Lilac Bush Care and Growing
A healthy lilac garden is easier than you think
Lilacs are low-maintenance shrubs. They offer good summer
shade after they have reached several feet tall and they provide
privacy to neighboring properties. With just a little care
and maintenance, and the knowledge of how to replenish the
old wood with new shoots, the shrubs will last a lifetime.
Lilacs do not like to get their feet (the roots) wet for a
prolonged period of time. They do best on hillsides, slightly
elevated areas, or level ground where there is good drainage.
Their roots run deep. If you have an extended dry period of
drought, water infrequently but thoroughly. Lilacs do not
grow well in lowlands where water tends to collect for prolonged
periods of time.
Weed around your lilac bush
to maintain a clean, aesthetic look. Pile mulch high to retain
some soil moisture and to keep weeds down, but not so thick
that new shoots are hampered from sprouting and developing.
Two to four inches will do nicely. Lilacs will tolerate almost
any kind of soil, from clay to sand, with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0.
Like any plants, lilacs will benefit from compost and humus
worked into the soil to help retain water during dry spells
and to provide additional nutrients.
You do not need to provide frequent fertilizer or organic
feeding for your lilacs. Use a general-purpose fertilizer
in early spring or one high in phosphorus to promote blooming.
Too much nitrogen in the soil will result in poor blooming.
Repeat the use of a general-purpose fertilizer after the flowers
have died off. An old stand-by from Grandfather’s day
was to spread your fireplace ash around the drip line of your
bush for bigger, better blooms.
Pests and Diseases of Lilacs
Lilacs are fairly hardy plants. Most insect pests do not
bother them to any serious degree. For occasional insect
problems, such as aphids or borers, treat with an insecticidal
Mice and moles are one of the biggest pests of lilacs. During
hard winters, rodents will chew on the bark of the stems
at or near ground level and can kill a plant. They harbor
under the mulch you amply provided and feed on your plant,
especially in the harshest of winters. Try to pull the mulch
away from the base of your plants, most lilacs are rock-hard
plants that don’t mind the cold. That mulch that warms
the roots is also a nice warm condo with a full refrigerator
for mice or voles.
Lilacs are susceptible to a couple of plant diseases.
Most common is powdery mildew. Powdery mildew occurs
most frequently during hot and humid weather. Treat any
outbreak early. For a green solution mix a half a cup of
milk in a gallon of water and spray your plants. Repeat
as necessary. This is known in the plant world as biological
counter-culture. The lactobacillus that sours milk colonizes
the leaves and leaves no room for mildew spores! Good medicine
from Mother Nature! For majorly destructive outbreaks, trim
away infected branches and dispose of them. Do not add to
the compost heap. While this disease can cause major problems
with many tender fruits, flowers and vegetables, it will
generally not cause long term serious problems for your
bush. Powdery mildew’s unsightly appearance is the
biggest negative for lilacs, but it’s so easily remedied.
Most of the lilacs we’ve discussed are clump forming
colonizers that sucker freely from the base and this can be
a source of new lilacs to grow and give to friends and family.
Simply find shoots growing out from the main clump and dig
down to expose the roots for those canes and sever between
the mother plant and your new clone. Plant it in the same
soil it came out of with some compost or humus added and water
regularly until it starts to take off. You’ll know what
I mean. Lilacs are not hesitant growers and you’ll see
your plant grow quickly.
If you want to be the next Father Fiala and breed lilacs you need to
wait until one is in bloom, pollinate it with the pollen from a different
lilac, bag the blossom so other pollen can’t contaminate our cross,
wait months for the seed to mature, give the seeds a winter vernalization…
or you could dig up the clonal clump and knock two years off the timetable;
you be the judge.
Growing lilacs is easy
Despite all the dire pronouncements, lilacs are really very easy to grow.
Just follow these few tips, and the worst that Mother Nature can throw
at your plants will roll right off them. The lilacs are some of the most
durable, fragrant, beautiful flowers in the world. These old fashioned
plants may have been Grandma’s favorite, but they will certainly
find a place in the gardens of the future.
Read an informative article about pruning your lilacs
to choose lilacs
What to look for when choosing a lilac for your garden
Instructions for how to obtain successful lilac growth
The Helpful Gardener brings the pleasure of gardening to your home. Here
you will find our entire collection of Lilac
care articles collected in one spot.