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Plum branches forced indoors

It snowed again yesterday morning! The snow came down fast and furious and by 10am, five fluffy inches covered the ground. It was beautiful – again, and it no longer looked much like spring outside! Last night the temperature plunged to 19oF but today the temps are forecast to rebound to 55o and by Thursday, it’s supposed to get up to a balmy 70o! What a roller coaster ride we’ve had this winter! It makes me wonder what spring will be like!

Vase of blooming branchesThe daffodils beside the house that were in full bloom over the weekend look pitiful now; beaten down by the snow and now frozen last night by the deep cold. Oh well! So much for our spring blooms outside – for now anyway. I’m glad Eric cut some on Friday to take to our daughter in DC this weekend.

We do have a bit of spring indoors though. As I mentioned in my previous post, we pruned the fruit trees right before our last snow storm and Eric decided we should bring several of the branches of our Japanese plum indoors to force since the buds had already begun to swell.

We didn’t do anything to them except to make fresh cuts as soon as we got them inside and stick them in a tall vase of lukewarm water. There they sat on the fireplace mantle for about a week without doing much of anything. But gradually the buds began to swell more and more and after about 9 days the flowers began to pop open. Snow white plum bloomsIt wasn’t long before we had a vase full of beautiful white plum flowers accentuated by the dark brown branches.

Harvesting branches for forcing is easy and it creates some cheerful early spring color indoors. The best time to cut branches for forcing is when the buds begin to swell in spring. The warmer the zone, the earlier you can start harvesting branches.

The closer to their normal blooming time that you harvest the branches, the faster they will come into bloom in the house.

Harvesting Branches

Happily, one of the best times to harvest branches for forcing coincides with the best time to thin your spring flowering trees and shrubs!

Here are some tips on cutting:

  • Cut branches that are 2-3 feet long and that are heavily laden with flower buds.
  • Branches toward the top of the plant tend to have more flower buds than those lower down.
  • Flowering buds can usually be distinguished from vegetative buds because they tend to be larger and fatter.
  • When cutting the branches, be sure to prune to a bud or side shoot and make your cut about a 1/4″ above the bud.
Flowering quince are great for forcing

Flowering quince are great for forcing

Two Methods for forcing

Cold Method:

  • Place the cut ends into a bucket of snow or icy cold water. Keep them in a cool, dark place for 2 days.
  • After 2 days, re-cut the ends of the branches and arrange them in tall vases filled with cool water.
  • Set the vases in the sun next to a window and remember to keep the water levels up.

Warm Method:

  • Forsythia is one of the easiest spring blooming shrubs to force

    Forsythia is one of the easiest spring blooming shrubs to force.

    Bring the cut branches inside and place them in tall containers filled with warm water (90-110ºF).

  • Place a tent of plastic over the containers and set them in a dimly lit, warm room for 24 hours. The warmth and humidity will encourage the scales covering the flower buds to expand and activate dormant buds.
  • Re-cut the ends of the branches at an angle and arrange them in vases filled with fresh water.
  • Remember to check the water level in your vases often and top them off if needed.

We didn’t really follow either of these methods when we brought our branches in, but they opened up nicely just the same. I think they were probably far enough along that it didn’t matter!

Visit our website for a list of the Viette’s favorite spring blooming trees and shrubs to force.

Until next time – Happy Gardening!

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