Getting A Head Start On Spring

by: Jim Freed, WSU Extension Forester

The groundhog didn’t see its shadow this February, which means spring is just around the corner! If you can’t wait any longer for the first flush of flowers on the willow or dogwood, the process of forcing them to bloom indoors could give you a head start on spring.

 What is forcing anyway? Forcing describes the process of coaxing flowers to bloom indoors, after they have completed their winter dormancy requirement. Materials cut after January 15, usually open well when brought indoors.

Some of the best trees and shrubs to use for forcing are: pacific dogwood, willow, red osier dogwood, cherry, honeysuckle, serviceberry, crab apple, and hawthorn.

Take some time in advance of the activity to locate and cut some branches. Here are the steps to forcing:

  1. Take only the material you need, and do not prune heavily from one bush or tree.
  2. Prune the branches when the daytime temperatures are above freezing; this will ensure that the branches are full of moisture and will speed up the process.
  3. Prune the branches carefully, choosing those with plump fruiting buds.
  4. After you’ve pruned the branches submerge the total branch in warm water for 2 to 3 hours.
  5. Do not let the branches dry out. If you gently smash the bottoms of the branches it will facilitate the uptake of water into the branches.
  6. Place them in water, and put the container of branches in a cool room until the first buds start to break. Then move them into a warmer room, but do not put them near a heat source or bright sunny window.

It takes from one to five weeks for most branches to bloom. The more dormant the branch the longer it takes.

Then enjoy your first taste of spring!