How To Care For and Grow Beautiful Lilac Trees

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The lilac tree (Syringa vulgaris) produces one of the most universally popular and beloved flowers. I guess that is why lilac bush care is so rewarding – I’ve never met anyone who dislikes lilacs.

For many, these beautiful and fragrant flowers bring treasured memories alive.

beautiful flowers of the fragrant lilac treePin

This old favorite bush and tree form comes as a beautiful addition to the landscape, making it more vibrant and colorful.

Also, these cluster-blooming plants are easy to grow, and their fragrant flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Lilacs come in seven colors, but the most popular varieties wear the colors of:



  • White
  • Blue
  • Lavender
  • Pink
  • Magenta

Lilac Bush Quick Care Tips

  • Botanical Name: Syringa vulgaris
  • Common Name(s): Lilac Trees
  • Synonyms: Common Lilac
  • Family & Origin: Oleaceae family, native to Southeastern Europe and Eastern Asia
  • Growability: Easy to grow
  • Grow Zone: 3-7
  • Size: Grows up to 10′ feet tall and 12′ feet wide
  • Flowering: Blooms in late spring to early summer
  • Light: Full sun to partial shade
  • Humidity: Tolerates low humidity
  • Temperature: Hardy in cold temperatures
  • Soil: Well-draining soil, pH between 6.0-7.5
  • Water: Regular watering, but avoid overwatering
  • Fertilizer: Fertilize in early spring with a balanced fertilizer
  • Pests & Diseases: Susceptible to powdery mildew, lilac borer, and scale insects
  • Propagation: Propagated through cuttings or layering
  • Plant Uses: Ornamental plants, used for landscaping and cut flowers.

Growing and taking care of lilacs make a pretty simple hobby. However, knowing how to do things perfectly does better.

Read on to learn more about lilac trees care.

Lilac Care: Growing Lilac Bushes in the Garden

Suppliers often ship (Syringa vulgaris) lilacs as bare root bushes and trees, so it may surprise you upon receiving them.

The plants may appear dead, but the video below shows their dormant or sleeping state.

To wake them up, soak the roots in water for about 10 minutes. Some other important things to keep in mind when planting lilacs include the following:

  1. Common lilacs need quite a lot of sun – full sun is best. Find a place where you get sunlight in abundance, and it will help them grow better.
  2. Apart from sunlight, lilacs need space. They can even grow into small trees if given enough room. Always provide them with a good amount of space.
  3. Lilacs also require proper water drainage to thrive.
  4. When planting, place the root ball close to the surface of the well-drained soil and tamp it down firmly. Plant them 2″-3″ inches deep into the ground if you received the lilacs in the form of bare roots.
  5. Water the plant thoroughly.
  6. Put them at least 10’–14′ feet apart if you like to plant more than one lilac bush.

How To Care For Lilac Bushes in Containers

So, when to plant lilacs bushes?

Clusters of purple lilac flowers in bloom with green leaves and a clear blue sky backdrop.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @malissa_tack

Growing lilac plants in a container may appear as a form of bonsai. Though some of the rules match with container-grown lilacs, such as full sun and good drainage, keep in mind these additional requirements.

  1. Choose dwarf lilacs for container gardening. Some famous dwarf lilacs include the Purple Gem and Pixie. You may also pick the dwarf Korean lilac tree (Syringa meyeri) and attractive Korean lilacs, which will add grace, beauty, and fragrance to your garden.
  2. Choose a sturdy container big enough to hold the root system of a fully grown plant.
  3. Try not to move the pot from its original position (full sun is best) once the plant has established its roots.
  4. Choose high-quality, well-drained soil with a good mixture of compost included.
  5. Plant lilacs 3–4″ inches deep and tamp down firmly.
  6. Water the plant thoroughly.
interesting lilac facts infographicPin

Lilac Facts…

  1. Some lilac varieties – Josee & Bloomerang lilac will bloom several times during the year.
  2. Most Lilacs flower for approximately three weeks in early spring
  3. Thomas Jefferson wrote a gardening book and it shared his love for Lilacs.
  4. Some Lilac bushes can survive temperatures down to -50°F.
  5. The “trick” to a big lilac shrub – Don’t prune them often. But be sure to prune lilacs at least once per year.
  6. Lilacs come from the olive family Oleaceae. There are more than 1,000 varieties of lilacs and bushes.
  7. Lilac flowers are edible.
  8. Purple lilac is the symbol of first love.
  9. Syringa reticulata, the tree from lilac, can reach 25′ feet tall
  10. For the most fragrance, enjoy purple lilac on warm, sunny days.

How To Care For Lilacs in the Garden

So, how to care for lilac tree in the garden?

Although lilac trees do not need much attention while growing, a small amount of care will help them grow to their full size and produce more of those lovely blooms.

Close-up of vibrant pink and white edged lilac blossoms with green leaves and a blurred background.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @rana_homeleski

Some of the steps to take while caring for lilacs are as follows:

  1. Apply a good layer of mulch every year to retain moisture and control weeds.
  2. Wait until the top becomes thoroughly dry, and then water the common lilac trees well.
  3. Fertilize lilacs very sparingly. A good fertilizer in late winter will serve as enough for the rest of the year.
  4. Pruning lilacs correctly tops the list of to-dos when it comes to taking care of lilacs. Trim them once the blooms ceased. This helps them grow back stronger than before.
  5. Deadheading lilacs will help the plant to produce more flowers. Moreover, it will make the plants look even better.
  6. To improve the flowering of lilacs, don’t let the grass grow near their roots.

Caring for Lilacs in Containers

  1. Lilacs grow best in warm climatic zones where they can stay outside and enjoy the full sun throughout the year.
  2. When growing lilacs in freezing regions, bury containers in the soil to promote more budding and growth.
  3. Make sure the root system of your lilacs can move freely. If the movement becomes restricted, they will not bear many lilac flowers, no matter how good the leaves look.
  4. Keep the container in a place where it can receive at least six hours of full sun.
  5. Lilac watering in a pot may seem like a delicate task. This is due to excess water that may damage or kill them. Only water when the soil appears dry and water for about one inch deep.
  6. If you see roots coming out of the water drainage holes, this signals the time to root prune the plant.

With these lilac tree care and planting tips, anyone can enjoy beautiful lilacs and feel as youthful as the blooms!

Tips for Long-Lasting Lilacs

With lilacs blooming in many areas of the country, what better time than now to make sure they stay blooming as long as possible?

According to horticultural expert Paul Parent, the tips below on caring will help you get the most out of your lilacs and prolong their life.

  • Lilacs grow best with a minimum of 1 inch of water per week during the hottest months.
  • Do not over-fertilize, or they will not bloom. Over-fertilized plants only grow nice foliage but without fragrant flowers. In springtime, feed your lilacs with something like Plant-Tone.
  • Lilac plants love sweet soil. This means they grow well with pine trees or oaks nearby. During the beginning of spring, add limestone, wood ash, or similar products at a rate of 2-3 handfuls per 3′ feet tall or spread the lilac.
  • Lilacs bloom on old wood. All things considered, you should prune in the spring as soon as the flowering ends. If you wait for too long, you will remove the new flower buds for next year.
  • While pruning, remove the dead wood and the oldest canes. Cut those right down 5-10 inches from the soil.
  • Each year, cut out 1/2 – 1/3 of the old wood to maintain reblooming lilacs. Cut the tallest parts back to about 5′-6′ feet tall.
  • Hardylilacs will grow in Zones 3 – 7 but don’t grow well in areas with the warmest climates.

Related: Check out our Lilac Question and Answer article

Tips On Pruning A Lilac Tree For Decades Of Flowers

The lilac bears beautiful and fragrant flowers. As plants grow taller and their stems become mature, the flowers will appear smaller, fewer, and more “invisible.”

For the lilacs to develop a good framework of branches, promote robust new growth, and help produce vibrant blooms. Also, annual maintenance and pruning keep lilacs healthy and vigorous.

Close-up of purple lilac blossoms with unopened buds against a blurred green background.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @forgottenflowersuk

Annual pruning removes diseased (powdery mildew) and unproductive stems from the soil. Thinning encourages properly spaced new growth.

A properly pruned lilac can produce decades of flowers and enjoyment.

7 Tips For Pruning Lilacs

Pruning and trimming lilacs is essential to their care and can help promote healthier growth and longevity. Here are some tips for pruning and trimming lilacs:

#1 – Timing: Prune lilacs in late spring or early summer to ensure optimal bloom after the flowers have faded. Pruning too late can result in the removal of next year’s flower buds and negatively impact the plant’s bloom. 

#2 – Tools: To prevent the spread of disease, use sharp, clean pruning shears or loppers and disinfect them between cuts if pruning diseased plants. 

#3 – Goal: Pruning lilacs promotes healthy growth and removes any dead, diseased, or crossing branches. Removing at most one-third of the plant’s total growth in a year is recommended. 

#4 – Branch Selection: Choose branches that are at least as thick as a pencil and remove any smaller or weaker ones as close to the base of the plant as possible. 

#5 – Shape: Lilacs can be trained into a tree form by removing the lower branches and encouraging upward growth. 

#6 – Lilac Bush Maintenance Pruning: Regular maintenance pruning should be done to remove dead and diseased wood. Also, prune any crossing branches or ones that rub against each other. 

#7 – Rejuvenation Pruning: Rejuvenation pruning may be necessary if your lilac plant has become overgrown or “unpruned” in several years. This involves cutting the entire plant back to within 6″-12″ inches of the ground, stimulating new growth, and restoring the plant’s shape.

When you follow these tips for pruning and trimming lilacs, you will promote healthier growth and longevity and encourage the plant to produce more beautiful and fragrant blooms.

Proper pruning can also help keep the plant in check and prevent it from becoming overgrown or diseased.

Popular Lilac Varieties:

Lilac Miss Kim or Syringa patula ‘Miss Kim’ (Manchurian lilac or Korean Lilac) is a small dwarf compact lilac usually growing 4′-7′ feet tall and 5′-9′ feet wide. 

It has sweet-smelling, blue-purple flowers that bloom in late spring to early summer. The flowers are arranged in large, dense clusters attracting butterflies and bees.

The leaves are dark green in the summer months and turn a deep red or burgundy in the fall.

Miss Kim lilacs enjoy lots of sun or light shade and well-drained soil. Miss Kim is also known for its resistance to powdery mildew and other diseases. 

The Lilac Madame Lemoine is a French hybrid Lilac shrub originating in 1890. Lemoine can grow up to 10′ feet tall and 8′ feet wide. It produces large, fragrant, white double flowers in late spring to early summer. 

The heart-shaped dark green leaves turn yellow in the fall. This lilac variety is known for its hardiness and ability to withstand harsh winters. It does best growing in full sun to partial shade and well-drained soil.

Lilac palibin is a compact and slow-growing shrub reaching a height mature of 5′-8′ feet tall with spreads of 10′ feet wide. It has a rounded shape with small, dark green leaves that turn yellow in the fall. 

The fragrant flowers appear in clusters of pale lavender-pink blooms in late spring to early summer. 

Lilac palibin is known for its hardiness and ability to grow and thrive in various soil types and growing conditions. As a result, it is a popular choice for small gardens, borders, and containers.

Vibrant purple lilac blossoms with green leaves, blurred trees in the background.Pin
Photo Credit: Instagram @bittaneklund

Lilac Questions and Answers

How do I prune a big or overgrown lilac bush?

First, trim a big lilac bush and remove dead or sick branches. Next, remove up to one-third of the oldest stems from the ground.

Last, practice rejuvenation pruning. Cut the other branches to shape the bush and help promote growth.

Do you cut off dead lilac blooms?

You should take off dead lilac flowers by cutting them back to a leaf or bud. This helps the plant make more flowers and keep a neat appearance.

Where should you plant a lilac bush?

Lilacs like lots of sun exposure and well-draining soil with a pH between 6.0 and 7.0. Plant them where there is good airflow and enough room to grow big. 

Do lilacs have invasive roots?

Lilacs don’t have invasive roots that take over, but they can spread by making new shoots at the base. This creates a thick group of plants. To stop this, remove the new shoots as soon as you see them.

How much space do lilacs need?

Lilacs can grow up to 10′ feet tall and 12′ feet wide, so they need a lot of space. The exact distance depends on the type of lilac and how big you want it to grow, but a general rule is to plant them 5′ to 15′ feet apart.

How far to plant lilac from the fence?

Plant lilacs at least 6′ feet away from a fence. This allows air to move around them and makes it easier to care for them.

It also stops the lilac from growing into the fence and getting hurt. The exact distance depends on the type of lilac and how big it will be when it’s fully grown.

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