How To Force Branches to Flower

After all the snowstorms the US has endured in previous weeks, most of us are ready for a taste of spring. And what's more indicative of spring than beautiful, sculptural flowering branches? If you begin now, you may be seeing blooms in a couple of weeks! Speaking from experience, even the blackest of thumbs can handle the forcing process. Forcing time varies depending on the type of branch, but most take between 2 and 5 weeks to spring into color. My favorite quick-to-bloom branches are forsythia and pussy willow which generally take 2 weeks, and my favorite slow time branches are cherry and dogwood, which take between 4 and 5 weeks to bloom, but which keep for weeks.

Forcing Instructions:

• For high, select branches that are at least 12 inches long and that have a lot of buds

• Cut branches from the tree or bush with pruning shears or scissors and trim the ends, removing any smaller twigs and buds toward the bottom 6 inches of the branch (or any part that will be under water once in a vase and will rot)

• Using sharp scissors or kitchen shears, carefully slit the branches at the end in several directions. The slits should be about ¼ to ½ inch long.

• Mash the slit ends into a hard surface so the ends splay out slightly to encourage the branch to absorb water (I used the concrete sidewalk as my hard surface).

• Completely submerge the branches in a container of cool to lukewarm water so that not parts are sticking out (a bathtub or utility sink are good places for longer branches) and leave to soak over night.

• Place the branches upright in a bucket or their vases and move to a room or area that doesn't get a lot of natural light (I use the hall closet, but a basement or dark corner would work too), and leave for a week or two or until the buds begin to show little signs of color. During this time add water as needed.

• Move to their permanent location, and enjoy the blooms! Depending on the type of branch, the flowers will take between 1 and 3 weeks to reach full bloom, and may last for several additional weeks. (My dogwood branches usually last for a month at full bloom!)

Images: Leah Moss

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