How to Grow and Care for Lilacs

lilac

Types of Lilacs

  • Common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) — Just like the name, Syringa vulgaris, is the most common lilac and puts forth lilac-colored flowers with a strong fragrance. It grows up to about 20 ft.
  • Tree lilacs ( amurensis) — this lilac variety grows up to 30 ft. with off-white flowers.
  • Persian lilac ( persica) — It grows to a height of 10 ft. and puts forth pale lilac flowers, almost half the diameter of those of the common lilacs.
  • Himalayan lilac ( villosa) — Also known as late lilac. It grows up to 10 ft. and exhibits rose-like flowers.
  • Dwarf Korean lilac ( palebinina) — this variety grows only 4 ft. and their flowers resemble those of the common lilac.

Growing lilacs

Watering tips for your shrub

  • Water your lilac plant at the base. You do not want to expose your blooms to mildew problems or make them decline quickly, and so, avoid overhead watering, especially during the flowering period.
  • Irrigate, just enough (2 inches water per plant) to keep the soil moist up to 12 inches deep. Deep infrequent watering is the goal here. You can water once every 10 or 14 days beginning from spring to when the blooming period ends.
  • After this (the flowering period), reduce watering, and only irrigate during the extended dry periods when now the soil (top 3 inches) begins to dry up. Wilting of the leaves during the dry season is also an indication that your lilacs need some watering.

Mulching

  • Simply spread a 2–3 inch layer of organic mulch (this can be bark chips) around the base of your lilac plant, ensuring a 3-inch space between the mulch and the base of the lilac trunk. This is to help reduce the risk of diseases and rot.
  • Consider replenishing the early spring mulch in fall — just before the onset of the rainy winter season. Compacted mulch retains too much moisture, especially in wet weather, and this can encourage the rotting of the roots.

Pruning your shrubs

  • Prune right after the lilacs bloom — which is during the spring. As you know the shrubs bloom on old wood and pruning them later in the summer may mean removing the wood.
  • Also, cut the dead flowers off once they’re done blooming. This helps prevent seed formation and encourages more blooms in the next spring season.
  • For old overgrown lilacs, cut the whole plant back in late winter — to about 6–8 inches of the ground. This will encourage the development of several shoots during the growing season.
lilac shrub

Caring for lilacs

But to significantly improve your lilacs:

  • Consider applying a compost layer under the plant each spring, followed by some mulch to help control weeds and retain the required level of moisture.
  • Allow them the benefit of spring feeding, though ensure you keep the nitrogen levels in check as too much of it can lead to poor blooms.
  • To reduce powdery mildew and keep the aphids at bay, consider spraying your lilacs with canola-based horticultural oil in the summer right after they’ve bloomed. Do this while strictly following the label instructions.

Propagation tip

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