How to grow Lilacs
When it's lilac-blooming time again this
year-from early May until end of June-will your garden
be replete with their white, violet, pink, blue; and
purple flowers? Certainly they are among the most popular
of all flowering shrubs, and nurserymen have over 250
named varieties to offer for your planting.
Perhaps you're holding back just because
of this multitude of varieties, knowing not which are
best to choose, or, having made your choice, you're
in need of few pointers on the setting out and preserving
of your plants.
First, about varieties, we recommend as
the best lilacs for a flowering hedge the pink form
of Persian lilac. For specimens and groups, these are
our first choices: For a white, choose Vestale for single
flowers and Ellen Willmott or Edith Cavell for double
flowers. Our favorite blue single is President Lincoln
and double, Olivier de Serres or President Grevy. Lilac-pink
Lucie Baltet is a choice single, and among the loveliest
doubles-Belle de Nancy, Katherine Havemeyer, and Mme.
Antoine Buchner. Congo is about the most striking purple
single, and Violetta is first among the doubles. Ludwig
Spaeth is probably the most handsome dark purple.
When you order your lilacs, specify plants
guaranteed to be on their own roots or grafted on privet
under stock. Query your dealer at this point before
you place your order. Have your lilacs arrive
and plant them as early as the oil
can be worked. If lilacs are set out to late, their
leaves are likely to be dwarfed the first year, and
the bush cannot make normal growth. Planting in late
fall is also recommended for areas as far north as Boston.
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
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 our 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
When your lilac blooms beckon you to take
them in to fill your rooms with color and scent, do
cut them with care. If you understand how lilacs grow,
you won't sacrifice next season's blooms by uninhibited
As for pests, there are a few that may
pick on your lilac stem borers and sucking pest's known
as scale. Stem borers make tiny holes in main sterns
but leave telltale sawdust behind. Scale gathers thickly
along new growth, cause distortion of leaves, and can
be easily seen if examined closely.
If, you find scale in June, spray all
the upper foliage with a light; miscible oil sold for
this purpose and mixed according to directions for a
summer spray. Do not exceed the amounts recommended.
For a bad infestation that has escaped your detection,
spray again after the leaves have dropped in the fall
with an oil emulsion mixed to correct proportions for
a dormant spray.
Weather conditions facilitate the spread
of mildew, which sometimes disfigures lilac foliage
in late summer. Though disfiguring, it's not dangerous
to their health.
A final word about pruning do it intelligently:
Cropping ends only reduces bloom. Remove the seed heads.
If your bush is too tall for space, cut out the older
branches near ground, level. Use a narrow saw in order
to avoid wounding the remaining stems. If the bush grows
too wide, limit your cutting to the outside sprouts.