Late winter before growth begins is one of the best times to prune/thin many of the trees and shrubs in your landscape. Happily, this is also the best time to bring some branches of your spring flowering trees and shrubs indoors to force into bloom! Although it can take anywhere from 1-6 weeks to initiate flowering (depending on the species), the cheerful spring blooms that pop open will be well worth the wait.
The best time to cut branches for forcing indoors is when the buds begin to swell in spring. The warmer the zone, the earlier your will be able to start harvesting branches.
Note: The closer to their normal blooming time that you harvest the branches, the faster they will come into bloom in the house.
Cut branches that are 2-3 feet long and that are heavily laden with flower buds.
- Branches toward the top of the plant tend to have more flower buds than those lower down.
- Flowering buds can usually be distinguished from vegetative buds because they tend to be larger and fatter.
- When cutting the branches, be sure to prune to a bud or side shoot and make your cut about a 1/4" above the bud.
- Place the cut ends into a bucket of snow or icy cold water and keep them in a cool, dark place for 2 days.
- After 2 days, re-cut the ends of the branches and arrange them in tall vases filled with cool water.
- Set the vases in the sun next to a window and remember to keep the water levels up.
- Bring the cut branches inside and place them in tall containers filled with warm water (90-110ºF).
- Place a tent of plastic over the branches and the containers and set them in a dimly lit, warm room for 24 hours. The warmth and humidity will encourage the scales covering the flower buds to expand and activate dormant buds.
- Re-cut the ends of the branches at an angle and arrange them in vases filled with fresh water.
- Remember to check the water levels often and top them off if needed.