Spindly Lilac

by Serenity
I have a very tall and spindly Lilac "bush" in my yard. Can I cut it down and have it grow better and bush out or am I stuck with this ugly tree like thing?
  17 answers
  • I would cut it right back to about 2 feet. You have nothing to loose, it looks bad now anyways. If it re branches out you win, if it dosen't you have to get rid of it anyways:)
  • Kimberly Barney Kimberly Barney on Jul 09, 2013
    You should be able to prune back the lilac bush without any problems but to be honest, it doesn't look like it is doing very well. Possibly pruning it back will start new sprouts.
  • Serenity Serenity on Jul 09, 2013
    OK, thanks. We just moved in a month ago so I do know much about it.
  • Caley's Culinaries Caley's Culinaries on Jul 10, 2013
    Anything spindly is not getting enough light. If you cut it. leave a few leaves so it can still make food. That little side branch is perfect. Fertilize it too. It's not dead yet! You can do it!
  • Lori J Lori J on Jul 10, 2013
    A healthy lilac will put up shoots around the base. This plant does not look healthy at all. Sometimes you just have to give up the ghost.
  • Douglas Hunt Douglas Hunt on Jul 10, 2013
    I see you're in Arizona. Does anyone around you have lilacs? If not, I suspect it may have been planted by a previous owner who had a case of "zonal denial."
  • Lori J Lori J on Jul 10, 2013
    Zonal Denial? Too funny Doug!
  • Peg Peg on Jul 10, 2013
    Lilacs need sun to flower, they love humus rich soil, sweet soil, add lime if needed. I can see that it was cut and pruned before by the new growth and appears to be reaching for the sun. Is the bottom part of it shaded? What side of the house is it on? North? South? What zone are you in? They will look crapping during severe heat, even here in NY. Douglas Hunt - "Zonal Denial"!! I've fallen into that category before!! Funny!
  • Serenity Serenity on Jul 10, 2013
    Its on the north side of the house so it does not get much sun. We are in zone 7
  • Lilacs are cane shrubs, so they need to be cut to the ground to send up new stems. See: http://pinterest.com/pin/147915168984328280/. Usually you are supposed to only remove 1/3rd of the foliage at a time, but they can often take heavier pruning to control really unruly growth. Many plants do grow spindly in low light, but it can also from other factors. Since you are in AZ, I would guess that your this lilac is not getting enough water, since it is native to more northern, woodland conditions. Also, there appears to be a small brick edging around its roots, which can seriously hinder its surface feeder roots from growing to the extent that they need to. That would also cause it to have trouble getting enough water. (Also the evergreens beside it seem to have leaves to the bottom, which would indicate they are getting enough light.) I would recommend taking out this lilac and planting something more suitable to your southern conditions. The best gardeners are the ones who are not afraid to edit their gardens when necessary! Take heart, rip it out, determine your sun/shade conditions, and plant a something beautiful! Maybe a Chaste tree http://pinterest.com/pin/147915168984328323/ ? Hope that helps!
  • Serenity Serenity on Jul 10, 2013
    Thank you!
  • Tanya Peterson Felsheim Tanya Peterson Felsheim on Jul 10, 2013
    I have rarely known lilacs to grown anywhere where it doesnt' get down to freezing in the winter time...are you in a place where it does get cold? I have whacked my lilacs away many times...just do not expect them to bloom the following year on the places you whack...they seem to bloom on last years growth...good luck @Serenity
  • Serenity Serenity on Jul 10, 2013
    No we are in Northern AZ where it gets below freezing for weeks.
  • Nancy W Nancy W on Jul 10, 2013
    I have to remember the "zonal denial'... so very funny! Love it... <3
  • Carly Swirtz Carly Swirtz on Jul 11, 2013
    lilacs are tuff buggers! I have taken branches and just stuck them in the ground and they will start growing. I would cut it down to about 3 feet and if you want more just plant the banches. I discovered this quite by accident. I needed to reseed an area in my yard and used some lilac branches as stakes to tie a string barrier around the seeded area. With daily watering the branches started to grow!
  • Tanya Peterson Felsheim Tanya Peterson Felsheim on Jul 11, 2013
    With all of the new shoots in my Lilacs I"ve often thought of potting them and selling them as lilac starts! Some are 3 feet or 4 feet tall! usually I just whack them off but they keep coming up! @Serenity with it getting that cold makes total sense why you are able to grow Lilacs!
  • Linda Smith Linda Smith on Jul 11, 2013
    Freezing winter temps won't hurt your lilac. Here in Wisconsin we can get to -25 during winter and our lilacs do very well. The best time to prune lilacs is right after they finish blooming in the spring. Since yours haven't bloomed you may want to cut it back to about 2-3 ft. and move it to a sunny location. It may take a year or two before you get flowers after moving.