Trimming Your Lilac Tree: A Homeowner's Guide

Lilac trees, which are sometimes referred to as lilac bushes when they are smaller in size, are known for their large and fragrant purple flowers. These trees are pretty hardy once established, but they do require some care if you want them to keep producing nice, big, fluffy flowers. Namely, they will need to be fertilized about once a season, preferably in the spring, and they will need to be trimmed regularly. Lilacs are a bit picky when it comes to trimming, so follow these tips for a great trim.

1. Wait until after flowering season.

A lot of trees do well when pruned in late winter or early spring, but lilacs are an exception. Don't touch them when you're out in the spring pruning your other trees. Wait until they have flowered, and then prune them when the flowers have shriveled and fallen. Pruning too early, before the tree flowers, will remove the buds and reduce flower production substantially.

2. Use shears.

You want to use nice, sharp shears to prune. This helps you avoid stripping or fraying the branch as you trim. Hand shears are probably big and strong enough, since lilac trees tend to have thinner, more delicate branches. It's a good idea to have your shears sharpened once a year. You should also sanitize them with some rubbing alcohol before pruning your lilac bush to avoid accidentally spreading any diseases.

3. Remove the suckers.

Lilac trees will sometimes grow what are known as suckers. These are stem-like branches that emerge from low on the trunk, close to the ground. It's important to remove the suckers, as they claim valuable resources from the tree. Clip them as flush to the trunk as possible; there is no reason to leave a "nub" as you would when trimming a branch from the tree.

4. Don't "dead end" the branches.

If a certain branch is going against the shape of the tree, or if you otherwise determine that branch must be removed, you need to remove the entire branch. You do not want to just chop the ends off branches. This causes the tree too much stress and will result in a low flowering rate next year, since most of the lilacs form on the ends of branches. Instead, remove a select few branches about an inch from the trunk. This leaves the delicate branch collar intact.

For more lilac tree trimming tips, reach out to a landscaping company near you.

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