JoAnne Skelly: I know you are thinking of spring!

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My friend Sarah suggested I write about forcing blossoms indoors since we are all anxiously awaiting spring color to arrive on trees and shrubs. Forcing blossoms gives us a lovely spring preview.

The idea is to cut finger-sized non-essential branches of spring-flowering trees and shrubs, stick them in a vase of water indoors and wait for blossoms to open. Start with clean, sharp pruners. Disinfect your pruners with isopropyl alcohol prior to pruning and between cuts to prevent spread of disease from branch to branch. I pour the alcohol in a spray bottle that I have labeled “alcohol” for safety purposes and carry it with me as I prune.

Prune branches when the temperatures are above freezing. Choose those branches that are not important to the overall shape or look of the tree or shrub. Those at the back of the plant are good candidates because they will least impact the plant’s appearance when removed. Cut branches that are 1 to 2 feet long with lots of flower buds that are starting to show color. Flower buds are fatter and rounder than leaf buds. Make proper angled pruning cuts rather than straight flat cuts.

Fill a vase with room temperature water. The vase needs to be heavy enough that it won’t tip over with the weight of the stems. Smash about 1 inch of the bottom of each stem with a small hammer so the stems can absorb water and put them in the vase.

After 24 hours, slit the stem up from the base a couple of inches to increase water uptake. Place the vase with the stems in a bright room. To make the stems last, avoid direct sun and heaters. Recut the stems with a slanting cut the next day and change the water every couple of days. It might take a few weeks for the blooms to appear. If your first attempt does not succeed, try again.

Sarah suggested that plums, Bradford pear and forsythia are good candidates for successful forcing. Crabapple, apple, cherry, flowering almond and pear are additional potential indoor bloomers. Quince would be a lovely choice with its pale apricot to peach colors. Witch hazel is another contender. Lilac can be forced as well. Willow is another option, even though it’s the flower shape rather than the color that creates the interest.

This early taste of spring should tide us over the snow storms we hope are on their way.

JoAnne Skelly is associate professor and Extension educator, Emerita at University of Nevada Cooperative Extension. She can be reached at


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