Forcing Branches for Spring Blooms

In the last cold days of winter, everyone could use a taste of spring!

And fortunately this can be easy and economical—with a simple walk around your yard.  Just cut a few branches from flowering plants to bring indoors for “forcing”!  Many spring flowering trees and shrubs can be encouraged to flower indoors long before real spring arrives.  Forsythia, flowering crab, magnolia, apple, pear, lilac, red twig dogwood and spirea are all  good candidates.

How to proceed.  Pick a reasonably nice late winter day (because it will be a lot more fun to walk around), grab a garden pruner, then head out into your yard to locate your favorite  flowering trees and shrubs.  Select a few branches that have bud swellings but do not show signs of peeling bark which may indicate that the branch has died over the winter. (It may be a good time to prune out some branches that are crossing other branches or otherwise out of place.)  Cut a branch off near the stem it sprouts from; your cut will expose the edges of the  green cambium layer (inside the bark) which confirms you have a good (living) selection.  Green equals good, no green means try again.

Bring your cuttings back into the house.  At this stage people will give you all kinds of instructions about re-cutting under water, using water additives, and the proper environment for your cuttings.  I ignored all of this and  simply slipped my cuttings into a washed-out drywall bucket filled with tap water and set them in the back hallway.  Then I changed the water about every other week when it started to get cloudy.

Here is how it proceeded…

Feb13 (Week 0):  Made cuttings from the following trees and shrubs: red twig dogwood, magnolia, pear, crabapple, spirea and lilac (I think–where is that bush exactly?).  We don’t have any forsythia—hmmm, perhaps that would be a good addition in the spring.

Feb 20 (After 1 week):  The buds are swelling slightly and turning green (wish I had a camera that would do a close-up).  Even the tiny bits of green are cheery.

Feb 28 (After 2 weeks):  The buds have sprouted tiny leaflets and there is one magnolia flower bud

Mar 2 (after 2 1/2 weeks):  First full blown flower and hints that others may follow.  I think this calls for a vase!

That was far quicker and easier than I ever expected.  Even the husband and kids (teenagers!) are impressed.  I think we will be planting another Magnolia this spring!

Stay tuned and I will post more pictures if (hopefully when) we get additional flowers.

Do you have a favorite way to usher in spring?

7 thoughts on “Forcing Branches for Spring Blooms

  1. Pingback: 10 Reasons to Plant a Tree–on Earth Day, or Any Day « Art of Natural Living

  2. Louise

    I have my scissor all ready and I’m raring to go! First stop my Magnolia. I had no idea it could be forced! Yours looks lovely. I’m guessing you will be planting it and heading outside for more! (If you see a strange person on the street or in a parking lot hiding an orange scissor, it’s me!)

    Thanks for sharing, Inger. Can’t wait for more pics!!!

    1. Inger Wilkerson

      Louise–I now see teeny tiny flower parts on the lilac and spirea so I am hopeful that I’ll see something there too. But now the snowdrops are coming up in the garden and I feel less deprived than I did when we got 5 inches of snow a week ago!

      Agatha & PromenadePlantings–thanks so much!

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