It happens every January. You put away the holiday decorations, only to find the house feels bare and colorless. Next year, why not plan to bring color and a bit of spring into your home with the beautiful from forced tree branches? Here’s a quick primer on the process.
When to Gather the Branches
Branches need eight weeks of temperatures below 40 degrees in order to be forced. So the later in the winter you cut the branches, the shorter the forcing time becomes. In general, prune branches from January through March.
The Four-Step Process to Force Branches to Bloom
Step 1: Select branches that are the size of a pencil and at 6 to 18 inches long because they are the easiest to arrange. Choose branches with many spurs, the short compact side shoots which bear the flowers. Cut the branches on a diagonal and immediately put in water.
Step 2: Bring the branches inside. Strip the foliage that will be below the water line in the vase. Recut each stem and pound it with a hammer so it absorbs more water.
Step 3: Place branches in a bucket filled with water and place it in a shower. Shower the branches with tepid water for five minutes. Remove the branches from the bucket, wrap them in newspaper and put them in a bucket of fresh, tepid water. Move the bucket to a dark location that is 45 to 55 degrees, mist the newspaper daily and unwrap the branches after three days.
Step 4: Fill your vases with preservative solution and arrange your branches. Replace the water when it turns cloudy or at least weekly. Place the vase away from bright, direct sunlight and away from a direct heat source. The cooler the location, the longer the branches will bloom. Blooming branches should last about a week.
To Toss or to Plant?
If your branches sprout roots and you want to plant it, remove the branch from the water when the roots are 1/4 to 3/8 inches long and trim the branch to about 8 inches. Pot each branch separately, keep the plant moist and permanent roots will form. Plant outdoors in the warmer weather of spring, once the danger of frost has passed. Protect the fledgling tree in its first 2 years.
The Best Branch Types to Force
While almost any type of tree branch that blooms can be forced, here are ten excellent candidates. Keep in mind that even though this blog entry focuses on tree branches, shrub branches can be forced, too. The trees on this list are arranged by the amount of time you’ll need to allow for the blooms to emerge, so you can tailor your choices to your patience level!
Five Weeks: Buckeye, flowering dogwood
Four Weeks: Crabapple, peach, pear
Three Weeks: Cherry
Two Weeks: Redbud, Red Maple, Weeping Willow
One Week: Alder
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Featured image credit: “Peach Tree Branch” by Kari Nousiainen, https://www.flickr.com/photos/nousku/16894028200/. License by https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/.