Forcing Branches for Spring Color
Many kinds of woody stems can be brought indoors to bloom early.
Of all the shrubs, the most popular one for forcing indoors is the forsythia. These shrubs are so fast growing you can remove as many branches as you like without harming the plant.
Numerous types of trees are good for forcing. These would include plums, apples, and cherries. In addition, fragrant shrubs like lilac and honeysuckle are often forced.
Some plants will produce graceful catkins. For that reason they are also good for forcing. Examples include the willows, birch, and poplars. These catkins are actually scaly pendulous specialized blooms even though they don’t resemble most other kinds of flowers.
When we think of forcing, we most often assume this refers to flowers alone. Yet a number of trees and shrubs are noted for other features that make them outstanding for forcing. Some maples, such as the red and the Japanese, have very attractive young leaves.
Though it does depend on your local climate, most branches will require anywhere from two to six weeks to come into full bloom once you bring them indoors.
For forcing, cut the stems about one to two feet in length. Bring then indoors, and place them in deep tubs so the entire length of the wood is covered with water for about six to eight hours. This allows the stems to absorb lots of moisture.
Next, remove the stems from the water and re-trim the ends. Then, make vertical slits about an inch long on the cut end.
Fill your vase with fresh water. Add the stems. A cooler room, 65 degrees Fahrenheit or less, is best. Bright light helps the flower buds to open, but avoid placing the vase in direct sun.
So far as other trees are concerned, other good candidates for forcing include the Cornelian cherry, crabapple, hawthorn, magnolia, pear, redbud, and serviceberry.
For shrubs we can choose from azaleas, Japanese quince, mock orange, rhododendron, spirea, wisteria, and witch hazel.
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