Lilacs are a feast for the senses in the spring garden!
Everyone loves the beautiful, fragrant lilac and the wonderful way it brings spring to life in your garden. They have so much nostalgia – everyone remembers going to their grandparent’s house where grandma had a lilac.
The most important thing when it comes to planting lilacs is to make sure they are in the right spot. Lilacs require full sun of six hours or more. They don’t like shade or root competition, so don’t plant them along a wood line with existing trees – they like to be center stage in their own area.
Make them a foundation plant on the end of your landscaping along with your home or do a hedgerow border planting of lilacs along your property line. Make them a standalone plant in the middle of your backyard. Just don’t shoehorn them into an existing, well-established area.
Lilacs need well-drained, neutral soil. They don’t like to be in a wet, boggy, poorly-drained situation, and they don’t like acidic soil. Because a lot of soil conditions in Connecticut are more on the acid side, you’ll want to remedy that by feeding lilacs with garden lime.
If you aren’t sure if your soil is neutral or acidic, we offer test kits for pH or you can get your soil testing done at the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station in New Haven.
When it comes to caring for your lilac, pruning is important. If a lilac goes some years without routine maintenance, it can start to show signs of that as suckers start popping up from the ground level and they need to be removed. When a lilac is healthy it shows six inches in growth and the width of these shoots will be pencil thick. If you’re seeing thin and spindly growth, that’s a sign that the plant is not healthy and needs some fertilization.
Remove small branches and diseased canes each year and prune 1/4 to 1/3 of the oldest branches which will make the plant more apt to producing lots of flower buds. Leave a strong main stem to the plant so it has plenty of air circulation around the base.
If you’re going to sheer it, make sure you do that after it flowers. If you go out today and cut a third of it down you won’t get any flowers this season. Remember to deadhead the plant after it flowers and as soon as those flowers turn brown – before the Fourth of July. If you wait too long, you run the risk of impacting the flowering for next year.
Finally, lilacs don’t like a lot of overhead watering, so make sure to always water the base.
Even young lilacs get flowers on them and add beautiful color and fragrance to your garden. Treat them with care and you’ll have happy, healthy plants brightening up your yard.
When people think of lilacs, the first thing that comes to mind is the wonderfully fragrant flowers. Follow these three requirements to ensure your lilacs are the rock stars of your spring garden:
Drainage / Soil
Lilacs are found growing naturally on hills and edges of mountain woodlands, so they prefer fertile, well-drained soil with a neutral (pH of 7) to alkaline soil. When in doubt, add garden lime. Flowers are produced from new shoots each year, so poor soil will lead to poor growth and in turn affect flower production. If your lilac is established in good soil, new growth will be at least 6″ long and about as thick as a pencil; this type of shoot will give you plump flower buds next spring. It is best to enrich the soil with good organic material instead of traditional fertilizers.
Lilacs require full sun, which means at least 6 hours or more of direct sunlight each day. Lilacs are known to be selfish and don’t like to compete with other tree roots that could be growing nearby, so give your plant plenty of space. If you’re not sure how much sun your location gets, we can help with that!
Lilac pruning can be the most intimidating requirement for beginners, but it’s easier than you think! Remove any diseased or declining canes, suckers, and small branches each year; small growth and suckers are signs of poor growth. Prune out 1/4 to 1/3 of the oldest branches each year and be sure to leave a strong main stem. Deadhead immediately after flowering (before the fourth of July).
Troubleshooting tip: If new growth is longer than 18″ and thinner than a pencil, your lilac is most likely either planted in acidic soil, isn’t getting enough sun, or needs to be pruned.
By following these steps, we’re confident you’ll enjoy your lilacs for years to come!