The Q&A Archives: Growing Lilacs In Arizona

Question: I brought a lilac bush from California to Arizona 26 years ago. It grew a little and even produced a few flowers now and than. It is starting to get fewer and fewer leaves on it and I want to transplant it as I am moving down the road. What can I do to help it. I have never pruned it. It doesn't get very cold here. Once in a while it will get down to freezing, but not for long and not to often. I was told that a Lilac can't grow in Arizona but it did survive and I don't want to leave it behind now. Can you help?

Answer: It sounds like the shrub might be a candidate for some renewal pruning to encourage vigorous new growth. Lilacs bloom on "old wood" meaning the previous year's growth, so do any pruning in the spring immediately after they bloom (or in early spring before they bloom if you don't mind sacrificing the current year's flowers.) There are two methods of doing this. The drastic method is simply to cut the whole thing off at the base, as close to the ground as you can. This will result in many suckers growing up from the roots which will then be thinned every spring.

Lilacs will grow in the alkaline soil in your region, but will not be a dependable performer because lilacs need a pronounced winter chill to produce flowers. There are a few hybrids developed by Descanso Gardens that will bloom without a winter chill. If yours is 'Lavender Lady', 'Blue Skies' or 'Forrest K. Smith', it will bloom for you. If not, you might want to think about getting one of them instead of moving your lilac. 

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