A common problem with lilacs, especially the common lilac, (Syringa vulgaris), is that over time, they flower less and less. This is usually due to the fact that most of the canes have become too old to bear flowers properly. This is the time to do some rejuvenation pruning.

Common lilac normally consists of a number of stems (canes) coming out of the rootstock. Some of the stems grow taller than the rest and shade them, thus stunting their growth in the process. Old wood on any plant tends to produce fewer flowers than newer wood. So, the way to get more flowers is to get rid of the oldest wood to allow the newer canes to grow and flourish.

To rejuvenate this type of old lilac, just cut out the thickest, oldest stems after the plant stops flowering in the spring. Take out about 15-20% of the canes each year so that about every 5 years the entire shrub will be rejuvenated. This will leave the younger, most floriferous canes to produce more flowers. They will also be healthier and a bit shorter than the very old canes you have removed.

Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.

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