How To Care For And Cut Lilacs

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:28 pm

Midsummer is the best time to prune your lilacs. Lilacs bloom mainly in the spring and after flowering, faded parts and branches need to be cut off. We show what you need to consider when cutting lilacs and how to care for your lilacs and enjoy them for a long time.

Lilac comes in many colors from dark purple to very delicate pink or white. It belongs to the plant genus of the olive family and is divided into 20 to 25 subspecies. Incidentally, the common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is not botanically related to the summer lilac (Buddleja) or the butterfly bush (Buddleja davidii). However, both types of shrubs look quite similar, enjoy great popularity among butterflies and other insects, and differ only slightly in care and pruning.

The right place for lilac

How To Care For And Cut Lilacs

If you have bought a new lilac bush, you should first choose the perfect location. Lilacs prefer direct sunlight to bloom most profusely. In a shady or semi-shady location, the shrub will grow but will not bloom as much as it would in direct sunlight.

Basically, lilacs are quite hardy and can be planted in areas that are not sheltered from the wind, or you can use the lilac itself as a windbreak.

Lilacs are hardy. The best time to plant lilacs is in the fall. To do this, dig a hole large enough. This should be about twice the volume of the root ball. After planting, make sure to provide your lilac with enough water. However, the lilac should not stand wet either.

By the way, some lilac varieties can grow up to seven meters tall. So either opt for special dwarf lilac cultivars before you buy, or make sure such a tall bush won’t be a problem.

How to fertilize lilacs?

Lilacs thrive best in nutrient-rich, calcareous soil. So occasionally you should fertilize your lilacs. Lilacs are among the so-called heavy feeders. Fertilize your lilacs in the spring before they bloom. You can also fertilize older lilac bushes again in mid-summer, when the flowering period is over.

Organic fertilizer or fresh compost is especially good for fertilizing lilacs. Use a fertilizer that is rather low in nitrogen and high in potassium. A higher nitrogen content would directly cause your lilac to sprout strongly, but the next year it would show much less vigor.

Furthermore, the fertilizer should contain phosphorus. This will promote the flowering of your lilac.

Accordingly, organic fertilizer from horn shavings is not suitable for fertilizing lilacs. However, what horn shavings fertilizer can do and for what it is quite suitable, you can learn here.

Tip: If you do not want to buy fertilizer, you can also fertilize your lilac with home remedies. Among other things, fertilizer made from coffee grounds or crushed, unsprayed banana peels are suitable for this purpose.

When and how to cut lilacs?

Basically, lilac is very hardy. However, it is not a big fan of pruning shears and the like, so you should be rather cautious when pruning lilacs. It is best to cut only dry or dead branches, but otherwise leave the lilac alone.

Withered or withered inflorescences should also be removed. However, only cut off the withered part, otherwise your lilac may bloom much less abundantly next year. The plants for new flowers are already formed in the previous year.

Lilacs tend to lignify over the years and form a kind of thick trunk. In this case, a somewhat more severe pruning is advisable. But here, too, you need to proceed carefully. If necessary, you should do a really heavy pruning spread over several years.

Wait until your lilac has completely faded and only then start pruning. This should not be too late in the year, however, so that your lilac has plenty of time to recover before winter. Use the time after flowering and before the first frost until the end of October.

Alternatively, you can prune in the spring. This way you avoid the risk of your lilac not surviving the winter. However, if you prune your lilac in the spring, it will not bloom that year.

Lilacs always sprout so-called root runners. This is when new shoots grow out of the ground and the lilac slowly spreads itself. If you prefer a lilac hedge, you do not need to do anything else. However, if you want only a localized lilac bush, you should remove these root runners regularly.

By the way, if you carefully pry out these root runners with a spade and plant them in a different location or temporarily in a planter, you can easily propagate your lilac.

Whether in dark purple, pink or white. Lilacs look great in any color. When in bloom, you can watch butterflies and many other insects gather nectar and pollen from your lilac.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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