The Q&A Archives: Concerned About Lilacs

Question: I have two lilacs that I have questions about. One of our lilacs is very large and full (6' x6'). The first year we moved inot our house the lilacs bloomed heavily (but mostly on the top branches). Last year we have very few blooms and I am wondering if there is something I should be doing to encourage blooms. Do they stop blooming when they get older? If I try to cut out the woody branches should I only remove those on the inside of the branch clusters near the ground?

Our second lilac is about 1 1/2 - 2' high. The plant is not in full sun, but does get about 5 - 6 hours a day (more in the spring before our oak tree fills out). We planted this one two years ago. It is blooming, but does not seem to be growing very fast. I would say it has grown" in two years. Is this normal? Should I transplant it to a sunnier location or leave it be and let it get more established?

Thank much!

Answer: Lilacs may bloom less if they are in need of more sunlight, if they have been pruned at the wrong time of year, or if they have not been pruned regularly over the years.

Routine pruning would be to remove the faded flowers and to remove any suckers smaller than a pencil each spring. After bloom, also remove some of the oldest stems by cutting them at the base, at the ground. This causes the plant to constantly renew itself with new growth coming up from the roots and stay vigorous. It also helps it stay shorter and bushier.

Some lilacs bloom heavier one year and lighter the next on an alternating schedule. You may find that yours is one of these.

Six hours of full sun that include the hour of noon would probably be enough light for the lilac although they do best in full sun all day. Since you mentioned a tree, there is a possibility that the lilac is within the root zone of the tree, which can reach at least as wide as the branches of the tree. If this is the case, you might want to try to transplant it.

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