How to make Old Lilac bloom again? Let me tell you what I did. It’s drastic, but it works.
I have a lilac that I planted here at my house soon after we moved in. It has been there for about 15+ years ( I don’t remember the specific year I planted it), but it was just a tiny twig from the nursery. I am not sure of any variety but it is one of those regular or old-fashioned types which blooms fragrant purple blooms in late May.
My lilac bush has finished blooming this year and I am cutting it down! It has to be done. Let me explain what I am doing.
Where on the branch do lilacs bloom?
Lilacs bloom on newer growth, so the blooms will be on the new younger branches growing out from older trunks. Therefore as the bush gets older and older and puts out more and more new branches, since it blooms better on those newer branches, gradually the blooms are all way up high and unreachable to gather for bouquets.
But that heavenly scent still floats in the air. Wonderful. But sometimes the older lilac get so overgrown and aged, they seem to stop blooming all together. Now that’s a sad thing that we can try and do something to fix!
What you need is young new growth. Now if you are a good and regular pruner, your lilac probably blooms well since you take care of it each year. But I confess, I am a procrastinator. I tell myself I am going to prune, but a lot of the time, I just never get around to it. ( There is always another hypertufa pot I want to make or some weeding to do, know what I mean?)
So we have to get drastic to get our blooms back. You may think ” Oh, I will just get a new bush and start over.” But you can have a “new” bush from the ashes of the old one. It will rise like a Phoenix, for real.
No, don’t burn it! Cut it down!
Seriously, drastically cut it back to the ground and get almost all new shoots! Then those new shoots will have blooms and we are back to blooms at the level we can see them and pick them. Loving it!
Timing is the Decisive Factor in Pruning Lilacs
If you want to have your blooms next year, it is crucial to prune in those first few weeks after blooming ends. Ideally, this is when you would do maintenance pruning each year. But I get so
lazy busy, I end up with a ten foot bush with ten blooms on top.
So I have just done a complete rejuvenation on my Old Lilac and I am excited to see what will happen next spring when it is all full of young and new branches.
I shot a video of my husband and I
butchering trimming this Old Lilac almost down to the ground. We thought we’d need the chain saw, but he couldn’t get it started, so we used some ratchet loppers and garden pruners. (#affiliate link) Those old branches were about 3″ diameter so it worked ok. I had some problems when I tried cutting. There is some little pivot that you click when the jaws are open and need to latch down on the cutter, but I don’t get that. I am just not mechanical. So my husband handled the larger ones.
I did the clean up trimming of the smaller branches, going for an open center. There was one final branch that I think needs to come out and he doesn’t. What is your opinion? You can check out the branch in question on the video. It is at about 10:45 in the video if you want to check it out. I think it is clear that a woman’s opinion should be the deciding factor. Happy wife, happy life, right?
UPDATE: We moved away from this home before the spring bloom, but the small bush was just thick with branches and shoots for the leaves when we left in March 2018. I am sure it bloomed really well….Kim
Another update: I have seen the lilac bush with my own eyes this new season May 2019 and May 2020 and it is growing well over 6ft high and blossoming nicely. Rejuvenation works!