Q&A: Pruning Lilacs

If done the right way, pruning your lilacs can give you a beautiful result.
Related To:
Our lilac bush.

Our lilac bush.

Our lilac bush.

Q: We recently bought a house with a garden that was planted in the 1930s. The lilacs are taller than the power lines and have trunks as big as my arm. Is there any hope of rejuvenating these monsters or should I cut them down and buy new plants?

A: Lucky you! No, don't cut them down and start over. Try this first. As soon as they have finished flowering, cut down one-third of the bush with your pruning saw; cut the oldest and fattest trunks as close to the ground as you can comfortably get. You'll get some new wood this year. Then next year after it blooms, do the same thing. You'll get more new wood after that. The third year, cut out the remaining old part of the bush, and you'll have an entirely new shrub, growing on old, strong roots. It should reward you mightily. Plus, all the flowers will be within reach for smelling and cutting. You'll love the results!

— National Gardening Association

Keep Reading

Next Up

Q&A: Deer Trouble in the Garden

Effective ways to deter deer from the garden.

Pruning Shrubs

Horticulturist Maureen Gilmer explains how to properly maintain shrubs.

How to Plant and Care for Lilacs

Learn why the old-fashioned lilac is now popular among modern-day gardeners.

How to Prune Shrubs

When you prune a shrub depends mostly on when it blooms. Here are the basics of pruning woody plants.

Planting a Shrub

Use these step-by-step instructions to easily plant an evergreen shrub.

Pruning a Shrub Rose

Pruning your roses will help increase blooming and decrease disease and pest problems. Follow these steps to learn how to make the right cuts.

Pruning and Training Wall Shrubs

Similar to climbers, wall shrubs need to be well-pruned in order to encourage flower formation and growth across a surface.

Pruning Early-Flowering Shrubs

Eager shrubs that flower in early summer should be trimmed when blooms fade. Follow these simple steps to inspire new blossoms.

How to Prune Rose Bushes

Bush roses include hybrid teas and floribundas, both of which need to be pruned hard each year to encourage new growth.

How to Prune Late-Flowering Shrubs

Shrubs that arrive a bit late to the blooming game should be trimmed in early spring. Follow these simple steps to inspire new blossoms.

1,000+ Photos

Browse beautiful photos of our favorite outdoor spaces: decks, patios, porches and more.

On TV

Flip or Flop

8:30am | 7:30c

Flip or Flop

9:30am | 8:30c

Flip or Flop

10am | 9c

Flip or Flop

10:30am | 9:30c

Flip or Flop

11am | 10c

Flip or Flop

11:30am | 10:30c
12pm | 11c

House Hunters

12:30pm | 11:30c

House Hunters

1pm | 12c

House Hunters

1:30pm | 12:30c

House Hunters

2:30pm | 1:30c

House Hunters

3:30pm | 2:30c

House Hunters

4:30pm | 3:30c

House Hunters

5:30pm | 4:30c

House Hunters

6:30pm | 5:30c

House Hunters

7:30pm | 6:30c
On Tonight
On Tonight

Tiny House Hunters

8pm | 7c

Tiny House Hunters

8:30pm | 7:30c

Tiny House Hunters

9:30pm | 8:30c

House Hunters

10pm | 9c

House Hunters

11pm | 10c

Tiny House Hunters

12:30am | 11:30c

House Hunters

1am | 12c

Tiny House Hunters

3:30am | 2:30c

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.