Pink lilac flowers

How to grow lilac

Find out all you need to know about growing lilac, in this detailed Grow Guide.

A table displaying which months are best to sow, plant and harvest.
Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
Plant
Plant

Do Plant in January

Do Plant in February

Do not Plant in March

Do not Plant in April

Do not Plant in May

Do not Plant in June

Do not Plant in July

Do not Plant in August

Do not Plant in September

Do not Plant in October

Do Plant in November

Do Plant in December

Flowers
Flowers

Plant does not flower in January

Plant does not flower in February

Plant does not flower in March

Plant does not flower in April

Plant does flower in May

Plant does flower in June

Plant does flower in July

Plant does not flower in August

Plant does not flower in September

Plant does not flower in October

Plant does not flower in November

Plant does not flower in December

Prune
Prune

Do not Prune in January

Do Prune in February

Do not Prune in March

Do not Prune in April

Do not Prune in May

Do not Prune in June

Do Prune in July

Do Prune in August

Do not Prune in September

Do not Prune in October

Do not Prune in November

Do not Prune in December

Lilac, syringa, is a garden classic, flowering in late spring. Its pale purple, pink or white flowers are excellent for cutting and work well in bouquets. Lilacs can be grown as a shrub or small tree, so work well in many garden situations, both in pots and in the ground.

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Where to grow lilac

Pale-pink flowering lilac
Pale-pink flowering lilac

Lilacs thrive in a sunny location, in well-drained, fertile, humus-rich soil that is alkaline to neutral. They do well on chalky ground.


How to plant lilac

Dig a generous hole and plant your lilac to the level of the soil line. Back-fill and firm down the soil gently around the plant.


How to care for lilac

Deadheading spent lilac blooms in summer
Deadheading spent lilac blooms in summer

Mulch annually in spring. As the flowers fade towards midsummer, you can deadhead spent blooms and prune shrubs for height and shape. Bigger pruning jobs, such as renovating an old tree, should take place when the plant is dormant, in winter. Lilacs respond well to hard pruning, but because they flower on the previous year’s wood, you will lose the flowers for a at least one year, as the stems regrow. To maintain flowering, remove alternate stems, cutting them back to the ground. Take out any dead, diseased or dying wood. Alternatively, prune lightly – hard pruning isn’t always necessary.


How to take lilac cuttings

Propagate lilacs by softwood cuttings.

Follow our step-by-step guide to taking softwood cuttings.


Lilac: troubleshooting

Lilacs can be prone to leaf mining moths, thrips and lilac blight. Lilac blight causes die back, distorted and blemished leaves and ultimately, leaf drop. Blossoms can also be affected, turning brown and limp. Copper fungicide will kill the Psuedomonas syringae bacteria that causes it. Alternatively, pruning the affected branches and improving air circulation will help to control the spread. Good air circulation can also help to keep powdery mildew and leaf spot diseases at bay.

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Five lilac varieties to try

  • Syringa emodi ‘Aureovariegata’ – this Himalayan lilac is a large deciduous shrub 5m tall, with fragrant, tubular white flowers appearing from June onwards. Himalayan lilac has variegated leaves in fresh green with a darker green central splash
  • Syringa vulgaris ‘Lois Amee Utley’ – a large lilac with fragrant pink, double flowers. It looks good in a mixed herbaceous border or on its own as a focal point
  • Syringa ‘Red Pixie’ – a compact lilac, baring masses of fragrant pink flowers, which open from red buds. Perfect for a small garden it will also grow successfully in a large pot
  • Syringa vulgaris ‘Primrose’ – the white flowers that mature to cream-yellow have an exceptional lilac scent. A large lilac, it’s most suitable for growing at the back of a mixed herbaceous border
  • Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’ – this Korean lilac bears masses of panicles of fragrant, purple-pink flowers from late spring to early summer, contrasting with oval, dark green leaves. It’s ideal for growing in a sunny ornamental border. Compact and slow growing it’s suitable for smaller gardens or growing in pots