The Best Time to Prune a Lilac Tree


When you prune your lilac depends on why you're pruning it: trimming the height, cleaning up the bush or rejuvenating an old shrub. If you prune a lilac bush in the wrong way at the wrong time of year, you'll have few blossoms to enjoy.


  • To keep your lilac bushes at a desired height, trim them when they've finished flowering in late spring to early summer. Use hedge clippers to cut the tops of the lilacs to 1 foot shorter than the desired height, then trim around the bushes. Trimming lilacs before they flower reduces the number of flowers.


  • Vigorously prune lilacs in late winter to maintain a healthy shrub with adequate flower coverage. Remove one-fourth to one-third of the stems each year in late winter, cutting the stems off at the ground. Because the wood of lilacs blooms only after it is 3 years old, this method promises flowers each spring. Remove the largest and oldest stems and ensure that stems do not touch each other.


  • While these are the two major pruning times and pruning techniques for lilacs, you may notice dead, damaged or diseased wood at any time of year---after a storm or high winds, for example. Cut off the dead or damaged wood as soon as you notice it to protect the lilac's health.

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