Forcing Branches for Winter Color

Forcing Branches for Winter Color

Camila Grottesi

As dreary as it can look outside for most of us in the wintertime, bringing a little early outside life indoors can surely brighten our spirits.  As most early spring flowering trees and shrubs form their buds in the fall before going dormant, it’s possible to force them into early blooming for our enjoyment in a floral arrangement or an accent piece indoors.  This article is compliments of the Purdue University Cooperative Extension Department of Horticulture.  I was fortunate enough to receive many similar articles through my Master Gardener’s training that I intend to share.

Gathering Branches

Select young healthy branches with numerous buds throughout the tree or shrub.  Keep in mind that the voids you create might show in the spring so space your cuttings accordingly.  Follow good pruning practices, which include cutting approximately ¼ inch above a side bud or branch so that no stub is left behind.  Cut your branches 6-18 inches long.

Getting Branches to Bloom

After you have gathered your branches:

  1. Make a second cut diagonally above the previous cut.  If the temperatures are below freezing when you cut the branches, immerse the branches completely in cool water for several hours or even overnight.  This deters the blooms from bursting prematurely.  This isn’t necessary for temperatures above freezing.
  2. Put the branches in a container to hold them upright.  Add warm water (110°F) no higher than 3 inches on the stems.  Flower preservative (See below preservative recipes) can also be added to prolong the branch life.  Allow to stand for 20-30 minutes and then fill the container with additional preservative solution.
  3. Keep the container in a cool, partially shaded solution, making sure to maintain the water level.
  4. Once the buds show color, move to a well lit room avoiding direct sunlight.  They can now be removed from the original container and arranged in the desired fashion.  Ample water is needed to prolong your blooms.
  5. Rooting might occur on branches during this forcing period.  If this is desired, remove the branch when the roots are ¼ to 3/8 inches long and pot individually.  The plant can be transferred outdoors after the warm weather arrives.  Protection may be needed for several years on this newly formed plant though.

Preservative Recipe #1:

  • 2 cups lemon-lime carbonated beverage
  • 2 cups water
  • ½ teaspoon household chlorine bleach

Preservative Recipe#2:

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon household chlorine bleach
  • Mix with 1 quart water

Preservative recipe #3:

  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ teaspoon household chlorine bleach
  • Mix with 1 quart water

Suggested Plants for Forcing

Suggested Plants for Forcing

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