April 2022 Plant of the Month from our monthly newsletter:  Lilacs

 One of my earliest memories is smelling the lilac bushes outside of my bedroom window. I have planted four in my yard. They are approximately 15 years old. 2022 is the “Year of the Lilac.” They are a carefree, spring-flowering shrub with a wonderful fragrance. Lilacs can live to be over 100 years old.

Butterflies love lilacs and when you cut a bouquet, it will make the whole house smell lovely. While the blooms are usually lilac/purple in color (from very pale to very dark), there are also lilac varieties in white and cream and even pink and yellow. Individual flowers can be single or double.

Growing Lilacs

• For strong bloom, lilacs require full sun—at least 6 hours—or they will not flower well.

• Make sure the site drains well. Lilacs don’t like wet feet and will not bloom with too much water.

• Plant in either spring or fall, although the latter is preferred.

• Space multiple lilac bushes 5 to 15 feet apart, depending on the variety.

• Each spring, apply a layer of compost under the plant, followed by mulch to retain moisture and control weeds.

• Water during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week.

• Lilacs won’t bloom if they’re over fertilized. They can handle a handful of 10-10-10 in late winter, but

no more.

• After your lilac bush has finished blooming, spread some lime and well-rotted manure around the base. Trim the bush to shape it, and remove suckers at the same time.

 Pruning Lilacs

• Lilacs bloom on old wood, so it’s critical to prune in the spring right after they bloom. If you prune later in the summer, you may be removing the wood. Here’s a tip: If your lilac flower clusters are getting smaller, time to prune!

• Every year after bloom, remove any dead wood. Prune out the oldest canes (down to the ground). Remove the small suckers. Cut back weak branches to a strong shoot. Cut back tall canes to eye height.

• If your lilac is old and in really bad shape, remove one-third of the oldest canes (down to the ground) in year one, half of the remaining old wood in year two, and the rest of the old wood in year three. Another option for old lilacs is to chop the whole thing back to about 6 or 8 inches high. It sounds drastic, but lilacs are very hardy. The downside to this option is that it takes a few years to grow back. The upside is less work and more reward, as the lilac will grow back bursting with blooms.

• It must be recognized that severe pruning results in the loss of blooms for one to three years. For these reasons, a wise pruning program aims to avoid severe and drastic cuts by giving the bushes annual attention. 

Submitted by Member and Club Secretary Sue Delgardo