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Pruning lilacs...

Posted by mickeyjane (My Page) on
Fri, Jun 13, 08 at 12:44

Still trying to work on the flowers/yard since the veggies won't grow in this weather.
So, there are some very sorry looking lilacs in our backyard (planted by previous owner) - they definitely need pruning, most are about 4ft tall sticks with flowers spouting off of the top. Last year I pruned off all the flowers before they went to seed and I got a lot more flowers this year - but that kinda makes them look even sillier since there's no branches.
Everything I've found about pruning lilacs talks about pruning off "inside branches" and "shoots" - these have nothing of the sort - they're just one tall stick. Should I just cut the whole thing down and if so, how far down? When should I do this - when the flowers go to seed or in the fall?
I love lilacs so I think I'll just do some of them this year and the rest next so that I get some flowers next year.
I really appreciate your advice!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Pruning lilacs...

Now (right after flowering) is the time to prune and perhaps a week or so more. If they really are 4ft sticks, you should be able to prune 1-2 ft off the top. They may not leaf out much this year, but if you want to bush them out, that's what you should do. It is a common practice not to cut more than a fourth of the foliage area off at one time, or you risk the plant going into "shock". Lilacs are just picky this way, but I think you will find it does not apply to such a young specimen. A lilac in shock still grows fine, but just doesn't flower for 2-4 years. Some lilacs, even many of the selected named ones, will produce suckers from the ground. Some don't. (I am assuming you are talking about the regular type of lilacs, not Chinese, Japanese, dwarves.)

The "inside branches" are meant for older bushes, and actually is a technique meant to produce a tree like shrub. You are right, it does not apply to you.

It is normal for lilacs to stop growing in late June/early July. That's just the way they are.

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