We moved into a house in NC that had a gorgeous, VERY tall, fancy, purple-flowered lilac bush. Thinking that it needed to be more proportional to the house, we pruned it...to the ground. We had NO flowers for years. And truly, we were relieved that we didn't kill it.
Now I hear that only very vigorous looking lilacs (those putting out lots of suckers or runners) should be pruned to the ground.
Pruning to the ground is a drastic measure for lilacs, as you found out! :o(
But for old or severely stressed plants like the ones in my article, it is the only answer.
For regular pruning maintenance of lilacs, you are right--the suckers should come out and also any dead wood. Pruning manuals will tell you to use a rule of thirds. Every fall, take out only 1/3 of the shrub trunks, allowing the new growth room to spread and flourish.
I hope when you cut off the dry flowers, you only took the flower part, not any stem.
Next year's buds begin to form at the base of the old flowers. If you cut back too far, you'll have no blooms on those branches. :(
As for pruning a second-year shrub, I would say it's not necessary. The rule of 1/3 is mainly for older overgrown bushes.
Thank you for guidance on pruning 3' Miss Kim's... Unfortunately I did both; i.e. pruned branch with dry flower on some and just dry flower on some. So, we'll know better next time. What saved me was some bad experiences with pruning Hydrangai too much
I have a 12 year old Charm lilac which has responded well to the 1/3 rule espoused earlier. In this thread suckers and new growth were mentioned and that suckers should be removed. How does one tell which is which?
Suckers come straight up out of the ground around the base of the trunk(s). They are usually a few inches out, so you can see they are separate growth. Also, they usually grow straight up and get tall very quickly.
Yes, cut them off even a little below ground level by pulling away some soil around them.
New growth will come at the tips of branches and along the smaller branches. New growth always appears around the base of the flower head after it withers. That's why we deadhead the blooms so new ones will come the following year. Good luck, and you're welcome!
I have some beautiful deep purple lilac that I transplanted from my old house to our new one at my mother's instance (she loved them). Now my sister has built a new house and wants some of my lilac. She lives in MD, I am in CT. What would be the best way to share my plant? I have to drive to MD in mid June, is that too late? My plants are 11 years old now and can use some thinning...