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Can I re-vitalise an old lilac tree ?


It's a white lilac and looks stunning in full blossom.  Over 20 years old and about 9 feet tall.  Problem is the leaves and flowers start at least 7 feet up, with bare branches lower down - the main trunk, a secondary trunk and several more "bendy" branches.  I've got a small garden and at the mo the tree doesn't "pay it's way".

My question is can I cut it right back to a couple of feet (it would be bare of leaves) and will it re-generate ?   If I cut it back by less it will still be bare but look ugly !

Or should I bite the bullet and remove it ?




  • BobTheGardenerBobTheGardener Leicestershire, UKPosts: 11,391

    Yes, you can rejuvenate lilac by cutting back hard and it will grow back.  If it is multi-stemmed, the best way is to remove 1/3rd of the stems (oldest first) right back to the ground each year for 3 years.  As new growth won't flower for 2-3 years, doing that means you will still get some flowers each year.  If it has a single main trunk, you can cut that back to about 6-8 inches from the ground.  New stems will appear, but you won't see any flowers for 2-3 years.  The best time to do it is in early spring, so a bit late to do it this year but you could risk it, especially as you are considering removing it anyway.  When the new stems appear, prune out the weak spindly ones next Spring.  One word of warning though - hard pruning can make lilac throw up lots of suckers in the general area and these can be difficult to deal with.

    A trowel in the hand is worth a thousand lost under a bush.
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