About this time of the year, gardeners in the colder climates are very ready for spring. One way gardeners can speed up the onset of the flowering season is to force branches into blooming indoors. This is a great way to salve the winter blues and get a jump start on the freshness of spring!

Most trees and shrubs require anywhere between 800 and 2500 hours of temperatures below 45 degrees Fahrenheit before they will break dormancy. By Mid-January in New Jersey, the weather has provided enough of these hours that gardeners can feel comfortable in bringing in cuttings of flowering trees and shrubs.

Here is a list of commonly forced spring bloomers:

Small Trees:
*Crab Apple
Pussy Willow

Flowering Shrubs:
Flowering Quince
Witch Hazel

Plant types with an asterisk (*) generally require longer dormancy periods. It is best to wait until late February or Early March to cut these species.

Try to pick a warmer day to cut the branches if possible. Look for plants that have swelled buds, as they will be easier to break once indoors. Take cuttings that have some abstract or architectural value so that they have an aesthetic appeal even before they begin to flower. Make sure that you cut the bottom of the branch at an angle and then lightly crush the cut area to enhance water uptake. If the branches are really cold, submerge them in lukewarm water for about thirty minutes to thaw them out.

Place the prepared cuttings in warm water in a vase or other suitable container. Hold them in a relatively cool dark place like a basement for about two weeks to give them time to acclimate and trick them into thinking it is spring. You will know when it is time to bring them up to a warmer sunny location when you see the buds beginning to swell and or break open. If you take branches each week for a few weeks you can have a ready supply to change out as blooms fade.

Remember to change the water in the container when is becomes discolored or cloudy. A good tip to remember for first time forcers is that the closer to natural flowering time you cut the branches, the easier they will be to force.

Enjoy this early taste of spring blooms and don’t be afraid to experiment with the plants growing in your garden! It is a great way to bring the good feelings of spring right in your home!