Tips for Lilac Growers

Whether your lilacs are old or new, or if you're thinking of planting some new shrubs or trees, these tips from professionals help the sweet-smelling plants thrive.

These lilac tips come from area gardeners and landscapers:

• Easy to grow. “Lilacs are one of the most easy-going of the shrubs/trees in the landscape,” said Deborah Friedman, a certified landscape designer who owns Deborah Friedman Designs in Bloomfield Hills. "They require very little care and tending to overall.”

• Trim liberally. "I trim back my lilac plants in the fall, or they get crazy," says Karen Johnson, a cleaning specialist/team leader for Ask Alice Cleaning in Troy.

A place in the sun. “Generally, lilacs need a location which has at least six hours of sun per day,” said Friedman. “If your location does not have enough sun, you may miss out on those fragrant lilac blooms.”

Added Deborah Lee, owner of in Rochester Hills: “Lilacs tend to develop powdery mildew if shaded.”

• Drainage details. “Choose a location that has good drainage.  Lilacs prefer to be moist, but not saturated, so don't choose a spot prone to being soaked,” said Friedman. “Work compost into your planting hole to amend the soil if necessary.” 

• Give them space. “They’re best if planted in an open area which allows for good air circulation around the plant,” said Lee, whose Shades of Green nursery sells Dwarf Korean, Miss Kim lilac and Ivory Silk Japanese lilac trees and a handful of lilac shrubs.

“Plant lilac shrubs about four feet apart,” added Friedman. “This will lessen root competition and overcrowding as the plant matures in size. Even if your intention is a hedge wall of lilacs, they will still grow together, over time, at this spacing.” If you are choosing to plant a lilac tree, be sure it is not planted too close to your house, Friedman added. “Lilac trees can grow over 20 feet tall, so choose a spot with nothing overhead that the tree may interfere with, or too close to the house so as to restrict the canopy.”

• First-year fussing. The first year is an important one for watering, Friedman said. “Keep lilacs consistently moist, but not saturated. This will aid in blooms, and lessen the stress on the plant when suffering from lack of water, or oversaturation. Lilacs do not require to be fertilized in their first year, just watered evenly and consistently is all they need.”

Added Colleen Maiura of : “As with any new plants, it is important to water them daily until they are established and the roots have a chance to take hold.” The home and garden center sells Pink James MacFarlane, Lavender Palabin and Lavender Dwarf Korean lilac varieties. 

• Prune for perfection. “Prune out dead flowers as soon as they fade,” said Lee.


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