Lilacs are a gardener's dream: low maintenance and reliable. These fragrant shrubs bloom like clockwork in the spring. When their blossoms drop, the lush greenery remains to round out a fall garden. New Jersey has the ideal climate for growing lilacs, making their care even easier. Lilacs are known to outlive their owners, even those without green thumbs. These perennials truly thrive in the Garden State.
Caring for Lilacs
Mature lilacs are relatively self-sufficient, but they may need watering during hot or dry spells. If the leaves wilt or fold, the lilac needs water, but be aware that lilacs can drown. They need just enough water to moisten the soil. Unattended, lilacs will overgrow a lawn, and they will rarely falter. Lilacs bloom in May, and the best time for pruning is when their blossoms fade in early fall. Pruning maintains the shrub's shape and optimizes blooming for the following year. Remove dead and diseased branches and cut some of the largest and oldest branches back to ground level. Thin out the younger shoots so only 10 to 15 remain. Finally, fertilize the lilacs under the bark mulch each spring and again after blooming season ends to ensure a healthy blossom the following year.
Where Lilacs Thrive
The U.S. Department of Agriculture divides the United States into hardiness zones by climate. Various plant species thrive in different hardiness zones. Lilacs experience optimal growth in the Northeast and Midwest in hardiness zones four through seven. New Jersey encompasses zones six and seven, making it the perfect climate for growing lilacs. The best time for planting lilacs is spring or fall when the weather is mild. Lilacs are best grown in large, sprawling gardens in direct sun and well-drained soil. Mature lilacs can prove too challenging to maintain in small gardens and yards, but several varieties of dwarf cultivars are also available.
Selecting a Lilac Shrub
There are more than 20 species of lilac in the genus Syringa. The small, fragrant flowers grow purple, pink or white on lush, green shrubs. Consider your space when choosing a lilac. Common lilacs can grow to 12 feet tall and eight feet wide, and Japanese tree lilacs can reach 25 feet. Dwarf cultivars are typically half the size of common lilacs. Lilacs should be planted with plenty of room to sprawl. Crowded plantings can develop a powdery white mildew that stunts growth and blossoming capability.
Threats to Lilacs
Lilacs are moderately susceptible to deer damage. Chinese, Late and Persian varieties are occasionally severely damaged. Common and Japanese Tree lilacs are more resistant, and they are rarely severely damaged. Lilacs can suffer from bacterial and fungal blight, as well as root rot. Lilacs' most common pest enemies are oystershell scale and lilac borer, but these tenacious plants are most threatened by wayward lawnmowers.
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