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Lilacs

Huge blooms, wonderful scent.

Credit: Wally Patrick
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Botanical name: Syringa

Plant type: Shrub

USDA Hardiness Zones: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Sun exposure: Full Sun, Part Sun

Soil type: Any

Soil pH: Neutral to Slightly Alkaline

Flower color: Red, Pink, Yellow, Blue, Purple, White

Bloom time: Spring, Summer

Who doesn't love lilacs? The ideal lilac shrub has about 10 canes and produces flowers at eye-level—all the better to enjoy that sweet, haunting fragrance.

Lilacs do come in seven colors but most are familiar with the common lilac, Syringa vulgaris, which blooms in the northern states for 2 weeks in late May. However, there are early-, mid-, and late-season lilacs, which, when grown together, ensure a steady bloom for at least 6 weeks.

Lilacs are hardy, easy to grow, and low maintenance. They can grow from 5 to 15 feet tall, depending on the variety. The fragrant flowers are good for cutting and attractive to butterflies.

Lilac Pictures

Click slideshow below to enjoy 7 lovely lilac pictures taken by our Almanac readers!

Planting

  • Grow lilacs in fertile, humus-rich, well-drained, neutral to alkaline soil (at a pH near 7.0). If your soil is in poor condition, add compost to enrich.
  • Select a site where your lilac will get full sun—at least 6 hours. If lilacs don't get enough sun, they will not bloom well.
  • Make sure the site drains well. Lilacs don't like wet feet and will not bloom with too much water.
  • Plant in either spring or fall, although the latter is preferred.
  • If you're lucky, a friend will give you a sucker, or offshoot, of the root system of one of his plants. Your sucker will look pathetic at first but just dig a hole, backfill it with soil, and stick the sucker in. Then water and wait. In 4 or 5 years, you'll be rewarded with huge, fragrant blossoms.
  • Transplanting lilacs from a nursery is also easy. If it's container-grown, spread out the roots as you settle the plant into the ground; if it's balled or burlapped, gentle remove it and any rope before planting. Set the plant 2 or 3 inches deeper than it grew in the nursery, and work topsoil in around the roots. Water in. Then fill in the hole with more topsoil.
  • Space multiple lilac shrubs 5 to 15 feet apart, depending on the variety.

Care

  • Each spring, apply a layer of compost under the plant, followed by mulch to retain moisture and control weeds.
  • Water during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week.
  • Lilacs won't bloom if they're overfertilized. They can handle a handful of 10-10-10 in late winter, but no more.
  • After your lilac bush has finished blooming, spread some lime and well-rotted manure around the base. Trim the bush to shape it, and remove suckers at the same time.

Pruning Lilacs

  • Lilacs bloom on old wood, so it's critical to prune in the spring right after they bloom. If you prune later in the summer, you may be removing the wood. Here's a tip: If your lilac flower clusters are getting smaller, time to prune!
  • Every year after bloom, remove any dead wood. Prune out the oldest canes (down to the ground). Remove the small suckers. Cut back weak branches to a strong shoot. Cut back tall canes to eye height.
  • If your lilac is old and in really bad shape, remove one-third of the oldest canes (down to the ground) in year one, half of the remaining old wood in year two, and the rest of the old wood in year three. Another option for old lilacs is to chop the whole thing back to about 6 or 8 inches high. It sounds drastic, but lilacs are very hardy. The downside to this option is that it takes a few years to grow back. The upside is less work and more reward, as the lilac will grow back bursting with blooms. 
  • It must be recognized that severe pruning results in the loss of blooms for one to three years. For these reasons, a wise pruning program aims to avoid severe and drastic cuts by giving the bushes annual attention. 

Pests

  • Prone to attack by slugs and snails.
  • Powder white mildew may appear after a summer of hot, humid weather. It may be unsightly, but it does no harm. Ignore it.

Recommended Varieties

The most common and fragrant lilacs are of the S. vulgaris variety:

  • For early bloom, try 'Charles Joly', a double magneta.
  • Mid-season lilacs include 'Monge', a dark reddish purple, and 'Firmament', a fine blue.
  • Late-season beauties include 'Miss Canada', a reddishpink, and 'Donald Wyman', a single purple.

Although common lilacs love cold weather, a few thrive as south as Zone 9, among them the cutleaf lilac, a fragrant pale lavender. Syringa patula 'Miss Kim' is a graceful shrub with pale lilac-blue flowers that fade to white.

Special Features

  • Attracts Butterflies

Wit & Wisdom

  • To improve the flowering of lilacs, keep the grass from growing around them. A 16- to 24-inch circle of landscape cloth placed around the bushes and covered with bark or stone will keep the grass down.
  • Force a winter bouquet from cut branches of lilac. Bruise the cut ends and set them in water. Spray the branches frequently. Keep them in a cool place until they bloom, then move to a warmer area for display.
  • Poet Walt Whitman thought of lilacs when Abraham Lincoln died: 
    "When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom'd . . . I mourn'd, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring."

Comments

lilacs for warm climates

By Almanac Staff

Some lilacs (genus Syringa) are hardy to USDA Zones 8 or 9, but we haven't found any information that indicates that these would flourish in Zone 10. We suppose that it might be possible for lilacs hardy to Zone 9 to get by in a protected area of Zone 10, given the right conditions. However, we'd suggest that you contact your county's Cooperative Extension to find out if there are certain cultivars that can survive in your area.

As an alternative, there is a bush called "California lilac," which is actually a different genus called "Ceanothus." These have fragrant flowers which resemble those of Syringa lilacs. There are a few species and cultivars of Ceanothus available that do fine in Zone 10. The Cooperative Extension or a local nursery should be able to recommend varieties that will thrive in your area.

To find contact information for your Cooperative Extension, see:

http://www.almanac.com/content/cooperative-extension-services

Zone 10 Lilac, So. Ca.

By Anonymous

Yes there are...I don't know which variety I had but it was a beautiful, large, and fragrant bush in lavender. I lived in Rosemead, Ca, just outside of LA.

Deer Resistant?

By Anonymous

My neighbor just gave me two bareroot shoots from a plant he divided. Are lilacs deer resistant or should I plant them in a fenced area?

Though NO plant is truly

By Almanac Staff

Though NO plant is truly deer-resistant, lilacs fall into the "Seldom Severely Damaged" camp so they're a good choice. As far as a fence goes: Deer will usually chose a different plant to eat, however, all bets are off in a very severe winter so it depends on your climate.

no leaves

By Anonymous

my lilac bush lost all its leaves. Is it ok

You didn't mention where

By Almanac Staff

You didn't mention where you're from, but lilacs will drop leaves in the fall and leaf out in the spring. This is normal.

living in texas

By Anonymous

Hi, i live in azle texas, i have a northern lilac bush that looks fine, but has not bloomed, this is the 3 year. when can i expect it to bloom, or is it not going to do to the fact that this is really a plant for the northern United States?

Northern lilacs need a long

By Almanac Staff

Northern lilacs need a long period of winter chill in order to bloom well. Your area may not have enough cold days.
There are some lilac varieties that may bloom in Texas. ‘Blue Skies', ’Angel White’, 'Lavender Lady', ‘Superba’ and ‘Miss Kim’ are just a few. Search for low-chill lilacs to find mail-order sources.

Dwarf Tinkerbell lilac

By Anonymous

I ordered one of these plants, received it about a month ago (mid October). It has two shoots off the main stem, each with two leaves and tiny buds in the "joint" It shows no sign of preparing to bloom...it's in a container, watered from the base, medium sun. How long before I'll see signs of blooms?

Tinkerbelle lilac

By Almanac Staff

The 'Tinkerbelle' lilac is bred to be hardy from Zones 3 to 7. It blooms in mid- to late spring. Although a dwarf, it reaches about 4 to 6 feet high at maturity, with a similar width. If you are planning to wait a few years before planting the lilac in your yard, make sure that you provide a large container for the growing lilac.

What year the lilac will start to bloom will depend on the age of the plant, as well as other factors, such as climate, cultural conditions (soil, light, water, temperature), pests/diseases, etc. You might ask the nursery from which you ordered the lilac as to what age the plant was when it was sent in October, and if they expect it to bloom starting next spring, or if it needs to age a year or so before it is ready to flower. Some lilacs will not start blooming until they are about 3 to 8 years old.

winter storing

By Anonymous

I bought 10 close out lilac of all kinds little kim,charles joly,don wyman and more can I leave them in the pots and outside with just some mulch around them ? Our what is the best way to keep them till I can plabt them ?

Leave the lilacs outside.

By Almanac Staff

Leave the lilacs outside. Depending how severe your winters are you may need to add some mulch around the pots. You can also dig holes or a trench and put the pots in the ground. Cover with soil and let go dormant. In the spring you can remove the pots and plant the lilacs in permanent spots.

Syringa plant indoors for winter.

By Anonymous

I have a new lilac plant and I have it in a pot because I plan on moving soon and didn't want to leave it behind. Is it ok to bring it indoors for the winter or does it need to be outdoors during the winter months? Thank you, Carrie M.

If it is a lilac variety that

By Almanac Staff

If it is a lilac variety that is cold hardy it will need to be stored in a cool place (unheated garage is perfect). You can also dig a hole in the ground in a protected area of your yard and place the pot in the hole and cover it with mulch.

Non blooming lilac

By josiegirl

I have lilac that is about 7 years old, beautiful leaves but has never bloomed. I read two suggestions, wood ash and lime. Which is better and what time of year to treat.

Add some lime to the soil

By Almanac Staff

Add some lime to the soil around the lilac now and then again in the spring. Also make sure that the bush gets plenty of afternoon sun. If the lilac is located in a lawn area that is fertilized the roots may get too much nitrogen which promotes leaf growth.

hydrangeas close to lawn

By Anonymous

I have my lilacs close to my lawn area and after reading your comment I suppose they are only doing leaves instead of blooms because of the lawn fertilizing How should I combat that for the lilac's sake- add lime? no fertilizing now (winter) a handful of 10-10-10 for lilacs?

Purple lilac tree

By Anonymous

Hi, I had to move my lilac tree a yr ago and all the leaves fell off. It's just got twigs now that look dead, never even had any shoots this yr but I refuse to dig it up now as keep hoping it will come back next spring. It's still about 6" tall. Any ideas anyone. Will it come back!! I will be gutted if it dies as planted it when I lost my dog.

Don't give up. Wait for

By Almanac Staff

Don't give up. Wait for spring and also look for shoots coming up from the soil around the stem.

Blooming in late September?

By Anonymous

I live in Missouri and my lilac just started blooming. Is that normal? We've had a terrible drought this summer and hardly any winter.

I believe there are some

By Almanac Staff

I believe there are some varieties of lilacs that will bloom a second-time around in September. If you had a wet spell followed by a heat wave, perhaps that could also spark some blooms.

black leaves on new lilac

By Anonymous

Will magneseum take care of this problem also.....I know we are watering enough.

If you have dark black

By Almanac Staff

If you have dark black streaks on a young lilac, then you probably have lilac bacterial blight. It overwintered on the wood 1. Prune and burn all infected parts asap. 2. Provide good air circulation; make sure the leaves don't rub against another plant. 3. Do NOT fertilize. High nitrogen in young plants favors disease development. 4. In early spring, spray copper sulfate. 5. Purchase blight-resistant varieties.

White foam running down main branch

By Anonymous

What is the white foam running down the main branch. It's attracting bees, ants, wasps, moths,etc.?

White foam

By Almanac Staff

Look close to see if there are tiny insects in the "foam". It can be something called cottony aphids. Mix 20 drops of citrus oil in 2 cups of water and spray the aphids. It may also be scale insects that can be treated with horticultural oil or insecticidal soap spray.

lilac bush dying?

By Anonymous

hi there.we have an approx. 10 foot lilac bush in our backyard that gets full sun. No idea how old it is. We've lived here for 2.5 years and it's always been pretty sparse looking. there are few branches and even fewer with leaves. Right now the top foot is full of lush green leaves, the middle has light green-yellow leaves that are turning brown and falling off very easily. The bottom portion has a few healthier leaves. i noticed that there where several large branches from the ground that were completely dead so started to cut them back and they pull right out of the ground! When it does bloom it only has maybe 12 flowers and they don't last long. What should we do? It's the end of August and has been a very hot summer. Thanks in advance!

Lilac bush

By Almanac Staff

Your lilac bush will benefit from some pruning. You can cut the entire bush back to about a foot tall in the early spring before new growth starts. This will rejuvenate an old/overgrown lilac, but it will not bloom until the following year. Or, you can try the 3-year plan to keep some blooms going. Take out a third of the bush each year by cutting the large branches to the base of the plant. Be sure to prune in early spring before new growth appears.

take a 10 ft lilac bush down

By Anonymous

take a 10 ft lilac bush down to 1 foot? do i understand that correctly? just because it seems really drastic. i want to be sure. and what time of year is best to do that?

It is drastic but lilacs are

By Almanac Staff

It is drastic but lilacs are very hardy. See our pruning tips above. A less drastic method is to prune 1/3 of the bush in early spring. The following spring cut back another 1/3 and prune the last 1/3 the third spring. See our pruning pointers above.

Lilac leaves turning brown and curling inward

By Anonymous

In May we planted three lilac bushes on the west side of our house, usually gets about 6 to 8 hours of sun. They seemed to be doing fine until about a month ago, and I have noticed that some of the branches appear dead and are not bearing any leaves. Also, some of the branches have leaves that are browning around the edges and curling inward. We are in Columbus Ohio, and I am not sure when I am watering too much or when I need to water more frequently. Is it me or did we get unhealthy plants?

Lilac leaves

By Almanac Staff

Lilacs are usually not fuzzy about the soil but you may be lacking magnesium that they need (symptoms are brown curled leaves). Or you may not be watering enough. During dry hot weather the bushes need frequent deep waterings. Use a hose and soak the soil around the bushes a couple of times a week.

Lilac

By Anonymous

I live in Pennsylvania, I have few Lilac's about 4 years old, first time bloomed this summer but I have noticed white powdery material around the base/stems,some of the brances have dried up too.Do you think this is fungal infection? any remedies?

If it's a white, moldy look,

By Almanac Staff

If it's a white, moldy look, then it's powdery mildew. Don't worry. This is common on lilacs and often arrives in late July or August. It doesn't harm the plants and it will be gone when the leaves drop after a few frosts. Next year: To keep under control, spray before the disease shows up. (Consult with your local garden center on sprays.) In terms of the branches: Are they dead? Cut the old, dead branches out completely back to the ground. This will also help with the mildew by improving air circulation.

Wilting leaves ...

By Anonymous

I received a healthy lilac bush for a gift. It was doing fine for a week or two in a container. After planting, almost immediately the leaves started drooping and have continued to get worse. It's super hot and dry right now, and I've been trying to balance watering enough w/not watering too much. But it's not looking good.

Your lilac is probably

By Almanac Staff

Your lilac is probably experiencing transplant shock (lilacs are best planted when they are dormant). To help your plant, keep watering when the soil gets dry (not too wet, not too dry); make sure that it isn’t planted too deeply; and provide good drainage. Water from the base; water will burn leaves in hot, sunny weather. Do not fertilize the first year. Provide light shade during the hot weather the first year so that the plant won’t lose as much water as its roots establish themselves; you can create shade by securing burlap to stakes and setting these temporary walls on sunny sides of the plant. Burlap allows some sunlight to penetrate so that the leaves can make food, but the light shade helps to reduce evaporation.

Dwarf Lilac

By Anonymous

I live in Chicago and would like to plant a lilac bush in a raised flower bed under a window. what variety is best as to not grow too tall that it obscures the front window of our house?

Dwarf Lilac

By Almanac Staff

Syringa 'Josee' is a dwarf (grows to max. 6 feet high) that blooms in the spring and reblooms later in the summer. It's hardy in Zones 4-8. Another repeat blooming dwarf variety is fragrant Syringa 'Bloomerang'.

brown leaves

By Anonymous

I planted lilac 10yrs.ago grows great.this July started wilting in spots now those leaves are brown,should i cut the branches down? live in new jersey had alot of high temps in july also same thing happen this time last year.

brown leaves

By Almanac Staff

Hot weather can cause brown leaves. Water the lilac deeply once a week and add 1/2 cup of lime around the base of the tree to sweeten the soil.You can prune some of the old branches. This will encourage new growth.

Brown leaves

By Anonymous

I too have the same brown leaf issue in coastal South Carolina. My lilacs are not in the ground. They are in a large jack daniels barrel and though some of the older canes have a few wilted leaves, the plant is still sprouting new canes and the old canes show new leaf buds. My parents brought these lilacs from Bucks County, Pa to Richmond, Va in the late 70's and I brought some to South Carolina when I moved from Richmond. Excited about new canes but not sure what to do (if anything) about the wilting. Been humid, hot, and lots of summer storms here this season. I'm going to try to pull the barrel under the porch during next few rains to try to dry the moisture-heavy soil a bit and just put it out in full sun when not raining. Should I cut old canes or just let it roll?

Brown leaves

By Almanac Staff

In wet weather lilacs get a fungal disease that causes the leaves to wilt and turn brown. The lilac will recover from this when the weather improves. Let the soil dry out. You may want to prune some of the old canes to encourage new growth.

lilacs blooming again

By Anonymous

The lilacs along my back fence were full of blooms in May. It is August and I see new blooms! Why? Should I do something? They came with the house and I've never grown them before.

It's most likely the type of

By Almanac Staff

It's most likely the type of lilac plant you have! Some late season bloomers include 'Miss Canada' and 'Donald Wyman.'

We say, enjoy the beauty before fall arrives!

non blooming lilacs.

By Anonymous

My lilac bush @ least 6 years old. Has never bloomed. About 7 feet tall. It has never been pruned. It is mid August. Can I prune it now? Where do I get this "ash" you wrote about. There are several suckers. Should I leave them? Bush is close to corner of house by the garage. Is this OK?

Make sure your plant is

By Almanac Staff

Make sure your plant is receiving lots of sun. We recommend pruning in in spring.

Any of the suggested tips in the 'Pruning' section above will be helpful in trying to get your plant to successfully bloom. You may want to start fresh by cutting down the plant to about 6 inches in height and "start over." However, this will also take a few years of patience while waiting for blooms.

Cutting lilacs down

By Anonymous

Our lilacs are 5-7ft high and I want to cut them much lower and promote more growth next year. My wife insists that the "insides" are all just wirey and says we should just cut them down and replant new. I say cut them low and they'll regrow anyway. Are EITHER of us right?

I hope it's OK with your wife

By Almanac Staff

I hope it's OK with your wife is we say that you are right! Lilacs are very hardy and they regrow (as long as they're not dead). You can either: 1. Cut the bush back to short stubs (about 6 inches long) in the early spring before new growth. It will rejuvenate an old/overgrown lilac, but it not bloom until the next year. 2. OR, try the 3-year plan to keep some blooms going. Take out a third of the volume each year by cutting the large branches to the base of the plant. Be sure to prune in early spring before new growth.

my early lilac bush

By Anonymous

I think my husband was to heavy on the weed killer a year ago and it is now affecting my lilacs and everything i planted. They started out with buds in early spring but then shriveled up. i have nothing! there is still green IN the branch when i cut on off. can i cut the entire bush down and give it a fresh start. it is about 15 years old and big. arghhh i want to save it somehow. help!!

The lilac that has been

By Almanac Staff

The lilac that has been affected probably will recover eventually. Be sure to prune the lilacs in the spring, right after flowering (or shriveled up buds!). If you wish to rejuvenate an old lilac, we'd advise a three-year plan. Cut out a third of the branches to the base each year.

cutleaf lilac

By Anonymous

i live in Oklahoma, and have two cutleaf lilacs growing rather postive, but with this heat and drought i am wondering if they will surviv e, even with regular watering, temps reach around a 103 above

Cutleaf lilac

By Almanac Staff

Cutleaf lilacs are tough and grow well in warm climates. Keep watering and your lilacs should be fine.

Rust on lilac leaves

By Anonymous

I live in northern Ca. and I received a lilac bush as a gift. It is still in a pot and seemed to be doing great until our 105 degree weather hit for about 10 days. I did put some lime in it last fall but now I am seeming what looks like rust on the leaves. Could you please tell me what causes this?

There is a mite that produces

By Almanac Staff

There is a mite that produces a slightly rusty color on the leaves and may cause some leaf rolling. For control, use Bayer Advanced Tree and Shrub Insect Control. Perhaps bring a sample to your local garden center or cooperative extension for a diagnosis. Here are other common lilac diseases:
http://extension.psu.edu/plant-disease-factsheets/all-fact-sheets/lilac-diseases

miss kim lilac bush

By Anonymous

I bought a miss kim lilac bush from a local garden centre here in Calgary 5 days ago, I transplanted it to the ground and have been watering it quite a bit. It is developing yellow tips on the leaves and spreading to the rest of the leaf, it actually looks like it is dying. We are having a heat wave here with no rain, what do you suggest??

Although yellowing leaves can

By Almanac Staff

Although yellowing leaves can be a sign of one of several problems, our best guess would be overwatering. Too much water can rot lilac roots, which in turn causes yellowing leaves. In general, lilacs don’t do well in wet areas.
When planting a lilac, make sure that the area has good drainage, air circulation, and sunlight. Water the lilac immediately after planting, and then 2 to 3 times per week for the first month. After that, provide about 1 inch [about 2.5 cm] of water per week (just one deep soak once per week is good, to reach the lilac’s deep roots). Water a little more during hot weather.

A very old lilac

By Anonymous

We have a very old lilac and it's main stem is on it's side and others are coming out of it. It has one other main stem about 8 inches away. Almost like two plants. They reach up to just under the second story window in the dining room. It looks like it was chopped down at one time to about 4 feet, then all the rest of the growth on top of that. How would you prune it since it is already July 4th? Is it too late to prune this year to still have flowers for next year? It is my mother-in-laws and she is 92. She would probable get upset if it was too drastic. but whatever if it needs it.

Old Lilac Care

By Almanac Staff

For your old lilac tree we suggest a three-year plan. This allows the lilac to bloom every year. In late winter of year one remove one-third of the old canes (down to the ground), remove half of the remaining old wood in year two, and the rest of the old wood in year three. Then, follow a normal pruning schedule. Every spring after bloom, remove any dead wood. Prune out the oldest canes (down to the ground). Remove the small suckers. Cut back weak branches to a strong shoot. Cut back tall canes to eye height.

Boomerang Lilac

By Anonymous

I want to plant a lilac bush in the fall. I saw this Boomerang Lilac, blooms spring, summer, and fall. Do you give it the same care as regular Lilacs? Will it bloom soon or do I have to wait 5 years?

The "bloomerang lilac" can be

By Almanac Staff

The "bloomerang lilac" can be planted like any other container-grown shrub. Lightly fertilize with organic seaweed extract, fish emulsion, or slow-release fertilizer in early spring and again after the first (mid-May) bloom. And lightly prune after each bloom. Both of these techniques will encourage more blooms. It's a dwarf shrub variety -- about 4 to 5 feet diameter -- which is helpful to reach the flowers at the top for pruning! All the best.

want to buy a lilac shrub

By Anonymous

I live in Calgary, and want to buy a lilac shrub to replace a spruce tree we had removed. CAN I do it now (June) or should I wait until the fall? I haven't purchased one yet, so I just want to make sure the timing is right.

The best time to plant lilacs

By Almanac Staff

The best time to plant lilacs is in either the spring or fall.

Thank you for your interest in the Old Farmer's Almanac and our Web site.

Why won't my lilac tree bloom ???

By Anonymous

Hi

I bought a lilac tree about 6 t0 7 years ago now - a small tree - the tree was not in bloom or anything they told me it would be about 5 years or so. Well the tree has grown but still no lilacs on it. What can I do about this ?? Sometimes I wonder even if it is a lilac tree cause it won't bloom but I know it is but getting very impatient that it isn't blooming. It gets lots of sunshine and I keep the grass and weeds away from it ??

Lilac tree

By Anonymous

I had a lilac tree that wouldn't bloom I read somewhere to use wood ash in the soil,which I did I had the most spectular blooms ever.

Why won't my lilac tree bloom ???

By Anonymous

Hi

I bought a lilac tree about 6 t0 7 years ago now - a small tree - the tree was not in bloom or anything they told me it would be about 5 years or so. Well the tree has grown but still no lilacs on it. What can I do about this ?? Sometimes I wonder even if it is a lilac tree cause it won't bloom but I know it is but getting very impatient that it isn't blooming. It gets lots of sunshine and I keep the grass and weeds away from it ??

Lilac root systems

By Anonymous

I want to plant lilacs between my house and my neighbor's house. She's concerned that the roots will invade the plumbing pipes that connect from her bathroom to the city lines. I didn't think that lilac root systems were deep or invasive. Do I need to be careful how close to plumbing pipes I plant the lilacs? thank you!

You are correct: Lilac roots

By Almanac Staff

You are correct: Lilac roots aren't that invasive though they can ramble and lilacs need room to grow in all directions. You shouldn't have to worry about foundations or pipes. We advise folks to plant the lilacs about 12 feet or more from a house foundation if they wish to avoid worry. The roots are about one to one-half times the length of the branches. A 10-foot shrub would have roots about 15 feet in every direction.

Can I keep a lilac in a container?

By Anonymous

Hi, I pulled out a few lilac suckers from my friend's yard and put them in a 3 gallon black plastic pot. They did fine. They have no leaves for about 2.5 feet and then the leaves on the top are about a foot high. They were two connected suckers. Only about a quarter of an inch around. There are already new suckers growing from the soil. The plant(s) seem very happy. I do not have a garden. I only have a concrete patio. Can this plant last in a pot for its life? I plan on transplanting it in the fall to a 5 gallon and then that would be about it.
Thank you!!!!

A lilac is fine in a

By Almanac Staff

A lilac is fine in a container for the short-term, given plenty of water and sun. However, after a year or two, they'll get too large and they'd do better in the ground. In a pot, the lilac will also need fertilizer in early spring and after bloom--and also add a handful of lime once a season.

Very Inexperienced Gardner

By Anonymous

What is a sucker? I have lilacs in my yard and some are very tall and others short. They tend to only have blooms on the top and not towards the bottom. I looked at the blooms, which are no longer purple and appear dead. I thought this was what was to be pruned but there are new green buds in them. Should I be removing these? HELP!!!!

Suckers are plant sprouts

By Almanac Staff

Suckers are plant sprouts from the root system. New lilac suckers grow into new lilacs! For some folks, this is desirable. For many homeowners, who don't want more growth, it is not. Your lilacs also need pruning. If you just have blooms on the top, then your lilac is overgrown. You must prune RIGHT after they finish flowering this year, and before mid-July. If overgrown, also cut down about a third of the older canes as close to the ground as possible next bring before they leaf out. You may not get blossoms that year but you'll send out new growth and the shrub will start to look better next year. Always thin out your thickest canes as low as you can cut them.

Black leaves on my lilac

By Anonymous

Hi,
I have recently planted 6 Charles joly lilac shrubs, May long weekend in northern Alberta. They are planted along the back of my fence which recieves full sun all day long. While watering them this evening, I noticed that on 3 of the 6 shrubs they have a few blackening leaves on them. Is this normal or should I be concerned about insects/desease affecting them? As I purchased and planted them at the end of May, I am unsure if they bloomed this year. They seem to me...a VERY inexperienced gardener...to be young they stand 3-4' tall. Other than the blackening leaves they appear to be healthy, as someone mentioned above they do have some leaves with holes but I think thats just par for the course...no

Black leaves may mean: 1)

By Almanac Staff

Black leaves may mean:
1) Frost injury on newly emerging tissue. If the black parts on more prominent on the margins of leaves, it's probably just the cold temperatures.
2) Lilac blight. This looks a bit different--starting as brown water-marked spots and progresses to blackened leaves. A cool, wet, rainy, spring season can lead to lilac blight, especially if rainy after a late frost. In this case, you want to prune and burn all infected areas.
You may wish to bring a sample to your local cooperative extension or garden center.

Drawf Lilac has seeds, when do I plant them

By Anonymous

First time growing a drawf lilac tree/bush and this year it has what looks like seeds, when do I pick the seeds and how and when do I plant them. This drawf is 3 years old and has about ten 18" suckers growing I want to transplant them but need advice too. Hope someone has the answers, thanking you in advance.

Lilacs are relatively low

By Almanac Staff

Lilacs are relatively low maintenance, just be sure to trim the blooms after they’ve expired in the spring. Lilacs grow on old wood. The seeds should just be cut off, planting them will most likely get you nowhere. Also cut away the suckers. Lilacs are clump forming and produce new shoots from the base of the trunk. Use these shoots for propagating lilac bushes. Dig down from the main clump, exposing the roots and carefully cut the shoot away from the “mother” plant. Make sure you include roots. Then plant the shoot in a suitable location and water regularly until it takes hold.
Good luck!

Frustrated

By Anonymous

I live in northern Alabama and planted a lilac bush about 4 years ago. It bloomed the first year, but although it is growing in size, it has not bloomed the past 3 years. I have tried everything, including soil acidifier. I was really hoping it would bloom this year, as I had been doing research on how to prune. But it never did, and now I'm not sure which canes to cut back, as I have read that you should only prune the canes that have produced blooms in spring. The only other thing I can think of is that I have not removed the grass and mulched around the bush. Could that really be the reason for its not blooming?

lilac

By Anonymous

I live in DE and I have the exact same happen to me.First year it bloomed and hasn't bloomed in 3-4 years now. I have kept the grass away from mine by mulching and has not worked so I don't think that is your problem. HELP

You'll want to check for the

By Almanac Staff

You'll want to check for the same concerns: sunlight, pH levels of the soil, improper planting, and pruning that may have removed the buds for upcoming years.

See comments below for more advice.

Thank you for your interest in the Old Farmer's Almanac and our Web site.

There a few things that could

By Almanac Staff

There a few things that could be going wrong:
Check your soil’s acidity. Lilacs prefer soil pH from 6 to 7. You can find soil testing kits at most garden centers.
Perhaps your lilac is not getting enough sun. Lilacs need at least 6 hours of sunlight per day.
Lilac bushes tend to not bloom for the first few years, though it sounds like you were lucky to have blooms in year 1. They spend the first 3 years getting established and start to bloom regularly by age 6.
Hang on! It is worth it!

Bees are eating my lilac leaves

By Anonymous

I live in Tucson and have two lilac in large pots. Each year about May they get many holes in their leaves about the size of a quarter. We have seen bees cutting away the leaves. Is this damaging to the plants and is there anything to prevent it?

leafcutters?

By Almanac Staff

Are the holes round and perfectly shaped? If so, they are not honeybees or your traditional bees. As you live out West, you may have "leafcutter" bees. The damage is only aesthetic and minor as they're just cutting bits of the leaves for their nesting. They are not aggressive with humans. Importantly, they are valuable pollinators for your garden so we'd leave them be. Pesticides don't work and their nests are hard to find so you don't have much choice.

Lilac Bush Pests

By Anonymous

Every spring, as soon as my lilacs bloom, they are invaded with bees, butterflies, sphinx moths and hummingbirds which destroy the flowers. What can I do to repel these pests?

Polinators love lilacs

By Almanac Staff

Oh my dear, these are the pollinators that make the blooms and beauty of the garden possible. They are not destroying the lilac. The lilac is actually using its floral scent to attract these beneficial insects.

Pests?

By Anonymous

Did you just call hummingbirds, bees and butterflies pests? Seriously? Last I checked, plants are marketed specifically to attract these desirable and necessary fauna. It's called "ecosystem"...Check out concrete paving. That attracts nothing. Not even people. (Just cars)

Old lilac

By Anonymous

At my grandparents homestead where I live and grew up, there is a patch of lilac, no more than 4' tall that has never bloomed in my entire life time. We are talking 40+ years. What's wrong? Are they too old? Should they be cut back? It's an issue I've pondered for some time. Its a lovely shrub, but would love to see it bloom.

oh oh...

By Anonymous

My lilacs are currently in bloom. Yesterday I pruned out a ton of dead wood, but nothing green. Was this a bad thing?

Reblooming Lilacs

By Anonymous

Do I cut back the blooms on these after they bloom the first time in the spring so they will bloom again?

Yes, you prune right after

By Almanac Staff

Yes, you prune right after bloom in the spring but do it before new flower buds set. So prune after May and before July. The lilacs bloom once each season and they'll bloom again next spring.

Thank You for inspiring me.

By Anonymous

I have a lilac bush that my aunt gave me a long time ago. The bush is probably 10X10ft. It's at my childhood home where my brother lives. You have inspired me to go dig up some of the suckers to plant in my yard . I will wait until Fall to do so as I think it may be too late now. I'll be going for the 4 ft or taller suckers on the outskirts of the main plant. Again, thanks for sharing your knowledge and letting us all know how easy it is to grow these beautiful plants. They have been my favorite since I found them as a small child in my aunt's yard.

Lilacs not in South

By Anonymous

Being from Illinois, the one thing I miss in spring is the Lilacs. South Alabama is no place to grow them, all Northerners enjoy!

Lilacs

By Anonymous

I live in South Carolina and have a lilac bush in my yard. It blooms in April every year. I don't understand why you say South Alabama is no place to grow lilacs. I have even separated my bush and replanted it with great success. Have you tried growing lilacs in Alabama? If not, you might want to give it a try.

will my plant die?

By Anonymous

the next door's workmen have hacked at my lilac plant and its in a right mess, if i up root it to re plant it, will it grow ok?

Hacked Lilac

By Almanac Staff

If the roots are still in the ground, leave it. Lilacs are very tough plants and should survive. You may see some growth but not blooms this year. Cut out any hacked stems. Unfortunately, this would be a bad time to replant. The best time is early spring and the next best time is the fall after the leaves have dropped. Wait til then if you can.

early spring sun only?

By Anonymous

I want to plant a lilac bush in a spot where it will have full sun in winter and early spring, but only partial after mid-May. This means it will have good sun through it's blooming season (I am in the north east), but then less through summer and fall. What do you all think? Enough sun? Thanks!

As long as they get 6 hours

By Almanac Staff

As long as they get 6 hours of sun through the end of their blooming season, they should be OK. They really need the sun to bloom profusely.

Color variations

By Anonymous

We've taken shoots from the same original purple lilac bush over the years and planted them in different places through out the property, all in full sun. But the blooms of each new bush seem to be a shade or 2 different than the parent, some darker, some lighter, some redder. What causes this?

Would lilacs do well in an

By Anonymous

Would lilacs do well in an area like Houston Texas. Not too much chill here, even in the winter.

lilacs for texas

By Almanac Staff

Some of our readers have had success with the 'Miss Kim' lilac and the Persian Lilac (Syringa persica) as they are low-chill hybrids. However, it's not a sure bet because lilacs just love that long winter chill and simply aren't native to this area. Here are some possible substitutions: Crepe Myrtle, Texas Mountain Laurel, and the Lilac Chaste Tree (Vitex agnus-castus).

Mixing Colors

By Anonymous

I have Pink and Purple lilacs. if planted to close to each other will I end up with just one color. or will each plant retain it's own color

Each will keep its own color.

By Anonymous

Each will keep its own color. We have pink, white and purple bushes all in a row. Enjoy.

lilac colors

By Almanac Staff

Lilacs don't change color based on the soil or surroundings (unlike hydrangeas and some other flowers).

curling

By Anonymous

I transplanted three dwarf lilacs last fall. They all bloomed this spring and seemed to be thriving then the leaves began to curl and one bush died, and the other two are marginal. I sprayed Seven but had no effect. Can you help?

curling lilac leaves

By Almanac Staff

Curling leaves often means not enough water or improper watering. Take a trowel and dig down into the soil below the lilac to if water is getting down deep into the roots. If not, put the hose on and let it trickle for a good 20 minutes as they are thirsty.

Bees

By Anonymous

Do lilacs attract bees or wasps? I am hoping to plant my lilacs around our deck to close in the bottom, but i don't really want to be fighting the bees and wasps all summer and not be able to enjoy my deck.

Lilacs and bees

By Almanac Staff

Yes, lilacs do attract bees (and wasps). They have nectar-rich blossoms. Consider foliage plants instead.

My lilac bushes don't have enough leaves???

By Anonymous

I planted 50 lilac bushes 7 yrs ago, they were in an area where they got little water in summer, they look meager and a bit sparse. How can I make them produce more leaves for a full or lush look?? I recently transplanted all of them to our new home since the buyer didn't want them. They are 3-5' tall. Will severe pruning cause them to " flesh out"??

Prune your lilacs properly

By Almanac Staff

Pruning is the best way to rejuvenate lilacs. The best time to prune is after May bloom but before new flower bud set for next year in early July. Cut out any dead wood and remove the spent flowers. Prune out the oldest canes (down to the ground) and cut back some of the newer branches by 1/3. Do this again next spring and you should see healthier bushes with more leaves and flowers.

tiny blooms

By Anonymous

Why is it that some years there are Huge blossoms on my lilacs and some years like this year, they are tiny?

Tiny blooms

By Almanac Staff

The size of the flowers may be caused by the weather this past winter and early spring.
Too much nitrogen in the soil can also cause poor blooming. Use a fertilizer high in phosphorus. A tip from the Almanac archives is to spread your fireplace ashes around the lilac bush for bigger, better blooms.

Question about blooming

By Anonymous

We have had a lilac tree for about 3-4 years now. It has yet to bloom. It's aprrox. 7' in height. After we bought it and planted it, we found a better spot for it so decided to transplant it. I thought perhaps it was in shock. The leaves look great as does the tree itself. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I have no idea what kind of lilac it is though. Thank you in advance. Lesley

Lilac not blooming

By Anonymous

I had the same problem. Lilac plant beautiful but would not bloom. I removed trees that kept the lilac in the shade and
fed it lots of lime. The next year it bloomed.

why lilac is not blooming

By Almanac Staff

If your lilac plant is only 3 to 4 years old and you have never seen blooms on it, it may not be mature enough to produce flowers. You may need to be patient and wait another year. Or, it may be due to other factors. Does your new location have full sunlight and dry soil? No sun, no blooms. Did you plant too deep? Is it the right type of lilac for your region? Are you using a fertilizer with too much nitrogen? And you pruning incorrectly--see this page on how to prune lilacs so that you do not remove its very buds for next next year's growth.

planting Lilacs

By Anonymous

I live in the tri-corner of CA, NV, and AZ. I want to plant a lilac in my barren backyard. I have many wind chimes and bird baths but no trees or other bushes, back yard is very sunny and windy except close to the house. What lilac is best for my area and conditions?

lilacs for southwest

By Almanac Staff

Given the heat, try Persian lilac or Chinese lilac. They are low-chill lilacs (which normally need a chill) and best for desert areas.

pot instead of ground?

By Anonymous

Will I stunt the growth (blooms) of Charles Joly shrub if I plant it in a huge pot instead of in the ground?

Lilacs in pots

By Almanac Staff

This shrub appears to be fine for containers: http://www.buyplantsonline.com/charles-joly-lilac-plant-one-gallon.html

clay and dirt

By Anonymous

I bought a Charles Joly lilac bush from a nursery and was ready to plant it, but when I started to dig the whole, I found that about a foot into the dirt, I hit clay and rock. Now I'm afraid to plant it there. Although there are trees and bushes growing all around. Should I find another place?

planting lilacs in clay

By Almanac Staff

Lilacs are actually one of the plants that will tolerate clay soil with a pH of 6 to 7. Working compost in with the soil will help provide nutrients.
In terms of proximity to other trees and shrubs: Be sure they are spaced properly. A Charles Joly Lilac is a medium-size lilac shrub and should be spaced 4 to 7 feet apart to allow it to spread. Also, lilacs prefer 5 to 6 hours of sun so you don’t want them shaded by other trees and shrubs.

Dead buds?

By Anonymous

I am not sure but my lilac has dry ends on 3/4 of the stems this year-I have had them before-it visually looks like a spent bud-open with nothing in it-they snap right off-I don't know why one has to trim back the spent flowers every year-My aunt has been gone for many years-she always had large full lilac bushes-they are still that way at her place-house is gone but lilacs are still there-never get pruned or treated in any other way-they are gorgious-I even took one to plant at my home-whats up with the dry ends and whats your feelings on my aunts lilacs-never been touched-

Mild winters and few blooms

By Anonymous

The past few winters have been very mild (I'm in Maryland, zone 7a) and my lilacs are barely putting out any flowers. Is there anything I can do to encourage blooming despite this?

Lilac Bloom

By Almanac Staff

There are five main reasons that lilacs fail to bloom: insufficient sunlight, too much nitrogen fertilizer, improper planting (planted too deeply), improper pruning (pruning at the wrong time) or winterkill of the flower buds. Also, lilacs will typically not bloom the season after a harsh pruning, so you may need to wait until next year before you see flowers. If nothing works, you might take a sucker from your lilac bush and try growing it in a new location.

When & which ones to plant

By Anonymous

We are outside Philadelphia & want to plant lilacs Any suggestions as to which types work bests & when is then best time to plant?
Thanks

Lilac varieties Philadelphia PA

By Almanac Staff

On variety, it depends on whether you want a tree, shrub, border, etc. A classic is the common lilac (Syringa vulgaris). It's 7 to 15 feet tall and spreads 6 to 12 feet once grown. For a smaller lilac, consider the Persian lilac tree. Then there is the ‘Miss Kim’ (Syringa patula), a hardy compact shrub (five feet high by five feet wide). April and May are good times for planting. Enjoy the lovely lilac blooms!

replant

By rhenn

My mom has a lilac bush that has been outside her bedroom window for at least 50 years. We are selling the homestead. I would like to known if you can take a cutting from the lilac bush and put in my
yard so I can always think of mom with the lovley lilacs of my childhood?

old lilacs

By Anonymous

My Mom has a lilac bush that has been near her bedroom window ever since I can remember it must be at least 50 years old?. We are selling her house but I would like to know if you can take a cutting from this and plant in my yard to remember her by?

Old Lilacs

By Anonymous

Established lilacs such as this will have smaller off shoot plants growing around the perimeter of the bush. You can easier dig up some of the smaller lilacs plants growing around the main bush. The roots are not very deep - less then 6". Don't feel timid to only dig up a lilac plant that is a foot high - you can easily replant ones that are 3 to 4 feet high - just looked for slender upright growth.

These replanted lilac bushes will be smaller and resemble a small flowering tree until they begin to fill out over the years.

I moved an established lilac bush which was over 6' x 6' without in sections without damaging it (it was over 20 years old). Lilacs are really a single bush but a cluster of bushes which lend themselves to be relocated in desired.

Help!!

By Anonymous

My Aunt gave me a lilac cutting eight years ago. It has only bloomed once. The bush is still very small. What do I need to do?

The usual reasons that I

By Almanac Staff

The usual reasons that I lilac languishes is: too much shade or too much nitrogen. Move the plant if needed and make sure you fertilize correctly. One way to get your hydrangea blooming is to drive a spade into the ground around the lilac--about where its foliage ends. Do this in a circle around the lilac about 6 times.

hOW MANY YEARS DOES IT TAKE FOR LILACS TO BLOOM AFTER PLANTING.

By Anonymous

I WANT TO PLANT THIS THIS SPRING. WE ARE IN ZONEE 4.

According to some sources, it

By Almanac Staff

According to some sources, it may take up to 7 years after being transplanted for lilacs to bloom. Also, lilacs should be pruned in the spring, immediately after they blossom. If they are pruned later in the summer, you may be cutting off the new growth that has the flower buds for the following year.

lack of bloom

By Anonymous

my tree bloomed tons last few years, everyone else's are flowering but mine won't even show buds. Help. I love these plants and want flowers

lack of bloom

By Anonymous

I had the same issue with two large bushes both over 10 years old. Both had robust growth in years prior. Last year I was away for their blooming season and missed out on the amazingly fragrant flowers which I always cut to put into vases for myself and all my friends since there was always so many.

I suspect the low flower rate this year was caused by the fact that I did not cut the flowers the prior year and I didn't prune back after the flowering.

cut spent blooms

By Almanac Staff

Also, be sure to snip back the spent blooms right after they fade (back to the leaf, just past the bloom). This can take a while but it will rejuvenate your lilacs.

lilacs not blooming

By Almanac Staff

The most common reason lilacs stop flowering is pruning at the wrong time of the year and too much nitrogen fertilizer. Lilacs flower on wood grown the previous season, so any pruning must be done immediately after the shrub blooms. Pruning in summer or fall or early spring will remove flower buds. Prune as directed on above page and withhold fertilizer.

we planted our bushes 2 years

By Anonymous

we planted our bushes 2 years ago and had a frost i mistakenly covered them with black trash bags and they burnt since then the bushes look very healthy but have never bloomed will they ever?

Lilac Care

By Almanac Staff

Some varieties of lilacs need a few years to mature. Other reasons for not blooming: A late freeze, too warm a winter (lilacs need chilling), lack of sunlight (6 hours of full sun needed), overfertilizing (not needed), soil that's too acidic (get a soil test and amend with lime if needed), and incorrect pruning (the most common mistake). Pruning helps a lilac flower. Avoid drastic pruning while your lilacs recover. See the pruning tips above.

Lilac roots

By Anonymous

How big do the roots get? Can I plant it next to my house near my bedroom window?

lilacs near house

By Almanac Staff

Plant the lilacs about 12 feet or more from the foundation to avoid worry. Lilac roots aren't invasive though they can ramble and lilacs need room to grow in all directions. The roots are about one to one-half times the length of the branches. A 10-foot shrub would have roots about 15 feet in every direction. However, the roots aren't invasive and don't worry too much about foundations.

lilac blooms

By Catherine Boeckmann

As you figured out, cover with cloth or fabric, not plastic. Lilacs are super duper hearty. I'm sure it will be fine. There are tips above about how to encourage blooms. When you prune/cut down a lilac, it only wants to bloom more!

weather requirements

By Anonymous

We expect a frost, does anything need to be done to protecr our lilac bushes? they have started to bloom.

thanks

lilacs and frost

By Almanac Staff

Most lilacs are quite cold hardy (to USDA zone 2) and the plant itself will be fine. However, if you have buds already (given this strangely warm winter), you can throw a cloth sheet over the bushes if they're not too big. The buds are damaged easily. Either you'll lose the flowers totally or the panicles will not be filled out---dead spots, a few flowers, etc.

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