Lilac care-please help!

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Old 04-30-06, 12:32 PM
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Lilac care-please help!

Hi All,
I have an area of lilacs in an "partial sun" area between the neighbor's garage and a maple tree in my side yard. The lilacs are 8'-10' tall, very old, and have lots of intertwining branches and dead areas, especially under the maple tree. The maple tree has grown a lot, overshadowing some of the lilacs.
My wife and I really like the lilacs, but I want to clean them up and make them presentable again. I have received a lot of contradictory advice as when to prune, how much to prune, etc.. One person said to take a chain saw and cut them down to a couple feet high.
What should I do, and when should I do it? I am in southern Wisconsin.
Thanks Much!
 
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Old 04-30-06, 02:18 PM
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Depending on variety of lilac, some can reach 30 feet high. Most are around 8-10 feet. There are shorter varieties. Prune spent lilac blossoms after blooming to encourage next years blossoms. Pruning is best done after blooming.

Lilacs should be pruned every year after blooming. Suckers and shoots at the base of branches can be pruned. If cutting out old wood, leave some of the new stems. Cut out larger and older stems from middle to allow light and air into interior of plant. You will also want to remove any branches that stick out and do not appear to fit into the overall shape of the plant. Remove at the base of the stem at the ground if a vertical stem or at the base of the branch if it is lateral off a main stem.

Do not top a lilac bush or take hedge trimmers to it. If you want lilacs to grow tall, let them. If you want them to grow wider, encourage new stems that develop along outside of bush.

The only time that you would consider cutting lilacs completely down to about six inches would be if the plant is old and full of dead branches and produces few blooms. This is done in late winter. During the growing season there will be many shoots. The following late winter, you selectively remove shoots, leaving a few strong ones to form the new bush. Prune back shoots to a bud to encourage branching. In about three years you will have blooms again.

Rather than such a drastic cutting of lilacs completely down and still enjoy blossoms, you can thin out older stems over a period of three years. Each year you remove older stems. Remove 1/3 the first year, 1/2 the second and some new stems, and the remaining old wood the third year and thin new stems. With annual pruning out of older and undesirable stems to keep interior of bush open to air and sunshine, lilacs remain healthy.

If you prefer the lilacs to the maple, then it may come to the point of making a decision because lilacs prefer full sun for blooms. Perhaps for now you can selectively remove some of the maple tree branches to allow more sunlight to the lilacs.
 
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Old 05-02-06, 03:39 PM
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Thank you very much for the information! I will follow your advice.
 
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