Agressively spreading lilac

bananastandJuly 1, 2013

I never thought lilac was a poorly behaved shrub, but I'm finding that mine is getting a bit crazy. When we bought the house in 2007, there was a healthy lilac bush next to the front steps. It used to be surrounded by grass that got mowed. However that was in a difficult steep area and I ultimately decided to landscape that whole side of the house with native plants and mulch.

What I have noticed is that anywhere there is no plant cover to compete, the lilac sends up new branches and stems like crazy. I mean huge, bushy new growth every year. I feel like my lilac is trying to take over that whole area!

Is this common or is mine acting weirdly? There is only one thing I can think of that might have happened.... there used to be a honeysuckle growing right in with the lilac. I pulled it out the best I could and killed the remaining with roundup, but I remember when doing that it almost seemed like the honeysuckle was grafted onto the lilac. I was able to kill it, but I'm just wondering if some of the honeysuckle's aggressiveness was bred into my lilac and it's a crazy cross of some kind?

I know that makes no sense.... but it's all I got! So tell me, is this normal behavior for a lilac? Anything I can do other than hack it back each year to keep it in check?

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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Yes, it is reasonably normal behavior for a lilac.

Your choices are basically:
A) kill the entire lilac
B) hack it back regularly when it invades place you don't want it
C) let the lilac expand until it hits lawn again.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 2:59PM
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gardengal48

Lilacs are what are commonly referred to as "caning shrubs" or those that produce new stem growth (canes) from the root crown and even from major lateral roots. No single trunk (although they can trained in this manner). The behavior of your lilac is entirely normal.

Other shrubs which have this same growth habit include forsythia, weigela, beautyberry (kolkwitzia), spiraea, shrub dogwoods, Japanese kerria and hydrangeas. The spread with which they expand is variable. IME, lilac is one of the more aggressive spreaders.

    Bookmark   July 3, 2013 at 7:39PM
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