How to grow and care for lilacs

Growing and caring for lilacs in your garden.

Lilac shrubs are favorites of the home gardener because of their beautiful flowers and their strong fragrance. There are literally hundreds of varieties to choose from. Lilacs range in color from dark purple to white, with some pink and yellow also available. The most popular color is pale lilac. Although the leaf shapes on some of the plants vary, the most common varieties have dark green, heart-shaped leaves. Be aware that some of the newer varieties are not as fragrant as the older types.

Unfortunately lilacs only bloom for approximately two weeks out of the year. Good weather also has a role to play in how long your blooms will last with a cool dry spell being preferred. Try planting several different varieties with different bloom times to extend the show in your garden. A visit to your local home gardening center will reveal the best varieties of lilacs to plant in your particular area.

When choosing a location for your lilacs, look for an area that receives plenty of direct sunlight. Lilacs need at least five or six hours of sun a day. Lack of enough sunlight can lead to the formation of an unsightly white mildew on the leaves. When spacing your lilacs, allow at least six feet between plants. Lilacs do not like to be kept wet. Make sure that the soil around your lilacs has good drainage. You can improve the drainage of your soil by adding some sand or gravel to the soil beneath where you are planting your lilacs.

When planting, dig a hole larger than the size of the new plant's root system. It is recommended that you add some compost or peat moss to the soil before returning the soil to the hole. Keep the lilac plant growing at the same height in the hole as it was growing previously. Tamp down the dirt and water thoroughly to avoid getting any air pockets. Cover the surrounding area with mulch to help keep weeds down and to retain moisture.

Continue to water regularly during the growing season, especially in times of drought. Fertilizing your lilacs lightly, every spring, with a general fertilizer should be sufficient.

Pruning your lilacs yearly is necessary to keep them growing healthy. Pruning should be done shortly after your lilacs have lost their blooms. You need to remove the spent blooms by cutting them off with sharp pruning shears. Always cut the branch back to a set of leaves. If you do not remove the spent blooms, they will go to seed and you will not have as many blooms the following year. While doing this, also remove any dead, damaged or diseased branches you may find and trim back any excessive growth that is distorting the shape of your bush.

Lilacs are quite hardy shrubs and therefore do not require any extra care for winterization. If cared for properly a single lilac bush can live for hundreds of years. Just think, the lilac you are planting today could one day be cared for by your own great-great-grandchild.

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