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

Pruning Shrubs

Horticulturist Maureen Gilmer explains how to properly maintain shrubs.

Grow Guide: Pruning Oleander

Gardening expert Felder Rushing gives tips on caring for oleander.

Pruners Beware

Horticulture agent Paul McKenzie advises against reckless pruning.

Biggest Pruning Mistakes

Here are a few of the biggest pruning mistakes that can be made, and how to avoid making them.

Pruning Roses During Winter

See why you should prune your roses when it's chilly outside.

Pruning in Southern California

When is the best time to prune a rose where it doesn't go dormant?

How to Plant and Care for Lilacs

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

Pruning Basics

Keep these tips in mind before tackling trees and shrubs.

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.

1,000+ Photos

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

On TV

Follow Us Everywhere

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