4 Easy Steps to Force Shrubs into Bloom


Notice the shell pink flowers.

Japanese flowering quince branches forced into bloom.

Flowering quince May 2011

Indoor flowers are a rare and welcome sight in late winter. So, last week on a warm February day, I cut several branches from my flowering quince (Chaenomeles japonica) for forcing.  I love the delicate shell-pink flowers and am fascinated that their outdoor spring flowers bloom red. I’ve added a list of other flowering trees and shrubs that are said to force well at the bottom of this article. If you have tried forcing branches please let me know in the comments section.

If you follow these four simple steps you can force your own branches into welcome winter floral displays:

  1. On a late winter day cut some branches with swelling buds from a flowering shrub. If you’re feeling industrious you can also prune the shrub as you gather your branches but be careful not to cut out too many buds or you’ll lose your spring floral display.
  2. Bring the cut branches indoors and immerse into warm water. You can increase water uptake by slashing the bottom of the cut branches with pruners or smash them with a hammer (very satisfying). However I’ve found this unnecessary when I procrastinated and they began to sprout leaves.  Since my flowering quince branches have ferocious thorns, I prune these out now too.
  3. Expose your branches to light and heat; I sit my container in front of a register in a sunny room. I know some people say to keep them cool and dark but this works for me.
  4. Voila! The buds will begin to swell in a week or two; prune your branches to fit a vase and make your arrangement. Enjoy!    

Additional spring-flowering shrubs to cut for forcing include:

  • Chinese and Japanese witch hazels (Hamamelis mollis)
  • Forsythia
  • Deutzia
  • Redbud (Cercis canadensis)
  • Pussy willow (Salix discolor)
  • Rhododendron
  • Azalea
  • Mountain laurel
  • Lilac
  • Bridal wreath spirea (Spirea prunifolia)
  • Carolina silverbell
  • Viburnum
  • Magnolia
  • Winter jasmine
  • Mock orange (Philadelphus spp.)
  • Crabapple (Malus spp.)
  • Flowering dogwood (Cornus spp.)
  • Flowering fruit trees such as cherries and plums (Prunus spp,)

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