Early spring flowering trees and shrubs form their flower buds in the fall before the plants go dormant. After a period of at least 8 weeks of temperatures below 40°F (usually after January 1), branches can be cut and forced into bloom.
Most flowering shrubs are fairly easy to force, while trees are more difficult. The later in the winter you cut the branches, the shorter the forcing time becomes.
Select healthy, young branches with numerous flower buds, which are usually larger and more plump than foliar buds. When cutting fruit tree branches, choose those that have many spurs, the short compact side shoots which bear the flowers. Choose branches from crowded areas of the plant when possible, since you will be removing some of the plant’s natural spring display.
Follow good pruning principles when cutting the branches. Cut about 1/4 inch above a side bud or branch so that no stub is left behind. Cut the branches about 618 inches long; longer branches are easiest to use in floral arrangements.
Getting Branches to Bloom
After bringing the branches indoors, make a second cut on a slant just above the previous cut. If temperatures are below freezing when you cut the branches, immerse the branches full length in cool water for several hours or overnight. A large tub or basin may be helpful. This keeps the buds from bursting prematurely. If the weather is above freezing, there is no need for a soak.
Next, put the branches in a container which will hold them upright. Add warm water (110°F) no higher than 3 inches on the stems. A flower preservative will help prolong the vase life of the branches. Allow to stand for 20-30 minutes, and then fill the container with additional preservative solution. Place the container in a cool (60-65°F), partially shaded location. Keep the water level at its original height. Finally, when the buds show color, move the branches to a lighted room. But don’t put them in direct sunlight. At this time they can be removed from the storage container and arranged in the desired manner. Be sure the arrangement has an ample water supply at all times. To prolong its beauty, place the arrangement in a cool location, particularly during the evening. For more information here is a really good website, especially a chart on which branches to force. https://hort.purdue.edu/ext/HO-23.pdf Till next time, this is Becky Litterer from Becky's Greenhouse, Dougherty Iowa