Lilacs are hardy, sweet-smelling plants, but they can take over a yard or garden without proper care and attention. This is because lilac bushes vary greatly in height and can reach massive sizes. However, you shouldn’t let the potential size of a lilac bush stop you from growing these plants.
It is possible to keep a lilac bush small by pruning it properly. Regular and consistent trimming helps keep lilac bushes at a smaller size and in a more aesthetically pleasing shape.
In the rest of this article, I’ll describe how to keep common lilac plants at a small and more manageable size. I’ll also discuss dwarf lilacs and why they’re a great choice for people who want to enjoy the scent and beauty of lilacs but don’t have a lot of space in their yard or garden. If you love lilacs but you don’t like how big lilac bushes can get, this article is for you!
How to Keep a LiIac Bush Small
You can keep a lilac bush small by pruning it. Trimming the branches and stems of your lilac will keep the bush from growing out of control or getting too large.
Lilac bushes are incredibly hardy and can quickly grow out of control if they are not properly maintained, with some bushes reaching a height of up to 15 feet (4.57 m). Many people prefer to keep their lilac bushes at a more controllable and manageable size, and luckily, it is possible to accomplish this by pruning.
Pruning is the process of trimming a plant to manage future growth, and it’s also the best way to keep a lilac bush small and under control. However, if you want your lilacs to grow back, you need to prune your lilac bushes properly.
Pruning has many benefits, including:
- Preventing pests and disease
- Maintaining the plant’s shape
- Encouraging new growth
- Allowing for ample distribution of sunlight
- Promoting air circulation
You’ll need to make sure that you’re pruning at the right time. For the most success, I recommend pruning mature plants after the growing season in the spring, just as the flowers are beginning to fade. If you wait too long, you risk killing the next year’s developing buds.
If the growing season has ended and your lilacs are just starting to fade, you’re ready to prune.
Here are the steps you must keep in mind:
Use Clean Pruning Shears
Before making any cuts, you should disinfect your shears to avoid spreading any diseases. You can use a disinfectant spray or rubbing alcohol to ensure the blade is clean.
Cut Dead & Diseased
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 these unsightly stems, so you should get rid of them immediately by burning them.
Trim Long and Thick Stems
It helps maintain the shape and keeps the bush from getting too big. Part of pruning is helping the plant keep a consistent shape, so you’ll even need to cut healthy stems. Trim these stems to the side shoots, past the flowering part.
Pruning lilac bushes is a great way to keep them at a small size, and it helps promote new growth. Lilacs grow back if you cut them, so don’t worry about losing your beautiful flowers.
For more information on when best to prune lilacs, you can read my other article: How Late is Too Late to Prune Lilacs?
Dwarf Lilac Bushes
If you don’t want to go through the work of trimming and pruning a common lilac bush to keep its size small, another option is to get a smaller type of lilac, such as the dwarf lilac.
Dwarf lilacs only grow up to 5 feet (1.52m) tall, so you can easily fit them in a small garden. You can even grow them in a container if you’d like. Dwarf lilacs are smaller, but they provide the same scent and beautiful color as common lilac bushes.
Types of Dwarf Lilacs
Here are the different types of dwarf lilacs:
Korean Dwarf Lilac
The Korean Dwarf Lilac is a shrub grows that grows four feet (1.21m) tall and five feet (1.52m) wide. The flowers are dark violet and bloom in mid-May.
Palibin is a type of Korean lilac that is compact and low-spreading. It blooms in late spring and early summer and is best grown in USDA Zone 3.
Josee has pinker blooms than other lilacs, so if you prefer pink over purple, this is the plant for you. This type only grows up to 6 feet (1.83 m) tall. The blossoms bloom in late spring in cool climates.
Tinkerbelle is a dwarf lilac that has wine-colored blooms and a spicier scent than other lilacs. The flowers bloom in late spring and last one month.
The Bloomerang variety has medium purple-pink flowers that bloom in mid-spring. This type of lilac has smaller, more oval-shaped leaves than other kinds of lilac, and they are also more susceptible to powdery mildew.
Thumbelina has pale pink flowers instead of purple. They only grow up to 6 feet (1.83 m), and they have a spicy fragrance.
Caring for Dwarf Lilacs
Caring for dwarf lilacs is like caring for a common lilac but with less intense pruning requirements. Dwarf lilacs need at least six hours of sunlight, just like common lilacs, and also require good drainage.
Here are some basic guidelines on how to care for your dwarf lilacs:
Plant Them in Spring or Fall
The best time to plant dwarf lilacs is in the spring or fall. You should plant the bush with the roots spread vertically in the ground. If you’re planting multiple dwarf lilac bushes, make sure there is enough space between each bush for them to grow and not overcrowd themselves.
Try to Plant in an Elevated Space
You’ll want to plant dwarf lilac bushes in an elevated area because they require good drainage. You also need to add loose mulch around the bushes to prevent weeds from growing. Adding compost to the soil also helps provide more nutrients that the lilacs need.
Water your dwarf lilac bushes sufficiently such that the soil is consistently slightly damp. However, it should never be soggy. Lilacs are sensitive to overwatering, so try to avoid this.
Limit Fertilizer Use
Most dwarf lilacs don’t need fertilizer. If your blooms aren’t as strong as you’d like them to be, you can use fertilizer in the early spring to boost the flower growth. However, if you use fertilizer, make sure it doesn’t have too much nitrogen because nitrogen causes insufficient flowering.
Monitor for Pests
Dwarf lilacs are also hardy and usually don’t get infested with pests, but they can occasionally fall victim to borers. These larvae feed on phloem, which causes damage to lilacs. If you notice borers, you should spray your dwarf lilacs with insecticide.
Growing a lilac bush may be daunting if you have a small yard or garden and don’t have space for a 15-foot (4.57 m) bush. However, it is possible to keep a lilac bush small, so you shouldn’t let the potential size of this plant stop you from growing it. You can also plant a dwarf lilac bush, which doesn’t grow as big as other common varieties.