5 Common Lilac Conundrums Solved!

5 Lilac Conundrums Solved

We get a lot of questions about lilacs up on the hill. Lilacs are revered for being resilient and able to withstand bitingly cold winters and humid summers. However, sometimes these gorgeous plants choose to be a bit defiant. Below are some answers to the top questions we get each year!

Why doesn’t my lilac bloom?

  1. For some the answer is quite simply that they are not mature yet. This is the case for lilacs such as Maiden’s Blush, Mt. Baker, and Lavender Lady.

  2. You have been using the wrong fertilizer. We suggest easy-to-use, long lasting fertilizer tablets on young plants such as a 12-12-12. For more mature plants that are reluctant to bloom you can use a garden fertilizer such as a 5-10-5 dry, super phosphate 0-15-0 dry, or triple phosphate 0-45-0 dry.

  3. “First they weep, then they sleep, then they leap!” Transplanting your lilac can cause your lilac to go into shock. The change in soil type, planting depth, improper watering, etc. can take a toll on your lilac and it will take time to recover.

  4. Improper (or never) pruning your lilac. To keep your lilac blooming optimally it is important to prune the plant as soon after it is done flowering as possible. This will allow the plant 10 - 11 months to produce beautiful flowers and a bushier plant the following year. After flowering, cut off the brown, dead flowers or developing seed-heads if you are particular about their appearance.

  5. Sometimes you just show your lilac too much love through watering it too frequently. Over-watering in the fall can have a negative impact on your next year blooms. At this time of year nature will provide adequate moisture. Don’t be overzealous!

How should I plant my lilac?

Keep the pot, the plug, or the ball of earth in burlap moist until you are ready to plant. Dig a hole 6” wider than the pot, plug, or ball. Discard your soil if it is heavy clay, and replace it with looser, richer soil. If the soil is sandy you can mix it with peat moss or compost and fill the hole half way up. Tamp to firm, then water. After the water settles, finish filling the hole and water again. Cover the planting area with good mulch and label your lilac!

How should I prune my lilac?

For pruning your dead-heads after the blooming season please reference above. For pruning the whole plant you will want to have sharp pruners, shears, and a straight-edge spade. Begin pruning when the lilac is the desired height (usually 5-7 feet). About 1/3 of the oldest stems should be cut to the ground periodically. You may also prune the roots with a sharp spade to stimulate bloom.

When should I fertilize my lilac?

Fertilization of your lilac can be done in the spring or fall. This is easily done by punching holes in the ground around the lilac and distributing one cup of fertilizer into the holes for smaller lilacs. We also recommend fertilizer tabs that release slowly. The fertilizer tabs should be inserted about 6-8” away from the base of the lilac. You can simply press them into the ground with your thumb and leave it uncovered so that the rainwater will be able to help it dissolve.

Where should I plant my lilac?

Lilacs prefer sun, but will tolerate some shade. They are fickle in acidic soil, so if you are planting them in acidic soil make sure to add lime. If the area is wet, try planting the lilac on a mound or berm of improved soil to raise it above the moisture or heavy clay. Lilacs should be spaced at least 16 inches apart for large lilacs and up to 4 to 6 feet apart if you are creating a privacy hedge.

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