Once the holiday lights are down, my house really starts to look a bit dark and boring. I miss having flowers in the house during the dark days of winter. One of the little things that brings cheerful beauty inside is to bring in some cut branches. Plus, there are benefits besides the obvious. Winter pruning helps me to find a productive excuse to get outside on days when the temperatures are above freezing. Added bonus, most established shrubs can use a little yearly pruning and in most specimens, the best time to do that is during the dormant season.
I’ll give you the basics for cutting branches for forcing. However, have fun with it. It’s interesting to see how many different types of branches can be forced. You won’t be hurting anything if it doesn’t work so just give it a try. You will be surprised how excited you will get when the first bloom starts to open!!!! When it does, take a picture and send it to me. I will be just as excited as you.
How to cut branches
- To cut branches for forcing, you will need a pruner and/or lopper. It’s best for the branches, and you, to choose a day when the temperatures are above freezing. This will help the branches more easily acclimate once inside.
- Cut from mature specimens, typically over 3 years old, and only cut those branches which are not vital to maintain the overall shape of the shrub or tree. You may wish to space out the branches you remove so the tree or bush that remains outside maintains an even appearance and bloom in spring. Cut 1- 2 ft branches with an angled cut. Don’t be intimidated about making the correct angled cut. Just shoot for a 45 degree angled cut and anything close will be fine.
Arranging and caring for cut branches
- After bringing your branches inside, choose a vase to display them in. Make sure to choose a heavy vase or waterproof container that can handle the weight of the branches without toppling over.
- Fill the vase with warm water. I also add a few drops of bleach (a few drops only!) to inhibit bacterial growth.
- Make sure to remove any buds or leaves that would be submerged in water. Leaving these on will only contribute to bacterial growth.
- Recut the stems at a 45 degree angle and immediately add to the vase. Fussy arranging is not necessary, but arrange them as you wish. All the branches in the pictures for this article, were just cut at similar heights and plopped in the vases without any special arranging.
- Make sure to change the water every few days (adding a few drops of bleach) to inhibit bacterial growth .
- Be patient!!! Forsythia will bloom in 10 days or so, but some other specimens can take 3-4 weeks.
*** If the branches have not bloomed within a month, it is likely they did have enough cold weather to set their blooms. Try again! It’s all about experimentation. The easiest blooms to force are forsythia and pussy willow. While trees tend to be the most uncertain. You can force blooms all the way up to the time they will naturally be blooming outside. The closer you get to their natural outdoor bloom time, the more likely and more quickly they will bloom indoors.
Types of branches for forcing
- Fruit trees
- Ornamental and Fruiting Pear
- Apple and Crabapple
- Ornamental Trees
- Red bud
Other ways to make your day a little brighter
Buy fresh flowers from a local florist for yourself or someone else.
Propagate your houseplants (blog topic coming soon!).
Get your seed starting supplies together. https://www.shawnlvieth.com/seedstart1
Red Bilita Flowers by Shawn L. Vieth LLC
838 E. Madison St.
Waterloo, WI 53594