2 weeks|
|Red-twig dogwood||5 weeks|
As you approach spring, it may take less time to blossom. In a mild winter, you may even find the buds are already blooming outside.
Also check out our article on forcing bulbs for early bloom indoors. Fill your home with flowers!