President Lincoln Lilac Bushes as A hedge???

mary_maxFebruary 8, 2007

I saw these trees at Costco today and thought they might be just what we need. We have a side area that we would like to put a privacy hedge to hide the street. Do you think the lilac bushes would work. How far from the sidewalk would you suggest that the bush be planted. Also how close together should the bush be planted to make a hedge. Thanks so much for your help regarding this.

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Dtermine what you want out of having the hedge and then find a plant that fits those needs. Maybe the lilac will, but maybe not.

Right now you are selecting a plant first and then asking other people to determine what its characteristics are and whether they believe that the lilacs are a good choice.

There is no exact "right plant" for any situation. Everything is weighted by the values of the person who is using the plant - that is after all of the survivability issues are put aside. Most likely you will be comparing some degree of aesthetic, maintenance, height, width, bloom time, and cost.

I'm going to go out on a limb, if I may use that phrase, and determine that this is the perfect plant for you. I determine this by guessing how you weight the values that I outlined above. Cost out weighs them all based on the fact that you mention nothing of any other value except where you are going to get them and how many you need. This tells me right away that cost is the biggest issue in your decision. Discussing anything else about them is of so little importance that there is no point in it until or unless there is another bargain plant and we need to determine which one gives you more and thus becomes a better bargain.

The bargain priced lilac is an excellent choice for you. I'm guessing these are sold bare root.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2007 at 6:58AM
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No actually I have waited for these bushes to return to Costco since last year when I first bought one. I decided that we would like a hedge out of these particular bushes, since lilacs do so well in our area. I simply wanted to know how far from the sidewalk the bushes need to be planted. Also how close together should the bush be planted to make a hedge.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2007 at 11:16AM
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Most cultivars of common or French lilacs will grow to be rather large unruly thickets in time unless regularly thinned or trained as a small tree (kept to a single trunk). Lilacs are suckering shrubs and will continue to increase their real estate in this manner. President Lincoln can be expected to reach 10' tall and at least 6' wide in a relatively short period of time, so you do the math.

I would not recommend hedging these plants or pruning into a defined shape, but rather let them form a natural screen. Hedging of a flowering shrub like lilac that blooms on old wood will eliminate or substantially reduce the flowering and there is little point to growing lilacs if not for their flowers.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2007 at 11:38AM
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Thank you garden gal! That has been very helpful and I appreciate the info.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2007 at 12:00PM
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I would not choose a lilac as a hedge plant.

For one, Lilacs don't really grow that fast ... you might have to wait 5 or more years before the plants begin to put on any size.

Also, Lilacs can be quite sparsely twigged ... not dense at all.

A twenty year old Lilac might be pretty dense ... but are you prepared to wait that long ?

Finally, when your Lilacs do finally reach the size that you need for your hedge, you will trim all of the blooming capacity out of them ... to keep them to a certain size.

At that point, you may as well have used any other (much more suitable) non-blooming shrub for your hedge.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2007 at 12:03PM
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SOunds like I am on the wrong track. I may have to look into burning bushes. They are very popular in our area also.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2007 at 6:25PM
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For what it's worth, I'll give you my take on lilacs... I have a lilac hedge running along the front street side of my property and it continues on for the length of my neighbor to the East's property as well. Only two houses on this block so the hedge is a good sized one. Can't give you too many specifics as to the variety - these were planted in 1900 to enclose a garden that belonged to the big Victorian pile across the avenue to my West. And they're the old standard "lavender/lilac" color. The fragrance is intoxicating.

Now that they're bare, I see they are planted fairly close together, no more than 36" apart. And they're set back approximately 5' from the sidewalk which of course wasn't there in 1900. These have maxed out height wise at 12-14' and the whole block seems to have grown uniformly - no raggedy differing heights. Although they will arch somewhat, they do not impede sidewalk traffic. They are very dense making the yard private. They are also very tolerant of winter street salts and snow being plowed up against them.

I have no idea what kind of maintenance this hedge received prior to 1972. Since 1972, tree specialists have worked on them only once. Aside from clearing out an occasional piece of deadfall I find them to be pretty maintenance free. And despite no trimming or deadheading beyond cutting armfulls for bouquets etc., they have never failed to produce an almost mind boggling floral display.

I wish I could say how long a new planting would take to reach some size and density.

    Bookmark   February 9, 2007 at 7:54PM
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Actually, many plants will make a good hedge (or screen), including Lilac.

It just depends on what your priorities are.

What size do you want your hedge to be ?

What size plants are you going to start with ?

How long are you willing to wait ?

How much work are you willing to expend to keep the hedge at your desire size (every year) ?

I would say that Lilac would ultimately make a good (large) screen ... though it might take several years ... if you start with smaller plants.

If you start with larger plants (close to your ultimate desired hedge size), you, obviously, wouldn't have to wait as long.

A Lilac screen is also going to get quite large, unless you keep it pruned well.

Lilacs have the propensity to become very large shrubs (12'x 8' or so), so it might not be the best choice if you want a much smaller hedge.

I would say the same for Burning Bush ... slower-growing, ... but ultimately becoming huge.

I have had pretty good success with Northern Gold Forsythia, which is a fast grower, and yet, keeps a fairly neat, upright shape ... with occasional trimming.

    Bookmark   February 10, 2007 at 9:32AM
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I have a hedge of white lilac, and I will venture out into the open from the safety of lurking to weigh in on this one.

Lilac is one of those plants people seem to either love or hate. Some are too polite to say much but a few openly offer up unasked opinions of how to kill them/ what to plant instead so be prepared. Personally I love my hedge. It is large, lovely, and old fashioned, which suits me. It blooms in the spring and turns yellow in the fall. In the summer it sits there big and dark green, full of little birds, providing all the privacy a person could want. I don't mind the twiggy deciduous look in the winter or the fact that you can see through it then.

Lilac makes a fine hedge, but not a formal or evergreen one. If you need a solid screen in the winter you should reconsider and plant something evergreen.

You can look up the mature size of your variety but I believe it will be around 8' tall by 8' wide. If this location in your yard does not have this sort of room, ie you were thinking of something maybe 3'wide and 5' tall my advice is to plant something else because lilac is vigorous and will eventually outgrow your best efforts (and you will prune off the blooms as well ). My hedge sits back almost 6' off the property line to allow it room to spread.
I mulch underneath, and pull weeds as needed.

The remaining upkeep and pruning varies, depending on the lilacs used, because lilacs will sucker. All of them. If the lilac is propagated by division and is on it's own roots the suckers that come up will be the same variety. You can leave most of these if you wish and the result will be a very full thick brushy hedge slightly, but surprisingly, not too much wider than the next type. If the lilacs are grafted- all the ones I have seen at Costco are grafted ones- then the suckers that come up will be from the rootstock and must all be removed a couple of times a year say spring and fall. This hedge will grow up a bit more refined, a different look but a nice one. (you can of course remove all suckers from hedge type one and get this look also). The common wisdom is to plant 3 1/2 to 5 feet apart. I would advise planting them the closer distance if you can afford it and they are on their own roots since they will look like a hedge sooner (the instant gratification factor), but if they are grafted I'd leave them enough room to grow into a nice shape eventually, planting maybe 5 feet apart (note check the ultimate size and vigor of your variety here and plant accordingly). Lilacs will grow 6 inches or so a year both up out.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2007 at 1:45AM
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mjsee(Zone 7b, NC)

There is a lilac hedge at Western Reserve Acadamy in Hudson, Ohio. (My sis went to HS there.) People come from miles around to see and smell it when it is in bloom. Several varieties of lilac...and, if memory's about 15-20 feet tall. And about 10 wide. Runs the entire length of one set of athletic fields. It's a thing of beauty--AND it keeps the athletic balls out of the street.

As everyone else has depends on what you want your hedge FOR.

The lilac hedge is I don't know if it's made of grafted plants or not. I doubt it.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2007 at 9:39AM
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