If you have a lilac plant, you probably want to cut flowers to keep in your home, but you may be worried about how this will affect your plant. It may seem strange to cut a beloved plant, but in some cases, cutting and pruning a plant can help it become stronger and healthier than ever.
If you cut lilacs, they will grow back. Cutting and pruning lilac plants is one of the best ways to encourage future growth as long as it is done properly. Other ways to encourage lilacs to grow include providing enough sunlight, applying low-nitrogen fertilizer, and checking for disease and pests.
In this article, I’ll explain why lilacs grow back even after being cut. I’ll also describe how to properly prune your plant for the best future growth, as well as other ways you can encourage lilacs to grow. If you’re a lilac lover like me, but you feel a little guilty when you cut some flowers to keep in your home, this is the article for you.
What Happens After Cutting Lilacs
Lilacs do grow back after being cut. Cutting and pruning lilac plants help promote growth by developing a good framework of stems and creating room for future, healthy flowers.
Lilacs set new flower buds almost immediately after the growing season in the spring, so cutting the bloomed flowers will not harm future blooms. In fact, cutting and pruning the plant helps promote vibrancy and balance in future growth.
If you leave lilacs on their stems and don’t cut them, the blooms will continue taking energy from the plant that should otherwise be spent on developing new growth. These old blooms will die after the growing season ends anyway, so it’s better to cut them and enjoy them in your home than let them zap energy and resources from the plant.
Cutting lilacs prevents the plant from growing out of control and becoming overcrowded and unsightly. When left alone, lilac plants will continue to grow new stems, reach massive heights, and take up a lot of room in your yard or garden. Most lilac growers prefer keeping their plants smaller and more controlled.
Not only is a cut lilac bush more aesthetically pleasing, but it also helps maintain good plant health. Lilacs need a lot of sunlight and air circulation to thrive. If the plant is too crowded, not enough light or air will get through to the buds, preventing new lilacs from growing.
However, you should ensure you properly cut and prune your lilac plant to promote new growth.
How to Properly Prune a Lilac Plant
Pruning is the process of trimming a plant to increase future growth. So, when you cut lilacs to keep in a vase or for another purpose, you’re actually allowing new buds to thrive. However, if you want your lilacs to grow back, you should do a complete pruning.
Pruning is beneficial for lilacs in that it:
- Prevents pests and disease
- Maintains a plant’s shape
- Encourages new growth
- Allows for ample distribution of sunlight
You have to prune your plant properly to reap these benefits.
Let’s discuss how:
Time Your Pruning
One of the most important parts of pruning a lilac plant is timing. You should prune mature plants after the growing season in the spring, just as the flowers are beginning to fade. If you wait for too long, you risk killing the next year’s developing buds.
For more information, read my other article: How Late is Too Late to Prune Lilacs?
Use the Right Pruning Tools and Disinfect Them
If the growing season has ended and your lilacs are just starting to fade, you’re ready to prune, and you’ll need the proper tool.
Be sure to get high-quality bypass pruning shears with a sharp steel blade. You may also need a pruning saw for especially thick stems if your shears don’t get the job done.
Before making any cuts, you should disinfect your tools to avoid spreading disease. You can use a disinfectant spray or rubbing alcohol to ensure your tools are nice and clean.
Remove Sick Stems Before Healthy but Unruly Ones
First, cut any dead or diseased stems to the ground. You don’t want to risk healthy stems getting infected with whatever caused the death of the less healthy ones, so you should get rid of them immediately. This process also helps improve air circulation and sunlight distribution.
Then, trim long and thick stems to maintain shape. Part of pruning is helping the plant keep a consistent shape, so you’ll even need to cut a few of the healthy stems. Trim these stems to the side and shoot past the flowering part.
Unless your plant needs complete rejuvenation, you shouldn’t cut back more than one-third of the branches. If you do, you risk not having any flowers next spring.
How to Encourage Lilac Growth
Pruning is one of the best ways to get lilacs to flower, but it isn’t the only way.
Here are some other suggestions for how to get the best-looking lilac plant possible:
Protect Your Lilac Plant in Winter
Lilacs are durable and sturdy plants, and exposure to cold temperatures actually helps them grow stronger in the spring. However, frigid winter conditions can freeze new blooms and prevent flowering.
If you live in a particularly cold climate, you may have to take some protective measures to ensure the health of your lilac plant. For example, you can cover the plant if you know there’s going to be snow or frost.
Ensure the Plant Has Plenty of Sunlight
Lilacs need at least 6 hours of sunshine a day, so make sure your plant is in an ideal place to get this much sunlight.
If your lilacs are constantly in the shade, you’ll need to move the plant for it to flower successfully. If you do transplant your lilacs, you may not see flowering in the immediate growing season afterward. Don’t be discouraged; it may take some time for the plant to adjust.
Use a Fertilizer That Is Low in Nitrogen
Fertilizing lilacs can help them grow, but too much nitrogen makes lilac plants focus more on the plant’s green foliage than on the blooms. If you notice that your plant seems to be especially leafy and green but isn’t flowering, this is most likely the culprit. So, you’ll need to use low-nitrogen fertilizer.
Check if Your Plant Is Diseased or Infested With Pests
If your plant is sick or being eaten by pests, no part of it will thrive, especially not the blooms.
The following table outlines the various diseases and pests lilacs are susceptible to and the symptoms to look out for:
|Disease or Pest||Symptoms|
|Ascochyta Blight||Wilted stalks, tan spots on foliage|
|Bacterial Blight||Brown leaves, blackened flower buds|
|Shoot Blight||Dead shoots, blackened sprouts|
|Powdery Mildew||Flour-like fungal growth on leaves|
|Witches’ Broom||Distorted leaves, growth of thin twigs|
|Scales||Small, bright colored insects on the plant|
|Borers||Extensive dug galleries|
The best way to help lilacs grow back after being cut is to pay attention to the plant and ensure it’s getting everything it needs to thrive.
Next time you head out with your pruning shears to cut lilacs, don’t feel guilty! The lilacs will grow back, and you’re helping this process by allowing the plant to allocate energy and resources to future growth instead of the dying blooms.
Proper pruning is one of the best ways to get consistent and beautiful lilac blooms year after year.