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Forcing Lilacs
by Tom Mugridge

Q: I would like to know if you can force lilacs to bloom. Someone said they thought Korean lilacs would force better. I have both kinds. I would also like to know how you do it and how long they take to open.

Thank you for your time,Midge

A: Tired of winter already? Try brightening (and scenting) things up by forcing some lilacs, and even honeysuckle. Usually, by late February, you can get their flowers to push out a few weeks after bringing them inside.

Choose branches 1-2 feet long, preferably something with as many flower buds on it as you can find (the flower buds are usually plumper and rounder than leaf buds). Submerge the cut ends in room-temperature water overnight.

Next morning, re-cut the bottoms on a 30-45 degree slant, and without crushing the ends. You can cut a few slits up the branch if you like, but I don't think this really helps that much with water uptake.

Immediately place the branches in fresh water, and put the container in as bright of a room as you have (the brighter, the better), but away from heaters and out of direct sunlight.

Room temperature should be 65 degrees or so for best results. Within a few weeks you should have some blossoms. If not, cut and try again.

You might also try this technique with fruit trees, such as apple, crabapple, cherry and plum. Keep in mind that from the flower comes the fruit, so if you use the fruit from the trees you'll have a little bit less, having cut off some flowers.

Forsythia forces extremely easily, so you may want to force some of them, too. A variety of Nature's colors can be had with very little effort. Good luck!

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