How to Force Branches
It's easy to fool Mother Nature in these early days of spring—we teach you how to trick the branches of flowering trees and shrubs into blooming early in just four easy steps.
Tricking the branches of flowering trees and shrubs into blooming early, a practice known as “forcing branches,” is a beautiful and colorful way to showcase the budding promise of warmer days.
Almost any bloomer can be forced at anytime, says Phil Mueller, of Star Valley Flowers in Wisconsin, which ships woody ornamentals to florists and major retailers. But to increase your chances for success, stick with forsythia, cherry, or crabapple, which generally respond well, and get started late in winter. Mueller gives his tips on forcing.
1. Cut twice It's easiest to force branches when their buds begin to plump, about three to six weeks before normal blooming season. Cut with care, considering the shape of your tree or shrub. Once inside, re-cut the bottoms of the branches on an angle with a sharp pruner.
2. Keep Wet Within 20 minutes of cutting, place the branches in a container of warm water, adding a teaspoon of bleach to kill bacteria that may rot the branches. The upper parts of the branches need to be kept moist as well; spray them frequently with a misting bottle.
3. Replicate Spring Cover the branches and keep them cool, about 50 degrees at night and 60 degrees in daytime. A garage is an ideal place for incubation, as light is not needed at this stage.
4. Bathe in Light When the blossoms begin to appear, arrange the branches in a tall vase and put them in a sunny spot. Once blooms open, change the water weekly and remove from direct sun.
Continue on to see examples of forced branches.