How to Prune Lilac Bushes
For the absolutely perfectly shaped lilac bush, you need to prune
them each year. Pruning lilacs is a very important part of growing and caring
for Lilacs. While some varieties only grow 4 to 8 feet, others can reach
up to 30 feet tall. Most Lilac bushes will grow in excess of 10 feet. Pruning
not only helps with shape and appearance, but also helps to maintain good
plant health and vigor, and the profusion of flowers.
There are right and wrong ways to prune a lilac bush. There is also a right
and a wrong time. Most importantly, prune or trim back your bush immediately
after they are done blooming. Remove the spent bloom with your clippers.
This will keep the plant from growing seeds, and encourage creation of next
year's buds. Next year's flower bud develops early, even though you may not
see it. Lilac buds form at the ends of the growing tips of the branches.
I have seen inexperienced gardeners trim the tops several inches back. While
the bush looked nicer, they loped off the next year's flowers with one pass
of the hedge trimmer or pruning shears. We do not recommend using hedge trimmers.
It gives a "too trimmed" appearance. Lilacs are not hedges.
Lilac bushes should be pruned and maintained each year.The plants should
be full looking, yet not overly bushy. If the plant is too bushy, the inner
leaves do not get sun and air circulation, an invitation to plant disease.
Trim larger stems from the center of the bush to increase ventilation. It
allows more room for newer shoots on the outside of the plant to develop.
Pruning should be done immediately after the flowers have died off. Cut small
suckers and shoots at or near ground level, or where it comes out of the
main trunk. Leave a few strong and healthy new stalks each year, especially
if you are planning to trim back old wood.
Trim back any branches that stick out from the main bush, and is not appealing
Topping the bush is not recommended. A flat top is not an appealing lilac
shape to most lilac lovers. A slightly rounded top looks best.
It is okay to clip off old, dead flowers at the base.
When trimming and pruning your Lilac bushes, beauty is the eyes of the beholder.
If you like a tall bush, let it grow tall, If you prefer a wide bush, encourage
shoots that have spread out from the main bush.
Trimming Mature Lilac Bushes
If a lilac bush has become overgrown, or is too large or tall for the area
you have allotted it, there are a couple of ways to prune Lilacs.
We recommend the three year plan. A lilac shoot takes about three years before
it produces a flower. So plan to eliminate 1/3 of the shrub each year, selecting
the oldest stalks. Cut them down to just above the level of the soil. As
you do, allow new shoots to grow to replace the old ones. By the end of three
years, the entire shrub will have been replaced, and you will not go without
lilacs for that period of time. Then, continue the cycle each year.
If life with your overgrown shrub has just become unbearable, remove all
old stock and leave just new shoots. This is pretty drastic. And, you will
go a couple of years with out lilac flowers. But Lilacs are hardy. As long
as there are a few healthy new shoots, they will grow back.
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