Plant an Heirloom Today!
Lilacs are truly an heirloom plant, often the only remaining trace of an old homestead.
The common lilac is a long-lived and well-loved garden shrub. They are extremely hardy and easy to grow. The May blooms are typically purple to lilac but cultivars also come in magenta, pink, yellow and white.
When to plant: Lilacs can be planted anytime the ground is not frozen.
Where to plant: Plant in well-drained soil and in a location that gets at least 6 hours of sun a day. Avoid planting in an area with grass directly underneath, as the regular watering can be too much for them. Also, grass fertilizers tend to be high in nitrogen, which is bad for lilacs.
How to plant: When planting container-grown plants, dig a hole twice as wide and just as deep as the container. Place the un-potted plant in the hole and sread out the roots. Back-fill with soil mixed with compost and water well. Clear a 2- to 3-foot area around the base and apply a loose layer of mulch to the area, keeping the mulch from touching the bark to prevent insect borers. Spacing should be 5 to 15 feet apart depending on the variety.
CARING FOR LILACS
Pruning lilacs: Since they bloom on old wood, lilacs should be pruned soon after flowering. Next Spring’s flower buds are set almost immediately after flowering, so if you wait too long to prune, you’ll be sacrificing next year’s flowers. Prune not only for the health of the shrub by removing dead, diseased, or damaged branches, but also for shape and size. Lilacs are very hardy and can withstand hard pruning, even down to as low as 6 to 8 inches; this may be needed to revive or rejuvenate an old or overgrown specimen. However, keep in mind, it may take a few years for it to completely grow back, and blooms will be diminished in the first 2 to 3 years. Spent blooms should be deadheaded. Root suckers should be removed when pruning.
Amendments & Fertilizer: Lilacs won’t bloom well if over-fertilized. A small amount of 10-10-10 applied in late winter is sufficient. They do like rich soil, so add compost if needed.
Watering: Water regularly to establish a deep root system. It is best to water them at soil level and avoid overhead watering. Once established, lilacs are water wise. Water weekly in dry conditions, more often in extreme heat. Too little water can result in wilting or distorted leaves.
CUTTING BLOOMS FOR THE VASE
Cut Lilacs early in the morning using clean, sharp clippers. Lilacs open very little after harvest, so choose stems that have at least three-quarters of the flowers open. Then, remove all of the leaves. The leaves tend to hog the water and make the blooms wilt. Make a 1-2″ slit in the bottom of the stem to help them drink more water. Place stems in a bucket of very hot water and then set the bucket of cut stems in a cool, dark place and allow the flowers to take up water for at least an hour. The lilacs will then be ready for arranging, and should last three to four days in the vase. Happy Spring!
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