Spring just would not be Spring in our neck of the woods without the sweet scent of Lilacs wafting around the neighborhood. Scent is an added element to our gardens that bring us such sweet delight. Lilacs thrive on neglect and provide such a great way to welcome the coming of Summer. Most of the Lilacs here were planted back in the 40’s when this neighborhood was established and they have thrived. The variety of colors is wonderful along with their being both single and double (also named French Lilacs) type.The Lilacs in my neighborhood bloom within a week of each other and though the blooms on each bush only last a few weeks the succession lasts for about 5 weeks. So if you wish to get a longer bloom time be sure to plant varieties that bloom at early, mid and late season.
How To Grow Lilacs
Dig a hole just as deep as the plants’s rootball and twice the width. Mix a shovelful of compost into the soil from the hole. Remove the bush from its container. With your fingers, loosen the soil on the sides of the rootball and uncoil any circling roots. Place the plant in the planting hole, making sure the top of its rootball is level with the surface of the surrounding soil. Fill in around the root ball with compost enriched soil from the hole, firming it with you finger to prevent settling later. Form a rim of soil around the hole to create a watering basin. Water in well to establish good root-soil contact.
Do not over fertilize. Spread some compost around the base in late Winter/early Spring and you can add some after they have bloomed or later in summer. If you over feed them you will get lots of green growth but no sweet smelling flowers! (we have snow on the ground in late winter/early spring so nothing is added to them at that time in our neighborhood). The first year keep it watered through the summer, no more than an inch a week, to get your Lilac established then after that be light handed on the water. After your lilac has finished blooming trim or prune to shape it. Don’t wait, if you prune off the new growth that comes soon after the bloom you will sacrifice next years flowers. It is not necessary but to me a good idea to prune back to eye level. What is the point of blooms way over your head and these heirloom lilacs can easily get to 20 feet tall.
Full sun is vital. Small lilacs planted in sunny locations produce more blooms and more compact plants. Well-drained, good soil is also necessary. They prefer a neutral to somewhat alkaline soil and look their best when watered during dry periods.
When pruning cut out any dead or weak canes, cut out 2/3rds of the suckers coming up at the base, leave 1/3 for future blooming stems. You can actually dig them up and pot them to make more lilacs if you wish, they actually mature faster than taking cuttings and rooting them. Some say to have only about 10 canes per bush for best health but not sure how correct that is. While your plants are blooming this spring, look closely at the shape of the shrub. 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 its shape. 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 they 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.