683 Woodcrest Rd,
Thunder Bay, On

Phone: (807) 767-6900
Fax: (807) 767-9100
Email: info@creekside.ca


683 Woodcrest Rd, Thunder Bay ON, P7G 1J2
(807) 767-6900
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Lilacs are the heralds of spring

February 22, 2017

Few shrubs are as lovely or as loved as lilacs. They offer a sense of nostalgia, a reminder of pleasant sites and scents from childhood, like sunny spring afternoons in grandmother’s garden. Their sweet, signature fragrance is what makes them most loved. All lilacs are fragrant and their perfume often carries a great distance, especially on a warm, breezy day.

Easily the most frequently asked lilac question is, "Why won't my lilac bloom?" There are four main reasons.

First, lilacs require patience. After planting, a lilac often takes at least a year or two before it blooms, even if it had blossoms when it was purchased.

The second issue is location. Lilacs must have at least six hours of direct sunlight each day. The amount of sunlight directly affects the colour and quantity of blooms. More sun, more blooms. No sun, no (or minimal) blooms.

Next, too much nitrogen will hinder a lilac's flower production. Nitrogen gives plants a lush green colour, so lawn food and evergreen fertilizers have high percentages of the nutrient. If lilacs are surrounded by a well fertilized lawn, or planted next to frequently fertilized cedars, the high content of nitrogen will give them vibrant green foliage, but it will also prevent them from blooming.

Finally, the most common reason for lack of lilacs is incorrect pruning. Like other early spring flowering shrubs, lilacs must be pruned immediately after they finish blooming. Lilacs bloom on the previous year's wood, which means flower buds are formed on its branches in summer. If pruned in late summer, fall or winter, buds will be removed, resulting in very few, if any, flowers.

Properly pruning off flowers immediately after they have finished blooming lets the lilac direct its energy to producing more flower buds rather than seeds, resulting in more blooms the following spring. Dead blooms should be pruned to just above the next outward facing leaf bud on the branch. Suckers and any unproductive or wayward branches should also be pruned back as soon as flowers fade.

Lilacs are very easy to grow in Northwestern Ontario. Many varieties are super hardy, actually preferring cooler temperatures.

Lilacs will grow poorly in wet & heavy soil. They need well-drained soil with a slightly alkaline pH. If the soil is too acidic, sweeten it, in autumn, by adding a handful of horticultural lime. Add two or three handfuls for larger shrubs.

Lilacs are prone to powdery mildew, but it can be prevented by providing good air circulation. Allow at least three or four meters between shrubs. Pruning will also contribute to good air circulation. Powdery mildew is most common when weather is hot and humid, so check lilacs regularly during such conditions. The mildew will not cause long term damage to a lilac shrub, but it is unsightly.

Lilacs are the traditional and beloved heralds of spring. They attract birds, bees and butterflies in the garden and they make great cut-flowers in the home. One vase of lilacs will fill a room with their soothing fragrance, bringing us right back to a childhood in grandma’s sunny garden.