the north face surge How to encourage lilac plants to bloom
It gets several hours of direct sun each day. The leaves have always had a healthy green with no mold. It is now around 7 feet tall. I looked forward to blossoms year after year. Last spring (2011) there were the first blooms two or three clusters of florets. This spring (now) there is only one! Is there anything I can do to fill the plant with flowers next spring?A: The scent of lilac is one of the wonderful things gardeners look forward to each spring. If your lilacs don’t bloom, there really isn’t, in my opinion, much reason to give them valuable space in the garden. However, there are several reasons why they don’t bloom.
conditions: Lilacs like a slightly alkaline soil (pH 6 7), even moisture and plenty of sunlight (at least 6 hours). So, if you have very acid soil, a dry summer while buds are forming or your plant doesn’t get enough sun, you may get few or no blooms.
Lilac plants need time to grow before they begin flowering. So, if you have a very young plant, it may not be mature enough to bloom.
Most plants start blooming after three or four years but some may take as long as six or seven. The blooms for the first few years will be sparse but should increase with time. This is, obviously, not your problem if the plant you bought was flowering when you bought it.
Lilacs bloom on old wood. They form their buds over the summer so they are fully formed and ready to bloom in late winter.
Therefore, any pruning should be done in the two to three weeks after they bloom, or should have bloomed. Later pruning will decrease or eliminate next year’s flowering. Annual pruning can keep the plant rejuvenated and blooming. Cut out damaged or dead branches, then old woody ones, then any that cross or rub and finally shape. Remove no more than a third of the plant in any year but with a three year schedule, the plant will be totally rejuvenated in three short springs.
Sometimes to correct a problem, we create another. Lilac does not generally need supplemental fertilization. If you feed your lilacs,
particularly with a fertilizer that has a lot of nitrogen, you will get a large, lush plant but few if any blooms.
shock: Lilacs need a bit of time to settle in. It is not unusual for plants to take two or even three years to get established and start blooming, even if they had blooms when you bought them.
If none of the above situations apply to your lilac, you can try something we commonly do to wisteria that doesn’t bloom give the plant a little stress. Using a sharp shovel, insert the blade into the ground about a foot from the base of the lilac bush. Cut down, severing the roots on two sides of the plant.
Tulips and daffodils
Q: I have 2 questions regarding daffodils and tulips: (1) How to finish them once they are done blooming? Deadhead them or cut them down at the base? (2) How to plant other flowers to take their place: right next to the bulbs? To do this, do we cut away all the green to make way for new flowers?A: No one wants to hear it but if you want the spring tulips and daffodils, you have to put up with the bare greens, even as they start to turn ugly. You can tidy the plants by cutting back the flower stems to the ground but the greens need to remain. Do not cut, tie or braid them; those greens need to grow and store energy for next year’s bloom. When they are brown, the leaves will easily rake off the bed and can be cleared.
As far as planting among the bulbs, it is just like planting bulbs amid the perennials. Give them space to grow; try not to damage the bulbs when digging new planting holes, and, ideally, select plants that will start growing just as the bulbs start to fade. A common pairing, daffodils and daylilies, creates an ideal situation as the daylilies grow up and cover the daffodil greens just as they start looking really ratty. This is one of my favorite events of the year when I get to meet gardeners from throughout the Lehigh Valley. We still could use a few volunteers to help us sort and display plants as they are received for the exchange.