Here in Ohio, it’s been a long winter, and we’re more than ready for some spring color. So, it’s a good time to start pruning spring-blooming trees and shrubs; and force the branches to bloom indoors. The benefits are color and scent inside, and the pruning gets done while plants are dormant and their form can clearly be seen. Anyone living where trees and shrubs go through a dormant winter chill can force indoor blooms.
Trees and Shrubs for Forcing
Almost anything that blooms in spring can be forced. Varieties to consider include crab apple, flowering cherry, flowering pear, eastern redbud, willow, pussy willow, cornelian cherry, forsythia, witch hazel, lilac, magnolia, rhododendron, serviceberry, quince, red maple, wisteria, and dogwood. Plants that naturally bloom the earliest will be the easiest to force into bloom, but as time goes on, plants that bloom later in the season can also be forced successfully (they just need their minimum dormancy requirements met).
How to Force the Blooms
I like to prune as each plant’s growth dictates, and remove any crossed branches. Then I take the pruned branches indoors and re-cut them to length underwater. Cutting underwater prevents air bubbles from getting inside, and blocking water intake. After that, keep the stems submerged in cool water (a washtub or bathtub works) for a couple of hours to hydrate them and soften the bud’s outer covering.
Waiting for Blooms
After soaking, put the branches in a vase (making sure to keep the stems submerged) and wait for the buds to open. A ½ tsp. of chlorine bleach per quart of water should be used (to prevent mold from forming and blocking water intake) and the water should be changed every few days. How long it takes for blooms depends on the plant variety and the specific conditions inside.
Just experimenting is half the fun, so I’m headed out with my pruning shears to see if I can force a little spring!