How To Force Branches to Flower

How To Force Branches to Flower

Leah Moss
Feb 7, 2011

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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