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Growing lilac




The Lilac Tree (Syringa) is a fully hardy deciduous small tree. It’s claim to fame is the mass of flowers it produces in mid to late Spring. Most of the flowers have a delicious scent – powerful but not over-powering. The majority of lilac trees have dark green leaves. Aside from Roses, there is no flower as beautiful and aromatic as Lilacs. Of the two, Lilacs have a stronger scent that carries quite a distance. Unfortunately, Lilacs bloom for only a very brief couple weeks in the spring.
Lilacs in the United States date back to the mid 1750’s. They were grown in America’s first botanical gardens and were popular in New England. Both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew them in their gardens. Lilac bushes can live for hundreds of years, so a bush planted at that time may still be around. Lilacs originated from Europe and Asia, with the majority of natural varieties coming from Asia. In Europe, lilacs came from the Balkans, France and Turkey.
Lilacs are low-maintenance shrubs. They offer good summer shade after they have reached several feet tall and they provide privacy to neighboring properties. With just a little care and maintenance, and the knowledge of how to replenish the old wood with new shoots, the shrubs will last a lifetime.
Lilacs do not like to get their feet (the roots) wet for a prolonged period of time. They do best on hillsides, slightly elevated areas, or level ground where there is good drainage. Their roots run deep. If you have an extended dry period or drought, water infrequently but thoroughly. Lilacs do not grow well in lowlands where water tends to collect for prolonged periods of time.
Space your lilacs 5 feet apart in a neutral or limy soil, in a position where they’ll get sun for at least six hours a day. Pulverize the soil to the full depth of a spade and spread the roots vertically. Lilacs send out a mat of roots, all quite close to the soils surface. Cover the roots with clean topsoil, and then finish off with soil into which you have worked a balanced plant food, moderately fresh dairy or stable manure, or a cup of super phosphate. Protect the bark of the view plants from injury both when you’re handling them and after they are planted. Cut sod back from the stems to prevent a reckless lawn mower from hitting them. And water all the lilacs heavily up until their blooming time, unless the season is extremely wet. A loose mulch on the area above the roots will help soil take in water more freely, and it will save your back by doing away with your having to hand-trim spreading grass.
Weed around your lilac bushes to maintain a clean, aesthetic look. Pile mulch high for appearance, to retain some soil moisture, and to keep weeds down. Do not make mulch so thick that new shoots are hampered from sprouting and developing. Lilacs will tolerate almost any kind of soil, from clay to sand, with a pH of 6 to 7. Like any plants, your Lilacs will benefit from compost and humus worked into the soil to help retain some water during dry spells, and to provide additional nutrients.
You do not need to provide frequent fertilizer or organic feeding for your lilacs. Use a general purpose fertilizer in early spring or one high in Phosphorous to promote blooming. Too much nitrogen in the soil will result in poor blooms. Repeat the use of a general purpose fertilizer after the flowers have died off.
Lilacs flower on old wood, and produce more flowers if unpruned. If pruned, the plant responds by producing fast-growing young vegetative growth with no flowers, in an attempt to restore the removed branches; a pruned lilac often produces few or no flowers for one to five or more years, before the new growth matures sufficiently to start flowering. Unpruned lilacs flower reliably every year. Despite this, a common fallacy holds that lilacs should be pruned regularly. If pruning is required, it should be done right after flowering is finished, before next year’s flower buds are formed. Lilacs generally grow better in slightly alkaline soil.
For propagation, simply find shoots growing out from the main clump and dig down to expose the roots for those canes and sever between the mother plant and your new clone. Plant it in the same soil it came out of with some compost or humus added and water regularly until it starts to take off. Lilacs are not hesitant growers and you’ll see your plant grow quickly.





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