How to Prune a Lilac Bush That Has Bees


Landscapers love lilac shrubs for their dense growth and brightly colored blossoms. Like most shrubs, lilacs benefit from annual pruning. Pruning helps keep the plant growing lush and green and should be carried out in the winter, according to North Carolina State University. In some climates, bees may be active during this time and can pose a hazard when you're trying to work among your lilacs.

Step 1

Wait until the evening before approaching the lilac bush. During this time, both bees and wasps are less active and many of them will have returned to their nests, according to the University of Nebraska.

Step 2

Identify a dozen of the plant's largest stems. Cut off all other stems to keep the lilac bush's branches open and ventilated, and to ensure none of the branches are so close that they can rub against each other and cause self-inflicted injury to the shrub.

Step 3

Cut off 25 to 30 percent of the length of the remaining stems, as measured from the tip of the stem. This encourages new growth and keeps the plant from getting too woody. Make the cut just after the leaf node on the stem. The node is the bump where new branches and leaves sprout.

Step 4

Prune the plant for height. North Carolina State University recommends trimming the plant 12 inches shorter than the height you want it to be the following year.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not poison or spray the bees. Most bees are beneficial insects and help with the pollination of plants in the area. If you have a persistent bee problem, consult your regional cooperative extension office to identify the bee species, determine whether it's a beneficial species, and find a regionally appropriate treatment plan.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears


  • "Lilacs: A Gardener's Encyclopedia"; John Fiala and Freek Vrugtman; 2008
  • University of Nebraska: Stinging Wasps and Bees
  • North Carolina State University: Pruning Lilacs

Who Can Help

  • USDA: Find a Cooperative Extension Office
Keywords: prune lilac bush, lilac bush trimming, lilac and bees

About this Author

Josh Duvauchelle is an editor and journalist with more than 10 years' experience. His work has appeared in various magazines, including "Honolulu Magazine," which has more paid subscribers than any other magazine in Hawaii. He graduated with honors from Trinity Western University, holding a Bachelor of Arts in professional communications, and earned a certificate in applied leadership and public affairs from the Laurentian Leadership Centre.