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John Fulton


John Fulton
Former County Extension Director



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In The Backyard

Horticulture columns and tips done on a timely basis

Forcing Flowering Shrubs - from David Robson

Posted by John Fulton -

This year, spring can come early to your home. How? Just snip some branches from your flowering shrubs, and force them into bloom, states David Robson, University of Illinois Extension horticulture educator, Springfield Center.

By now, many shrubs have flower buds that are formed and ready to bloom. That's partially due to the warm spell in early January 2008. There has been sufficient cold weather to break dormancy, and all the buds require to burst open is warmth and moisture. And, of course, time.

This procedure is quite simple. Anyone, even apartment dwellers, can succeed with this project. Start by selecting branches loaded with flower buds. You can identify the flower buds because they are plumper and more round than leaf buds. When cutting, select branches that have curves or bends that will create interesting blooming arrangements. Or if you are into straight stems, cut those. Don't worry about slanting cuts or shredded stems. Ordinary cuts work fine.

Submerge the branches overnight in a deep pail or tub of warm water; or wrap them in a damp cloth, and put them in a plastic bag for a few days. This moistening and soaking loosens the bud scales and helps them to readily fall away as the flowers expand.

After the moistening operation is completed, stand the branches in a pail of water in a place where you can control the temperature. Sixty to 70 degrees is best for the developing flowers. Although the branches will force at higher temperatures, the color, size and keeping quality of the blooms will be reduced. For this reason, it is also best to keep the branches out of direct sun.

Generally, plants that normally bloom early are easiest to force indoors. Also, the closer to the natural bloom time you cut the branches, the faster they will open.

Try some things other than the old stand-bys of forsythia and pussy willow. Red maple has beautiful, red flowers. Catkins are flowers too, so try alder, birch or hazel. Foliage of some trees is spectacular when forced indoors. Try horse chestnut, birch or oak.

The following chart will give you an idea of how long it takes to coax flowers on branches of trees and shrubs. Start some every two weeks for continuous displays until spring.

Shadblow (Amelanchier)--------------- 1 week

Forsythia----------------------------------- 1 week

Redbud------------------------------------- 2 weeks

Pussy Willow------------------------------ 2 weeks

Privet (from an unpruned bush)------ 2 weeks

Spicebush--------------------------------- 2 weeks

Magnolia----------------------------------- 3 weeks

Deutzia------------------------------------- 3 weeks

Flowering Almond----------------------- 3 weeks

Honeysuckle------------------------------ 3 weeks

Bridal Wreath Spirea------------------- 4 weeks

Flowering Quince----------------------- 4 weeks

Lilac----------------------------------------- 4 weeks

Cherry-------------------------------------- 4 weeks

Crabapple--------------------------------- 4 weeks

Pear----------------------------------------- 4 weeks

Peach--------------------------------------- 4 weeks



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