Who doesn’t love a gorgeous, fragrant lilac bush? While these plants are well-suited to Pennsylvania’s climate, they do require regular maintenance. While it requires some precise timing, it doesn’t take an expert to prune these bushes. Here are our lilac bush pruning tips for Lancaster, PA.
When to Prune Lilac Bushes
Knowing when to prune lilacs is almost as important as knowing how to prune them. The bushes generally don’t need to be pruned until they reach about six to eight feet. The best time to prune lilacs is in the fall, once the flowers have stopped blooming and start to turn brown. You also want to avoid pruning too late, as this can kill the developing buds.
If your lilacs are failing to bloom, it could be because you’re pruning them at the wrong time of year. Lilacs bloom and set flower buds early, usually before June. Cutting them too soon will prevent any new buds from developing in the spring and summer.
There is an exception. If you plan on pruning lilacs back in their entirety, you should do so in the early spring. New shoots will develop as the growing season progresses as long as you leave a few to fully develop. If you prune after the growing season has ended, in the summer or fall, you can safely remove any shoots that haven’t developed properly.
You can safely prune your lilacs every year, just as long as you aren’t removing too much of the plant at one time. If you have a large lilac that’s been ignored for quite some time, you can remove one-third of the largest branches the first year, and then take another third every consecutive year. Blooms aren’t able to form unless the stems are at least three years old, so this method will ensure you aren’t damaging new growth or stripping your lilac bush of all of its flowers at once.
How to Prune Lilac Bushes
When you begin to prune your lilac bushes, first cut back any overgrown tops. Then cut the entire stem. Use clean, sharpened clippers to remove any exhausted blooms. This will encourage further blooming in the future.
Cut any shoots that are growing near the ground as well, as these will draw energy away from the rest of the plant. Improve air circulation by trimming lilacs that are growing within the inner branches. This will also allow more light to pass through. You can trim other areas as needed, but try not to remove more than a third of the plant at a time.
Pruning lilac bushes will help enhance their health and flower development. Like other plants, lilacs will come back stronger the following spring if they properly cared for in the fall. While lilacs tend to be hardy, they do need to be pruned on a regular basis to keep them growing healthy and strong.
Need help pruning your bushes? Visit our Lancaster lawn care page for more info!