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LivingGardeningWinter getting to you? Force spring indoors!

Winter getting to you? Force spring indoors!

by Judy Wall

Late January, through early March, is a great time to take branches from your favorite flowering trees or shrubs to force blooms indoors as they have by now been through the required cold dormancy of six weeks or more. This is also a good time to go out and prune such plants, so why not do both at the same time on a milder day when the temperature is above freezing. This will help the branches as the sap will flow easier.

Look for branches that are rubbing, crossing, diseased, old or damaged.

to prune. From this select the nicer branches for forcing that are less than ½ inch in diameter with nice flower buds. Cut them a little longer than the desired length and bring them indoors.

Here are a few recommended plants to try: Cherry (Prunus), Crab apple or Apple (Malus), Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), Forsythia, Lilacs (Syringa), Magnolias, Quinces (Chaenomeles), Serviceberries (Amelanchier), Willows (Salix) – for catkins.

After bringing the branches inside, using a laundry sink or some large/deep tray/container, or even your tub, add warm water to cover branches. With a clean and sharp blade knife, hold the stems underwater and recut them at an angle an inch or two above the original cut. Then split the branch up about two inches to help the stem take in water. Leave the branches for up to 24 hours sitting in the water.

Place the branches in a bucket of water that is heavy enough that it won’t tip over in a location, such as the basement, changing the water every week until the buds start to open.

Once you do see the buds open, move the branches to a brighter, warmer location (regular room temperature) to help speed up the process. Mist daily. Keep away from heat registers which will dry them out, and away from cold windows. Timing will vary. Times are reduced the later you do this towards spring as well depending on the temperatures in your home. Have fun experimenting with the timing. Stagger the timing of when you bring branches in so that you have fresh flowing branches for several weeks. Enjoy experimenting with a variety of plants.

Judy Wall is a member of the Lanark County Master Gardeners.  Want to know more about the Master Gardeners group or ask a gardening question? Visit our website at or contact us at




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