Forcing Branches and Winter Pruning

Did you know that there are several trees and shrubs that you can force blooms if you bring some branches inside? Their buds are similar to bulbs because they need a period of dormancy before they bloom. Once you bring them inside they will come out of dormancy in about 2-3 weeks. Since we are smack dab in the middle of February most trees and shrubs have had enough cold temps and will bloom once you warm them up inside.

Right now is also a great time to prune some of your deciduous trees and shrubs. When you prune, you want to remove any crossing branches and old or diseased wood. Prune the unwanted branches on an angle right where it intersects with another branch. Do not leave a stub. They can become an entry point for insects and diseases and it just doesn’t look attractive.

It is also important to note that you should wait to prune some spring flowering shrubs like lilacs until just after they flower this year. You could prune off a few to force, but if you do a complete pruning now you will lose the flower buds that have already set and you will have fewer flowers later this spring.

To force branches indoors, you’ll want to choose branches that are less than a 1/2” in diameter. Most trees and shrubs can be snipped and brought indoors. Some of our favorites to use are: Forsythia, Quince, Cherry, Magnolia, Redbud, Pear, Crabapple, Pussywillow and even some Maple trees produce interesting buds!


Once temperatures start to rise above freezing in late winter and buds begin to fatten, it’s the perfect time to cut them. Branches force best when cut on a warm day. The later in winter you bring them inside, the faster they will bloom. Twigs cut now may take a few weeks. Those snipped in March may open in just one to two weeks.

You’ll need pruners, branches, a bucket filled with warm water, bleach, and a vase or container.

Gather and snip branches at least twelve inches long, using the pruners to make clean cuts. Use sharp pruners and be selective, considering the shape of the plant as you cut. You may also want to smash the ends with a hammer to prevent cuts from healing over.

Fill a bucket with warm water and add 1 tablespoon of bleach. You’ll want to recut the branches at a sharp angle once you bring them inside and place the stems immediately in the bucket. You can either set the bucket in a cool place and wait for the buds to swell to make your arrangement or arrange right away and place it on your table and watch as the buds open. Either way, you will want to keep the branches out of direct sunlight, mist occasionally and change the water/bleach mixture once a week or when the water starts to discolor.

Happy Pruning!

Aurora Location

2000 Montgomery Road,

Aurora, IL 60504

Phone. 630-820-8088

Naperville Location

25w471 Plank Road,

Naperville, IL 60563

Phone. 630-355-4000

Spring Hours

March 30-June 30

Monday-Friday: 9am-7pm

Saturday: 9am-5pm

Sunday: 11am-5pm

Memorial Day Hours

Monday, May 27


Growing for the future with
right plantsĀ in right places.