Q. How do I force spring-flowering branches indoors?
A. When temperatures rise above freezing, select branches that have numerous, healthy buds, taking care not to disfigure your tree or shrub. Using a sharp blade, cut a few more branches than you need just in case a few do not bloom as expected. Once inside, re-cut the branches 1 inch from the base, and then carefully split the cut end 1 to 4 inches up the stem. Place the stems in water immediately. Entire stems can also be totally submerged in water for several hours to replace moisture lost during winter. During the forcing period, place the branches out of direct sunlight in a cool room, change the water daily, and mist the branches as necessary to keep the buds from drying out. Bloom time will depend on the species and collection date. Branches cut closer to their normal outdoor bloom time will not take as long to bloom as those collected earlier. When they begin to flower, move to a bright room. To prolong the flowering time, keep them cool and avoid direct sunlight. Some common flowering branches for forcing include forsythia (Forsythia), crabapple (Malus), magnolia (Magnolia), and redbud (Cercis canadensis).
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