Long Island Horticultural Society

What's Going on in the Garden

Winter To Do List

Cut some branches for forcing indoors. Forcing spring bloomers is an easy task. The hardest part is probably getting outside in the cold weather.

When to cut the branches? Spring blooming trees and shrubs form their buds in the fall. These spring bloomers require a period of cold dormancy in order to bloom. It depends on the weather each season, but by mid-February, most spring bloomers have had sufficient cold to allow forcing them into bloom indoors.

How to cut the branches? Cut the branches on a warm day. Look for plump buds. Flower buds are more plump and rounder than leaf buds. Cut branches that are at least 12” long. Cut the base of the branches in an X pattern to provide more surface area to take up water. This is even better than smashing the bottoms of the branches which can have the opposite effect. As smashing branches can damages cells. Put all your branches in a bucket of warm water, give them a good misting and place in a cool room. The misting will allow them to take in water faster and help prevent bud drop. Keeping them in a cool room will slow down the maturation time but help insure flowers develop and open properly. Change the water every 2 to 3 days to keep it clean. Once the buds start to color up you can use them in arrangements as the flowers will open soon.

What to cut when?


Forsythia (yellow flowers, one to 3 weeks to force)

Witch Hazel (yellow flowers, one week to force)

Pussy Willow (one to 2 weeks to force)



Serviceberry (one to 3 weeks to force)

Apples and Crabapples (2 to 4 weeks to force with doubles slower than singles)

Quince (4 weeks to force)

Cherries (2 to 4 weeks to force)

Rhododendrons and Azaleas later in the month (4 to 6 weeks to force)



All the above plus:

Lilacs (4 to 5 weeks to force)

Spirea (4 weeks to force)

Mock Orange(4 to 5 weeks to force)

Winter Pruning Primer

 What is winter pruning? Pruning deciduous plants in the winter promotes fast regrowth in the spring, as most plants are dormant during the winter. It's also easier to see the shape of deciduous plants in the winter, since their foliage is gone. When pruning:
1. Prune out dead and diseased branches. 
2.Cut back branches that have grown over where you walk or mow so they don't break off.
3. Where you see two branches crossing, prune off the smaller one.
4.Thin branches judiciously to allow sunlight and air into the center of trees and shrubs. Starting at the center and moving to the exterior, thin the branches that make up the dense mass of a tree or shrub. Your purpose is to increase air circulation through the branches and to accentuate the structure of the plant. Never remove more than one-quarter of a plant in a season since that will encourage sucker growth. Thinning is especially important for trees such as crabapples and hawthorns, which are susceptible to fungal diseases.
5.Work slowly, taking plenty of breaks to step back and look. Is the tree balanced? Does it look symmetrical? Know when to stop; you don't want to hollow out the center. You can always go back and take more off, but you can't put it back on.
6.Always prune back to a bud or a branch. Never leave a stub or the kind of open ends that result from shearing off the top of a plant. Open ends can create dense horizontal sucker-type growth that ruins the natural branching habit, or they can cause dieback and disease. Cut an undesirable branch just above a bud, keeping in mind that a new branch will grow from that bud. Ideally, the bud should face outward, so the branch will grow toward the exterior of the plant.