Three Tips for Growing Lilac Bushes

Face it. Lilacs are the best smell in the world. Here's how to grow them.

Posted by Chaya Kurtz | Apr 24, 2013
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Photo of a butterfly landing on a lilac bloom by Zitrussa/ am not sure if there exists a better smell than the smell of lilacs on a breezy summer night. Also, their bright green foliage and clusters of tiny purple flowers bring a soft beauty to a backyard or front yard. While lilac bushes are a fairly low-maintenance perennial plant, they do grow better with a bit of human assistance. Here are three tips for growing lilacs, from horticulturists at university extension services. I wish you the best in your lilac-growing endeavors.

Prune those lilac bushes: According to the Ohio State University Extension Service, pruning is one of the most important ways that you can help your lilac bush to flower. Lilac bushes do not need to be pruned in their first three years of growth. The young shoots that grow during the first few years are important for long-term growth, so let them be. After that time period passes, trim away large woody branches, but remove less than one-third of the branches every year. The wood that you should focus on removing once a year, after the last blooms have fallen, is the old weaker wood from the center of the bush. Do not prune from the top of the bush; focus on the older branches that yo can reach from the bottom of the bush.

Plant lilac bushes in the sun: According to the Utah State University Extension Service, lilac bushes need eight hours of sunlight per day to achieve their full potential for blooms. Also, lilac plants like well-drained soil. However, lilac bushes are hardy and can survive in partially shade and wetter soil. They won't produce as many blooms, but you will see some blooms even in non-ideal conditions. The fact that lilacs are so low maintenance is one of the many advantages of growing them. 

Get soil chemistry right: According to the Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chemung County, lilacs like slightly acidic soil that is not too rich in nitrogen. It is best to transplant new bushes in the fall, before the ground frezzes but after the leaves have fallen. Before planting, have your soil tested to find out if it needs to be amended at all. Avoid nitrogen-rich fertilizers. Lilacs do like potash and phosphate. Lilac bushes don't need much fertilizing. Bonemeal is recommended as a fertilizer for lilacs because it makes soil more alkaline.

Because lilac bushes are so hardy, they don't need too much maintenance, and can thrive in many locales. However, there are a couple of diseases that effect lilac bushes. Watch out for powdery mildew, which is the disease that most frequently attacks lilacs. If you notice a dusty, white coating on your lilac foliage, act quickly with a dusting of sulfur. Your effort will reward you with fragrant and robust lilac plants for years to come.

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