Lovely lilacs are in full bloom in many parts of the country, and now is a good time to think about how to take care of them and enjoy them as long as possible.
6 Tips for lilac care from horticultural expert Paul Parent
- Lilacs do best with at least 1” of water per week during hottest months
- Do not over-fertilize or they won’t bloom. Just feed in the spring with something like Plant-Tone.
- Lilacs love a sweet soil, so if yours are planted near pine trees or oaks, in the early spring add limestone, wood ash or similar products at a rate of 2-3 handfuls per 3 ft of height or spread of the lilac.
- Lilacs bloom on old wood, so pruning should be done in the spring as soon as the plants finish flowering. If you wait too long, you’ll remove all of the new buds for the next year.
- When pruning, remove any dead wood and also the oldest canes. You can cut those right down 5-10 inches from the ground.
- The rule of thumb is to cut out about ½ – 1/3 of the old wood each year to keep your lilac blooming year after year. You can also cut the tallest parts back to about 5-6 feet
- Lilacs are hardy and will grow in Zones 3 – 7 but don’t do well in the warmest climates
Paul’s newsletters and podcasts are filled with helpful information and gardening advise! His popular radio show that airs throughout New England, parts of the Southeast and Midwest and is also available via podcast on his website.
Consider planting several varieties of lilacs, selecting them by bloom time and color. By selecting various bloom times, you can enjoy 3-5 weeks of blooms and that lovely lilac scent!
Your local garden center will have varieties that are well suited to your area.
Tips for using lilacs in bouquets
As lovely as they are, lilacs generally don’t last as long as we’d like them too. Here are a few tips for extending the length of your lilac floral displays.
- Cut when the flowers are no more than ½ open
- Split the stem a couple of inches with your pruners or a sharp knife to allow the branches to take up water.
- Remove all the foliage (if you want to add some greens to your floral display, add lilac foliage in separately)
- Before putting them in a vase, put them in cool water for a few hours – covering the stems right up to the blossoms
- The bouquets will last longer if kept out of direct sunlight.
And finally, a bit of Lilac Trivia . . .
- Lilacs are the 8th Anniversary Flower
- They’re the New Hampshire State Flower (symbolizing the hardy character of its people)
- In the mid to late 1800’s the color lilac was associated with mourning. After a year of wearing black, widows and grown children could switch to lilac for clothing and accessories.
- In the language of flowers, purple lilacs symbolize the first emotions of love; white lilacs are considered to represent innocence.
- Lilacs were names after a beautiful nymph in Greek mythology
BONUS: Here are a few tips for extending the life of other cut flowers
Daffodils: Rather than cutting the stem, snap it off at the very base of the stem at the white part of the stem, using your fingers. This allows better water transference.
Roses: Wilted roses are often caused by air bubble blocks, so before placing your stems in the vase, cut them one more time while running the stem under water, or with the stem immersed in a bowl of water.
Overall cut-flower tips:
• Never use softened water in your vases; the sodium in softened water is harmful to cut flowers.
• Remember to always use clean vases so that you’re not transferring bacteria from one arrangement to the next.
• Add about 1/4 cup of lemon-lime soda pop (not diet) into the vase before filling with water. No soda? Try mixing 1-2 tablespoons of cider vinegar and an equal amount of sugar to the water. This trick works for other cut flowers too.
• Listerine has been touted as a great additive to cut-flower water, as it contains sugar (sucrose)f or food and also bactericide. Use a small amount – about 2 oz per gallon of water.