Here in Ohio, it’s been a long winter, and we’re more than ready for some color. So, it’s a good time to
start pruning spring-blooming trees and shrubs; and forcing the branches to bloom indoors for some spring flowers!
Benefits of Forcing Spring Flowers
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 Good for Forcing Spring Flowers
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 (there’s a table showing varieties and how long they will take to bloom HERE).
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 Spring Flowers
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 get out there with those pruning shears! And after you’ve got things looking and smelling beautiful indoors, check out how to create beautiful outdoor container plantings HERE.