Califonia Bountiful

Planting lilacs for flowers and fragrance

Apr./May 2012 California Bountiful magazine

Lilacs have been called "the poor man's flower," also the "chain letter of horticulture," because shoots can be cut and easily replanted elsewhere. Although there are more than 1,000 varieties of lilacs, most grow as shrubs, with many new varieties tending toward smaller-statured plants, but some species grow as tall as small trees.

Known as plants for colder climates, lilacs need a period of cold-initiated dormancy to trigger flowering, but many newer hybrids flower in areas with mild winters.

Garden experts say lilacs do best when:

  • Planted in well-drained soil.
  • Lime is added to acidic soil.
  • Planted for full exposure to the sun (at least six hours per day).
  • Plenty of space is allowed (plant 10 feet -15 feet apart or 8 feet apart for a hedge).
  • Fertilizer is applied lightly in early spring.
  • Spent blossoms are removed.  
  • Older branches are pruned out to keep the following season's blooms at eye level.

Check with local nurseries for recommendations on which lilac varieties grow well in certain areas. New varieties are always being introduced.


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