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Why Lilac Bushes Only Bloom For Two Weeks

Updated on January 10, 2015

Happy Mother's Day

In New England, I am reminded that Mother's day will soon be upon us due to the fact that the lilac shrubs are in bloom. I am also reminded that summer is near.

For the Massachusetts area, this typically means that lilacs will be in bloom during the end of April until the second week of May, if we are lucky. Depending on the altitude and location of our lilac bushes we may loose blooms earlier while a shaded shrub may keep its blooms for a few days longer. Lilacs are shrubs not trees. The genus, Syringa, is so popular that over 1000 hybrids have been produced from the 25 species. Lilacs are increasing in demand and the shrubs are known for their longevity.

The scent of lilacs is so intriguing, it is sweet and intoxicating and very distinct. Every year I cut a few blooms to bring that scent inside the house with me. I also cut a bunch to give to my Mother on Mother's Day. Maybe one of the reasons that a lilac blooms for such a short period of time is to remind us not to forget our mothers. The lilacs remind us how quickly time passes and that we should enjoy every moment and be thankful for our mom's at the same time. This is my theory. In reality, why do lilacs only last for two weeks? If the shrubs are known for longevity, why hasn't someone produced a lilac bloom that is also known for its longevity?


Okay Lilac Shrub, What's Up?

The lilac shrub was imported from Europe. The shrubs get very large and have been mistaken for trees but they are not. The lilac scent intoxicates us and the flower can feed hummingbirds, honeybees, insects and the leaves can be a source of food for deer. The colors of the petals and blooms can be white, pink, lavender, magenta, violet and purple.The flower takes anywhere from 16 to 20 days to fully bloom and fade.

Lilacs are a part of the olive family and should be planted in early spring. You will get up to a six week span of flowering blooms by planting several different varieties of lilacs in your garden. There are certain varieties that will repeat bloom. This repeat bloom will happen in about 7 to 8 weeks after the initial bloom. Dwarf lilacs will not repeat bloom. Expect a new lilac planting to take two to three years until it first blooms. They should be pruned after flowering to retain their shape. The lilac petals are edible and can be candied or used in cakes.

The two week blooming period is something we have to put up with in respect to the lilac. Besides planting different varieties to extend bloom some of these lilacs have been breed to bloom later and can reach a four week blossoming period. Try the Arnold Arboretum in Boston for more help with your lilac knowledge. The second Sunday in May is "Lilac Sunday" at the Arboretum. Visitors can browse the garden and get insightful gardening tips for their lilacs.


How to Keep Cut Lilacs Fresh

When you cut lilacs from a shrub and place them in a vase indoors, you reduce their blooming period. Expect a lilac to stand in water for approximately 5 days. By following some of the tips below you can extend the "vase life" to 7 or 10 days.

  • Cut stems early in the morning when their water content is highest
  • Mix water in vase to include warm water, 8 ounces of lemon-lime soda and couple drops of bleach. The sugar in the soda feeds the blooms and the bleach keeps bacteria from forming and killing blooms early.
  • Re-cut ends with a sharp knife under running water before placing in vase. This re-cut under water limits an air pocket from forming in the stem and allows for even water flow through the stem to keep it fresher longer.
  • Keep the vase away from direct sunlight or direct heat to prevent wilting.

After The Shrub Fades Keep the Scent Year Long


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    • cabmgmnt profile image

      Corey 5 years ago from Northfield, MA

      Thanks again Mary,

      I love lilacs and I agree that they are one of the most beautiful flowers in the world, however, in trade, you get orchids in S.FL. where us New Englanders do not unless we grow them indoors!

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 5 years ago from Florida

      The Lilac has to be one of the most beautiful flowers in the world! We don't grow them in S. Fl. but I had them growing in Ga. when I lived there. Great Hub. I voted it UP. etc.