Storm-damaged lilac :-(

zencatxMay 8, 2006

I have an elderly (20+ years) lilac bush that was severely damaged by storms this past winter - but though a couple of major limbs are all but broken off and hanging down, they're flowering like crazy! I was going to saw them off this spring but I saw they were going to flower so I thought I'd wait. Well I waited, and they're flowering, but ... gosh the whole plant looks pretty sorry. :-( Actually it was looking kind of sorry before the storm damage (really tall but kind of leggy and spindly around the bottom) and now it looks really sad. I'm really fond of the bush and I'd sincerely like to save it if I can, but it really needs help of some kind. Cutting it waaaaay back seems like the logical thing to do, but I don't know how far to cut it back. If I do cut it back, will it regenerate? And when should I do it? Can anyone advise me on this? Any suggestions would be most appreciated.

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nick_17815_pa(NE_PA z6)

When I purchased my house there was a lilac in the yard. Spring came and it bloomed only on one shoot and the bloom didn't even last a week. So I cut off a third of the oldest wood on it from as low as I could get it. Then cut off all the old seed pods that were left on it & gave it lime at the base of the lilac the end of the next winter and it grew in a lot of holes I created and was full of blooms that lasted weeks.
I'd recommend cutting off some of the biggest (oldest) branches once it stops blooming, and then take the time (if you can not sure how big it is) to take off all the spent blooms so it doesn't waste energy going to seed.

    Bookmark   May 8, 2006 at 4:59PM
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Pipersville_Carol(z6 Bucks PA)

Be careful not to cut too much. Lilacs take a long time to come back. I made the mistake of overpruning an huge old lilac when I first started gardening, and really felt bad about it. Afterwards, I found these instructions:

Cut a third of the stems/trunks right down to the ground, after they've done blooming. Cut the leggiest (or in your case, damaged) trunks. In other words, one out of every three trunks gets cut to the ground. This lets light and air into the interior of the plant. I think you're also supposed to remove suckers, too, those long straight shoots that come right up from the roots. Don't clear out too much, though!

After two years or so, cut back another third. After another few years, the remaining third. This apparently allows the bush to grow new wood without looking too chopped.

Don't take my word for it, though, I'm remembering this from years ago. Please check with a few other sources before you start cutting, I'd hate to be the cause of another sad lilac story!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2006 at 5:07PM
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