How to Prune Lilac Shrubs


The lilac (scientific name Syringa) is one of the most beloved landscape plants, valued for its over-the-top, staggeringly fragrant flowers that emerge in the early spring. Most varieties grow to between three and five feet high. The larger, most common cultivars, which include Syringa vulgaris, Syringa oblata and Syringa x hyacinthiflora, need regular pruning to maintain an attractive shape.

Step 1

Wait till mid-winter to seriously prune your lilac shrubs. Then cut out one-fourth to one-third of the largest stems. Leave a maximum of six to 12 main stems on the shrub.

Step 2

Trim out any stems that are rubbing against other stems.

Step 3

In the spring or early summer, after the lilacs have finished flowering, you'll probably find new shoots, called "suckers," coming up around their bases. Cut all but one or two of the suckers off at least an inch below the soil.

Step 4

If your lilacs are growing too tall, wait till they're done flowering and then cut their tops down by as much as a foot.

Step 5

No matter what the season, cut out diseased or damaged wood as soon as you see it.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden clippers


  • Syringa; Sunset Plant Finder
  • Pruning Lilacs; Dick Bir; North Carolina State University Cooperative Extension
Keywords: lilacs, pruning lilacs, Syringa

About this Author

Cheyenne Cartwright has worked in publishing for more than 25 years. She has served as an editor for several large nonprofit institutions, and her writing has appeared in a variety of publications, including "Professional Bull Rider Magazine." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Oklahoma Christian University and a Master of Arts in English from the University of Tulsa.