How To Trim Lilac Bushes In The Spring

Cutting off the tops of stems that have grown out of control is frequently insufficient when pruning lilacs. It is typically preferable to remove the entire stem. The best way to trim lilacs is with clippers. To avoid spreading and promote later blooms, remove spent blossoms right down to the stems. Three-quarters of the branches should be pruned. Remove any shoots that are emerging from the main trunk and are growing close to the ground. Lilacs within the inner branches may need to be trimmed in order to increase air flow or let more light through.

However, it may be essential to prune the entire bush or tree to approximately 6 or 8 inches (15-20 cm) above the ground if lilac shrubs are already too big or starting to look unpleasant. Remember that it takes around three years for flowers to grow after the entire bush has been removed, so you might have to wait.

A lilac bush should be clipped when?

All lilacs should generally be clipped right away in the spring after they have finished blooming. Lilacs set their flower buds for the following year immediately after the current year’s flowers have faded, therefore trimming later in the summer or fall will result in the removal of most or all of the blossoms for the following year. The larger common lilacs as well as the shorter or more “shrub like” cultivars are all subject to this timing guideline. While the “when” of lilac trimming is rather simple, the “how” is a little more difficult. For the time being, we’ll refer to lilac pruning as either maintenance pruning or rejuvenation pruning to keep things simple.

Is it okay to prune lilacs in the spring?

It’s crucial to know when to prune lilac bushes. Most lilacs don’t need to be pruned until they are between 6 and 8 feet (2 and 2.5 meters) tall. Lilac plants should be pruned as soon as the flowering is finished. This gives new shoots plenty of time to grow before the upcoming blooming season. Lilacs can lose young, budding buds if they are pruned too late.

Early spring is the ideal time to prune lilac bushes or shrubs completely to a few inches above the ground. As long as there are still a few healthy shoots present, new shoots will continue to grow throughout the normal growing season. Remove any ugly shoots when the growing season is finished.

Lilac bushes’ health and bloom output depend on regular pruning. Lilacs are typically quite hardy, and with the right pruning, they will grow back bigger and better than before.

How can I trim a lilac shrub that has gotten too large?

Similar to the lilac, heavy pruning needs to be done over a number of years. Remove any dead, spindly, dying, or ill-looking wood first. At the base, remove roughly a third of the tallest, oldest branches. The remaining branches should then be cut back by at least a foot. Over the following two years, repeat the same action.

Azaleas and rhododendrons prefer somewhat acidic soils. The optimal time to fertilize in the spring is right after flowering. Though slightly more expensive than chemical fertilizers, organic fertilizers release their nutrients gradually and require less frequent application. After July 15, refrain from fertilizing to prevent the plant from going into full dormancy before winter. Use of lime or alkaline fertilizers should be avoided.

In the summer, rhododendrons and azaleas require a lot of water due to their shallow, fibrous root systems. Make careful to thoroughly hydrate them. You will require water all year long if they are planted beneath wide eave overhangs. Avoid going too deep when hoeing or raking around the plants. Mulches can be used to control weeds, maintain more consistent soil temperatures, and save moisture. Examples of such mulches include sawdust, bark dust, peat moss, straw, or other organic materials.

The garden is busy at the moment. These days, your vegetable garden can contain just about anything. Don’t put it off! Plant more lettuce, carrots, beets, potatoes, peas, cucumbers, squash, pumpkins, melons, dill, basil seedlings, and brassicas. Also plant more beans, tomato and pepper plants, and more lettuce.

How far can lilac bushes be pruned back?

Older lilacs only bloom on the tallest branches and can have stems as thick as small trees. Fortunately, rejuvenation pruning can bring back a lilac that has been dead for around three years. There are two options available to you.

Using the “third” method is a less harsh way to pull an out-of-control lilac back into shape. For three years in a row, completely remove a third of the oldest branches from the tree. The thickest stems should be removed first. Pruning overgrown lilacs is simplest in the early spring before the branches start to leaf out, even if you’ll lose some blossoms for the current season. Your overgrown lilac should consist primarily of new shoots after three years of consistent pruning. After the plant starts to bloom all over, you may start doing routine maintenance pruning.

You can take the dramatic action of pruning back the entire plant to 6 to 8 inches above the ground in the early spring if you don’t like the way your old lilac looks or you just want a quicker solution. To encourage new development, fertilize the plant with compost or a balanced fertilizer. Throughout the growing season, new shoots will appear; allow them to continue to develop over the summer. The following spring, start cutting the spindly growth while keeping the healthiest shoots and keeping an eye on the plant’s shape. By pruning the remaining shoots to just above a bud, you can promote branching. After this, continue with routine maintenance pruning.

Should lilacs be deadheaded?

The removal of spent flowers to encourage new blooming—deadheading—is a crucial part of lilac maintenance. Lilacs should be deadheaded as soon as the flowering is finished to allow the plants to grow robust, healthy buds that will flower vivaciously the following year. According to the University of Minnesota Extension, you can use a hand pruner, but larger plants could require a hedge trimmer. Only the dead blossom should be removed; the plant should still have two leaves.

According to the Chicago Botanic Garden, you should prune lilacs at the same time as you deadhead them since they set the blossoms for the following year quickly after flowering. By doing this, you can prevent damaging or removing the developing buds. Three to four years after planting, you should start pruning lilacs. It might be necessary to trim back overgrown lilacs to just a few inches above the ground. Winter is the ideal time to complete this. In this instance, it will take the shrub one or two growing seasons to start blooming once more.

What distinguishes a lilac bush from a lilac tree?

Lilac bushes (also known as shrubs) are characterized by their numerous woody stems that emerge from the plant’s base. In contrast, the trunk of the majority of lilac trees is the only woody stem. However, your neighborhood garden center might also sell shrub lilacs that have been grafted onto a single stem to give them the appearance of miniature trees.

The choice between a lilac tree and a lilac bush is typically determined by the amount of space available. Lilac bushes come in a range of sizes and can be placed in more compact areas of a garden. A lilac tree requires space to reach heights of 20 feet and widths of 15 feet. Both require sunlight to bloom well.

Can lilacs be pruned to preserve a small size?

One of the joys of spring is the luscious aroma of lilacs. The lilac bush, which blooms in late April or early May with clusters of tiny purple flowers resembling bunches of grapes, is a common sight in most communities.

These are primarily common lilac shrubs (Syringa vulgaris). Kris Bachtell, vice president of collections at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, described it as “grandma’s lilac.” It is widely known.

He said that there are hundreds of cultivated types. Although there are cultivars with magenta, pink, and white blooms as well, the majority bloom in hues of purple. They are all resilient and enduring.

Despite being widely cultivated, common lilac is difficult for some gardeners to grow. Even if some newer types are more resistant to powdery mildew, older ones are frequently deformed by it in the late summer.

The plants, which are native to rocky Balkan hillside soil, require full sun and well-drained soil. An older lilac’s blooming cycle may end if nearby trees have grown to shade it.

Lilacs require frequent renewal trimming to reduce their size and thin them out. According to Bachtell, this necessitates the yearly removal of certain elder stems as well as dead wood. Lilacs also frequently sprout suckers from their root systems, which may need to be cut back.

The common lilac can simply be too much of a shrub for smaller yards because it is a large shrub or small tree that grows 8 to 20 feet tall and almost as wide.

Fortunately, Bachtell says, there are alternatives. “He said that several other lilac species are somewhat smaller. “They might be more disease- and shade-tolerant than grandma’s.

Meyer lilacs (Syringa meyeri) can reach heights and widths of 6 to 8 feet. Even though it thrives in direct sunlight, it can tolerate some shade. The flower clusters are smaller but very fragrant, and they emerge a little later than those of the common lilac. Autumn causes the leaves to become yellow. Although there are various cultivars, Palibin is the most popular.

One cultivar, Miss Kim, of the Manchurian lilac (Syringa patula), is primarily recognized. On a plant that is 5 to 8 feet tall, it bears delightfully scented light purple blossoms that turn light pink as they age. In the fall, the ruffled leaves become purple-red. Compared to other garden lilacs, the plant is a little more resistant to powdery mildew.

Hybrid lilacs that rebloom in the late summer or early fall do so less profusely than they do in the spring. Bloomerang Purple (Syringa ‘Penda’), Bloomerang Dark Purple (Syringa x ‘SMSJBP7’), and Bloomerang Dwarf Pink (Syringa x ‘SMNJRPI’) are just a few cultivars in the Bloomerang line. They are all smaller than typical lilacs, although cultivar differences in size should be noted on the label.

According to Bachtell, pruning should be done in the first week or two after the spring shrub has stopped flowering if it’s necessary to keep a lilac untangled and at the right size. Pruning in the winter will destroy buds that might otherwise develop fragrant blooms since lilacs bloom from buds that were formed the previous year.

How is a lilac bush updated?

The common purple lilac is a hardy, dependable shrub that can grow up to 20 feet tall. Unfortunately, the lower, shady sections of lilac shrubs typically lose their leaves as they get older. Large, overgrown specimens as a result are frequently leggy and ugly. Pruning can restore or rejuvenate old, neglected lilacs. Home gardeners have two alternative pruning techniques to pick from.

Cutting the entire plant back to within 6 to 8 inches of the ground in late winter is one method of renewing a huge, overgrown lilac (March or early April). A significant number of shoots will sprout during the growth season as a result of this aggressive pruning. Select a few sturdy, robust shoots to construct the shrub’s framework, keeping a few of them, and cut off all the others at ground level in the late winter of the next year. To promote branching, head (clip) back the retained shoots to just above a bud.

Cutting back the overgrown shrubs over a three-year period is a second method for pruning mature lilacs. In late January, start the process by digging up and removing one-third of the big, old stems. The following year, trim out half of the remaining old stems (again in late winter). Additionally, trim out some of the recent growth. Keep a few healthy stems that are evenly spaced apart and cut off the rest. In the third year’s late winter, completely remove all of the old wood. It is also necessary to thin the fresh shoots more. This pruning technique should enable you to take pleasure in blossoms every spring because lilac wood must be three years or older before it blooms.

Within a few years, with the right pruning, an old, overgrown lilac can be converted into a robust, appealing shrub. Pruning should be a frequent component of the lilacs’ management regimen after they have been revived. By cutting a few of the oldest branches every three to five years, the shrub can be kept strong and healthy.

(This article, which first published in the Sunday edition of the Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper in February 2005, has since been amended. Consult the Terms of Use for details on how to copy this content and use any images or visuals.)

Can I remove the entire lilac bush?

The lilac tree will resemble nothing more than a twig in the garden by the end of September. It shouldn’t be reduced to the ground, though. Despite the fact that lilac trees are known for their resilience, it will likely take several years before you see blossoms again because you cut off all the blossoming growth.

If your lilac tree is more mature and unruly, it may require more aggressive pruning and some chopping back; just make sure that it doesn’t take up more than a third of the tree.

Does new or old wood produce lilac blooms?

What specifically prevents these traditional plants from blooming? Instead of focusing on just one theory, consider a number of potential causes for this issue, including (in addition to illnesses and pests):

  • Pruning when it’s not necessary
  • The flower buds die in the cold
  • placing your lilacs in the incorrect location
  • The shrub in question either isn’t old enough to generate flower buds or is too old to do so.

You’ll see that while reasons one and three point to the gardener having done something incorrect, arguments two and four point to no one having done anything incorrect.

Why does it matter what time of day you prune? Shrubs called lilacs produce flowers on rotting wood. This indicates that the flower buds for the upcoming spring’s blooming season have already been formed on the growth from the previous year. When this growth is pruned, the flower buds and, consequently, the blooms they would have produced, are lost. Because of this, it is recommended that you clip lilac bushes as soon as they finish flowering (before they have set bud for next year).

Click Play to Learn How to Prune Lilacs

Despite being a relatively cold-hardy plant, the common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) can suffer harm if a hard frost or freeze occurs just as the flower buds are about to open. As a result, that year’s flowers are lost. You can’t really stop it, so simply accept the loss and look forward to the blossoming twice as much the next year.

Where you put your lilac shrub matters a lot, just like it does with most other plants. Lilacs require full sunlight and prefer well-drained soil. If you made a mistake when you first put your plants on either of these fronts, you can be paying for it today by your lilac not blooming. However, there is a simple solution to the issue: move your shrub to a more favorable location.

Regarding the fourth reason, be aware that although though these bushes have a long lifespan, they do tend to produce fewer flowers as time passes. Implementing a rejuvenation pruning on your lilacs will solve this issue (do not expect immediate results, though). Sometimes, though, the converse is true: your plant may be too young to bloom. Allow some time.