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Lilac Bushes

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From: Christine Palmieri
Gurnee, IL
Our "landscaping crew" recently severely pruned (hacked) our lilac bushes and shaped them into a "hedge". Approximately 75% of the foliage / leaves has been removed, with many bare spots and exposed branches sheered off. I am sick over the whole incident, but want to try to reduce the shock to them to hopefully get them back on track. What can I do to help protect them and promote regrowth? Also, should I remove 1/3rd of old growth at the base in the fall or will the bushes still be in too much shock from the severe pruning? Thank you for your response.

Extension Message
From: Greg Stack
Extension Horticulturist
Extension Web Development

Cutting back a lilac as they did is not the way to prune this plant. shearing at this time of the year may affect next seasons bloom as lilac should be pruned right after flowering as it sets up next years flower buds on this years growth. These shrubs should be pruned by the renewal method in which you take out about 1/3 of the very oldest stems right to the ground. This reduces the height of the plant, makes it look natural and allows room for new stems to fill in at the base. You could do this now if you want and then at the same time fertilize and water well to encourage new growth to fill in. All shearing accomplishes is producing a plant with a green "crust" across the top that results in a very unatural looking plant. But shearing is quick, requires no thniking and so it is done by many even though it is not right.

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