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Ask the Arborist - Pruning an Unruly Lilac

  
  
  
Rachael's been so busy lately that I thought I'd give her a little break this month and tell you a little bit about pruning lilacs. Time is of the essence with these beauties. The health and vigor of a lilac depends on regular maintenance of the shrub. Regular pruning an care encourage a good overall shape and prolific blooms. If your lilac has been neglected for many years, the process of regaining control will take a few seasons to complete, but is certainly do-able.

It is important to prune the lilac as the blooms begin to fade. The next season's buds are set almost immediately after blooming. By pruning as the current season's blooms are fading, you can avoid pruning off next season's flowers.

Essential tools for lilac pruning are loppers and hand pruners. Before making your first cut, make sure all blades are sharp and clean to avoid spreading disease. Remember to always wear your safety glasses when pruning. It is easy to get poked in the eye when examining and pruning shrubs.

Start by removing 1/3 of the oldest, largest canes by pruning them all the way to the ground. You may not need to remove 1/3 of the plant every year. the goal is to have 8-12 stems of various ages, but all stems should be about 1"- 2" in diameter. Remove all pencil-thin, weak stems.

Remove any branches that are rubbing against each other or are rubbing against a fence or structure. rubbing causes open sores on the branch, making the shrub susceptible to insects and disease.

Another step in the pruning process is deadheading. While deadheading spent blossoms can be very helpful for younger shrubs, it is not necessary for older, larger shrubs. Not to mention, it is nearly impossible to remove every spent flower head on a mature lilac!

Time is limited but lilac pruning can still be done this season. If you have any questions on pruning lilacs or would like us to tackle your overgrown lilac for you, give us a call today.

Well, that's it for now. Stay tuned for more DIY posts from CM's!

Tobias and Rachael

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