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Lilac with Bare Stems

I have what I believe are Japanese Lilacs. The previous owners of our home planted them and they don’t look so good. The insides are bare and I am wondering if I cut them down if they will grow back? Any suggestions on what I can try? They smell beautiful!

I think you may have one of the Asiatic, not what are commonly called Japanese tree lilacs. The Japanese tree lilac has large white flowers in mid to late June and most people don’t describe their fragrance as “wonderful”. These lilacs should be managed like trees not shrubs. The Asiatic lilacs like Meyer and Miss Kim can be pruned like other suckering shrubs. Consider removing several of the older thicker stems to ground level. Reduce the overall height of the remaining stems if needed. Repeat this for several years and you will soon have a dense shrub with leaves from top to bottom. A more stressful option, for both you and the plant, is to cut all the stems to ground level. If the shrubs has been producing new stems each year it will recover. The down side of this pruning method is the plant tends to produce extremely long shoots that will need drastic pruning again next spring. Prune lilacs and other spring flowering shrubs right after bloom if you want flowers next spring.


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