When I think about flowers I want to bury my nose in, it’s a tie between lilacs and sweet peas. Do you have a specific memory when I say lilac? My memory is of my first Mother’s Day after we bought our house.
I was an exhausted Mom of 9-month-old, non-sleeping twins. Our first Spring, I remember looking out the window, nursing a cup of coffee, and realizing that those dead twig hedges were full-grown lilac bushes. I almost cried.
The first thing I did that year was make lilac sugar to sprinkle on shortbread as well as harvest an armload to put on my table. That vase of lilacs felt like a vacation amid all the diapers, feeding, and wiping of tiny faces, and dirty counters.
One of the beauties of lilacs is they are easy to care for in our climate. They just need water, gentle pruning, and they are easy to propagate!
To prune, I rely on using them as cut-flowers, and count on that as my pruning! As a busy Mom and business owner I love efficiency and flowers plus pruning is a win. Since the flowers don’t last long, I always bring them inside so I can get maximum enjoyment from them. Lilac flowers grow on second year stems, so the new growth you see this season will be the flowers next season (See photo below). I like to harvest the flowers when they are 3/4 of the way open and bring them inside. Cutting the flowers when it is cool, in the morning or evening, will help increase their vase life. Stripping off all the leaves will also help keep them from wilting.
I make sure to avoid cutting the new growth so their will be plenty of stems for
the next year! If you prefer to let them stay on the bush, then cut them after they have died in early Summer so it’s still easy to tell what is new growth and what is old growth. Don't wait until Fall as it is much more challenging to tell new and old wood apart.
I have my lilacs on a drip irrigation system and water them over the Summer on the same schedule as my fruit trees, which is about once a week when it’s super hot, but typically every two weeks
In the fall, if I want to propagate, I dig up the suckers and plant them to create new plantings! I prefer to propagate in the fall as moisture is more consistent and the plant has a long cold winter to slowly develop a root system.
If you don’t want new plants, just trim the new suckers at ground level to encourage the lilac to send more energy to the main body of the plant. A healthy lilac is a mix of new and old canes, so leave a few to get bigger!
Lilacs like full sun (mine are not in full sun and thus are not as healthy as they could be). With sun and water these beauties thrive. They make an incredible hedge and are very low maintenance. If you don't already have one, ask a friend in the fall if you can dig up a few suckers, it's worth the effort! Scroll all the way down to see pics of propagation.
Take in the smell and beauty of lilacs these next few weeks, they are worthy of space in your garden!