The Q&A Archives: Selection And Care Of A Lilac Bush

Question: I want to buy a small liliac bush for Mother's Day and I don't know anything about gardening. What should I look for in a lilac bush and how do I care for it? Is there a certain way to cut the flowers when they bloom?

Answer: There are many, many lilac cultivars available, in flower colors ranging from white to pink to lavender to dark purple. The old fashioned lilac with the beautiful fragrance is Syringa vulgaris purpurea, and can be ordered from Mellinger's, 2310 W. South Range Rd., North Lima, OH 44452-9731; ph# 216-549-9861.

Lilacs prefer a near-neutral soil pH or one that leans towards the alkaline side. The soil should be loamy and well drained. Work lots of compost into soil around the planting area, not just in the hole, or the roots may not want to grow beyond the hole! Place the plant in a hole wide enough to take the root without cramping. Fill the hole with a mix of topsoil and compost. Mixing in bonemeal (a cup or so) will go a long way toward giving it a good start. Keep it moist, but not wet, for its first season.

You can cut lilac blooms just as the flowers begin to open. Take several inches of woody stem as you cut the flowers. (New flower buds will be produced at the ends of stems and branches over the summer months.)

Prune lilacs after they've finished blooming. Remove all dead/weak/crowded branches first, then each year, remove 1/3 of the oldest branches until the whole shrub is new growth.

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