The Buzz

Forcing Spring Flowering Shrubs and Tree Branches Into Bloom

Memphis Botanic Garden's Director of Horticulture Rick Pudwell really dislikes the word 'forcing' when talking about bringing spring flowering bulbs and other plants as well as flowering branches into bloom at times other than their normal season.

He likes to think of gardening as a more gentle pursuit that involves working with nature instead of against her. That being said, it seems that gardeners will do almost anything to enjoy fresh flowers when the weather is cold and not conducive to being outdoors.

Most spring flowering trees and shrubs can be brought into bloom anywhere from one the three months before they would normally flower outdoors if some simple rules are followed.

  • After the first frost in fall, when most trees and shrubs have dropped their foliage, flower buds, versus leaf buds should be clearly visible. These are the branches you want to cut for forcing.                                ·
  • I usually cut branches weekly from mid-December until early March. By that time, we have plenty of woody material blooming.naturally.
  • A good location for forcing branches would be a cool greenhouse (average temperature of 50 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit), a sun porch, or a brightly lit room. In a heated room it would be necessary to mist the branches at least once or twice daily to keep the humidity high. .
  • Cut branches should be put into warm water immediately after cutting. Twigs on larger limbs that will be under the water line should be removed.
  • A good clean cut on an angle is sufficient. Do not crush or hammer stems. A single split on very thick branches is sufficient.
  • Change water weekly, using cool tap water. Take time to clean the bucket each time water is changed. Groom as necessary, rinsing off stems that have become slimy or otherwise less than clean. Cut an inch or so off each stem before putting back in water.
  • Some species, if well advanced when cut, will force in as little as a week. Flowering Quince and Florida jasimun will sometimes do this. Others can take much longer.
  • The later in the winter you cut branches, the quicker they come into bloom.

The following is a list of species that force well for me, there are others I'm sure that would be worth a try:

  • Forsythia
  • Flowering Quince
  • Japanese Cherries - many cultivars
  • Witch Hazel
  • Florida jasimun
  • Willows (usually for foliage only)
  • Dogwoods
  • Spireas
  •  Fruit trees such as apples, peaches and plums
  •  Azaleas
Posted by Memphis Botanic Garden at 1:56 PM


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