How and When to Prune Lilacs: Tips on Pruning Lilacs for Bigger Blooms
Tips On Pruning Lilacs
Big, beautiful and fragrant flowers makes the lilac one of the most recognizable and well known of the flowering shrubs. Blooming in spring, lilacs burst with color and fill the air with their floral scent to awaken the garden after the long winter.
Lilacs are hardy, long-lived plants that are easy to grow. Healthy and well-pruned shrubs bloom proficiently in late spring, filling the garden with their sweet scent and attracting the attention of hummingbirds, bees, butterflies and gardeners. While purple flowers are the most common colored blooms, horticulturalists have developed many different cultivars with flowers in white, pink, yellow and burgundy.
Lilacs are a landscape staple for several reasons: lilacs are easy to grow, they bloom proficiently and even after the flowers fade, the shrub looks good in the landscape. For optimal blooming performance, select a planting site that receives full sun. Fertilize lilac bushes in early spring with an all purpose 10-10-10 fertilizer, and then reapply the fertilizer again after the blooms fade. Established lilacs are very hardy plants, but newly transplanted specimens may require watering during periods of drought.
Lilacs are easy to transplant and propagate from the many new shoots that sprout from the base of established plants each spring. Use a sharp spade to dig down and around the shoot, creating a small root ball while severing the shoot from the parent plant. Transplant the new little lilac plant into a sunny location and keep it watered well until it becomes established.
My grandfather loved growing lilacs, and his pride and joy was a robust plant that exploded with white flowers every spring. Thanks to his gardening skills and generosity, I have several lilacs growing in my yard that are the direct descendants of his plants. My grandfather is gone now, but I am reminded of him every spring when 'his' lilacs are in full bloom. Thank you, Grandpop!
If lilacs have a drawback, it's that their flowers tend to fade quickly. By planting several different varieties of lilacs with different flowering times in early, mid and late spring, gardeners can extend the lilac blooming season. Careful and selective pruning helps to keep a plant healthy and will increase blooms for the following year, but pruning a lilac incorrectly or at the wrong time can reduce or eliminate those wonderful spring flowers.
Here are a few tips for pruning lilacs to get the most blooms every year.
When & How To Prune Lilacs
When To Prune Lilacs:
There is a right time of year to prune a lilac, and there are also lots of wrong times for pruning these flowering woody shrubs. Lilacs grow quickly and they can grow quite tall, and they need an annual trimming to retain their shape and to keep them blooming consistently every year. The only right time to prune a lilac bush is just after the last of the flowers fade away in late spring. Prune lilacs in late spring to remove the dead flowers and broken or damaged limbs before the plant sets out its buds as it prepares for next year's blooms.
Deadheading the spent blooms and removing the spent flowers also prevents the lilac from forming seeds for the next generation, and redirects the plant's energy towards producing those new buds that will form flowers next spring. Deadheading and removing the old flowers is an important step towards ensuring that your lilacs will bloom proficiently year after year.Lilacs begin to form next year's buds shortly after this year's flowers finish blooming. To avoid cutting away next year's flowers, it is very important to trim your lilacs right after they finish flowering. The new buds are hard to see, but they begin to form in the late spring. The trick is to prune and shape the lilac bush within the first few weeks after the plant finishes blooming, but before it starts growing new buds. Waiting too long to trim your lilac means either putting off the chore until next year, or risk cutting off the flowers for next spring before they even get the chance to grow.
A well-shaped lilac bush needs annual pruning to retain the rounded form that most gardeners desire, and to help control the overall height of the shrub. Depending on the variety, a lilac can reach up and over 20 feet in height. And since most of the buds form on the tips of the branches, the flowers of a tall lilac will bloom near the top of the plant -- out of reach and perhaps beyond where the flowers are easily seen and enjoyed.
While your lilacs are blooming this spring, look closely at the shape of the plant. Also, take note of where the plant is sporting most of its blooms. Lilacs flower at the tips of its branches, and the areas that receive the most sunshine will boast the biggest and brightest flowers. After the blooms fade and die off, selectively prune the branches to control the height and to re-form the shape of the lilac. In most cases, lilacs do not require much pruning beyond deadheading and removing a few select branches to improve the shape and appearance of the shrub.
Healthy lilacs sprout new suckers from the ground each year. Prune out some of the suckers, and remove any crossing branches or leggy limbs. Remember that lilacs flower on the older stems, making it important to remove only those limbs and branches that are necessary to maintain a nicely shaped and well proportioned shrub.
Over time and as the lilac ages, the interior of the plant may become congested with a tangle of older limbs. Lilacs will bloom reliably for years with minimal care, but some older plants may become less productive. To reinvigorate an older plant and to encourage more blooms, remove about one third of the plant each year by cutting the selected branches back at ground level. Severe pruning encourages new growth, but since lilacs flower only on old wood, it can take several years before the lilac blooms proficiently again after a severe pruning.
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A Demonstration on Pruning Lilacs
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