The Q&A Archives: Winter Chill for Lilacs

Question: I purchased a lilac bush up north and I live in the south. I understand that they need a winter chill to bloom. What is the minimum chill temperature they need and for how long? Could I accomplish this chill by putting the potted plant (its small) in the freezer?

Answer: Common Lilac's bloom most profusely after they've received a pronounced winter chill. There are some new hybrids that bloom in mild winter climates ('Lavender Lady', 'Blue Skies' and 'Blue Boy'), but all lilacs respond to a light chilling in the wintertime. Lilac's take some time to become established prior to their first bloom - some take 5-7 years - so be patient. It would be best to plant your lilac in the ground so it can start to feel at home. If you keep it in a pot until it becomes big, it may not transplant well, or it may girdle itself by encircling its roots on the inside of the pot. It's not a good idea to put your plant in the freezer - it may be small now, but lilac's are vigorous growers and you won't always be able to put it in the freezer! Plant it outdoors and wait and see if it will reward you will blossoms in a few years.

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