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Bring Spring Indoors by Forcing Branches

With Spring just around the corner, it’s no doubt we all feel a little impatient waiting for the temperature to rise, and flowers to start blooming. A great way to beat the winter blues is to force bulbs or branches to bloom early. It’s a very simple process, and will be sure to lift your mood! You can use branches from shrubs and trees in a beautiful, unique floral arrangement.

Many ornamental trees and shrubs set their flower buds during the previous growing season, so they are ready to bloom after a couple weeks of warmer weather. The buds need at least 6 weeks of dormancy in the winter though before they will open. After a couple of months of freezing weather, the buds should be ready to be forced to bloom.

How It’s Done

To start the early blooming process, depending on what plants you have outdoors, with a sharp knife or shears, clip a few branches off a shrub or tree you know will bloom later in the season. When you cut the branch, be sure to make an angled cut to allow proper growth later. Immediately place each branch into water.

It is best to cut the branches when the temperature is above freezing (32 degrees). Once you are done gathering the branches, bring them inside and strip all buds, twigs, and leaves from the lower section that will be under water.

To enhance water absorption, use a utility knife to open up the bottom of the branch. Simply pare away an inch or two of the bark from the base of the branch. For woody branches, smash the bottom base to open the bark up and allow more water to be absorbed.

Once you have collected the desired branches, set the vase or bucket of water in a cooler place indoors, such as a basement, garage, or mudroom. You’ll want to try to emulate a spring environment as best as possible. That is, cool, moist atmosphere away from direct, bright sunlight. The standing water can go bad fairly quickly, so adding a homemade preservative is a good idea, along with changing the water once a week, or when the water starts to discolor.

There are several different homemade preservative options to choose from to keep the branches healthy:

  • 1 tablespoon of household bleach, 2 cups of water, and 2 cups of lemon-lime carbonated beverage.
  • 1 teaspoon of bleach, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, and a tablespoon of sugar mixed with a quart of water.
  • 1 tablespoon of vinegar, sugar, and 1 teaspoon of bleach mixed with a quart of water.
  • 1 tablespoon Listerine or 1 tablespoon lemon-lime soda per quart of water.

Once the blooms start showing and start to swell, you can move the branches to the living area of the home and arrange them in a large vase. Place them in a cooler area of your home, away from a direct heat source or bright sunlight. It would be beneficial to mist the branches with water every other day while they are still blooming to maintain the right moisture. The blooms should last about a week in a good location. If you cut several branches each week, you should be able to have continuous blooming, and enjoy the flowers until spring!

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