What's the deal with my lilacs?

ms_minnamouse(7a)April 28, 2011

Um, what is the deal with my lilacs this year? Most have little to no flowers this year, same with buds.

They're a few years old, have flowered previously. From different sources, some were from seed, some were from cuttings.

Full sun, soil not too rich, pH neutral, I think. No drought but no torrents of rain either. I don't feed them and I haven't pruned them yet. Some are putting out suckers like there's no tomorrow but are stingy or non-existent on flowers this year.

Could it be because of the short winter this year? It got cold late and then got warm sooner than usual with some really warm days thrown in when it should have been freezing.

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mehitabel(z6 MO)

Hi, Ms Minna. Some years ago, I read that lilacs need to be refreshed with newer wood on a continuous basis in order to keep blooming. It was recommended that 1/3 of the branches be cut to the ground every year to ensure blooming. This would create a bush with totally new stems every three years.

Check it out. Since you haven't pruned them, this may be the problem.

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 12:22AM
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ms_minnamouse(7a)

I think I'll prune them this year then. I never thought to do it because I had lilacs in my childhood home and they were never pruned but were covered in masses of flowers every year like clockwork. We had so many flowers that we'd cut bouquets to give to our teachers (it was my mom's idea).

    Bookmark   April 29, 2011 at 4:56AM
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mehitabel(z6 MO)

Here's an article on this. If you google, you'll find plenty more. Don't forget you need to cut the oldest stems to the ground. Also cut out the suckers.

http://www.ces.ncsu.edu/fletcher/staff/rbir/lilac.html

    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 3:17PM
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mehitabel(z6 MO)

Sorry, forgot: it's possible that your childhood lilac was a more vigorous, common strain, whereas yours are probably grafted. (The suckers can be some common no-good thing with lots of vigor, so cut them off, They will steal strength from the plant.

It's also possible your childhood lilac, if ungrafted, was putting out new shoots every year while the center died, but was still blooming on the younger branches.

Newer, grafted varieties can't be treated like this.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2011 at 3:21PM
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rico_md(z7 md)

Here in the DC area, we seem to be experiencing no blooming lilacs area wide this year. I don't know if last summer's heat had an effect but it was one of our warmest summers with 90+ temperatures lasting into September.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2011 at 5:19PM
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buyorsell888(Zone 8 Portland OR)

Some cultivars only bloom well every other year.

    Bookmark   May 6, 2011 at 12:59PM
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ms_minnamouse(7a)

They're not cultivars though. Some are seed grown and others are from cuttings. Just your average Syringa vulgaris.

The bloomed every year since they're been big enough except for this year. I think it was the whacky winter, not so much the summer that did it.

I have a small flowered, short lilac that is blooming better than ever though. It's not one of those microleaves... I have to ID it.

I am going to follow advice and cut off suckers and prune.

    Bookmark   May 7, 2011 at 1:29AM
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