The Q&A Archives: lilac tree

Question: i planted lilac tree last spring. the bottom has suckers growing and one side has leaves. the top has no leaves at all. what do i do to get the top of the tree to get foilage on it?

Answer: It's normal for lilac's to send up suckers from the roots. You can simply trim these off or you can allow them to grow. If they continue to grow, your lilac will become a thicket rather than a single trunked shrub. Legginess can be caused by a lack of sunlight. Make sure your lilacs are in full sun and not shaded by surrounding trees. Some die back of older leaves is normal, as the plant's energy will go towards newer growth. Shrubs grow outward from the tip of the branch. The plant produces growth-inhibiting hormones called auxins that it sends back down the branch to prevent other buds from growing. The purpose is to ensure that the plant's energy supports the tip's growth. This is called apical dominance. For shrubs, if you want dense branching you need to cut back the growing tips. This halts the production of the auxins and stimulates the development of lateral or side buds. However, you have to prune at the appropriate time so you don't cut off wood that the shrub will flower on. As a general rule, summer blooming shrubs flower on new growth; spring bloomers flower on last year' growth.

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