Common lilacs are an old favourite, but grow 8 to 20 feet high, making them unsuitable for small landscapes. Several small varieties stand under 10 feet high, allowing gardeners with small yards to enjoy these fragrant plants. Space dwarf lilacs at least three to four feet apart to allow for good air circulation, which minimises diseases, such as powdery mildew.
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Try dwarf Korean lilac (Syringa palibiniana). This plant rarely grows more than 4 feet high and produces pink-lilac flowers one to two weeks later than common lilacs. Meyer lilacs (Syringa meyeri) grow 4 feet high and bloom prolifically in late May or June, producing violet purple flowers that cover the entire plant. Although not technically a dwarf or compact lilac, late lilacs (Syringa villosa) bloom in June and grow 6 to 10 feet high. They are usually smaller than common lilacs.
Compact or dwarf lilacs are suitable as foundation plantings or along fences and in mixed beds. Combine several varieties to extend the blooming season. Choose varieties with varying colours and fragrances, as well. For example, Korean lilac has a spicy fragrance very different from the sweet, heady fragrance of common lilac.
Plant dwarf lilac bushes in full sun in early spring. Amend the entire planting area with compost or manure to improve drainage and dig the hole wide enough to accommodate the roots. Plant lilacs at the same depth they stood at the nursery or 1 to 2 inches deeper. Planting lilacs too deeply may cause them to rot or delay blooms. Do not add fertiliser to the planting hole or fertilise the lilacs during the first year.
Dwarf lilacs need evenly moist soil during the first year as they become established, but prefer somewhat dry conditions once established. Fertilise them in early spring with 1/2 cup of 5-10-10 fertiliser per plant. Do not use high-nitrogen fertilisers, which reduce blooming. Lilacs take a long time to bloom and may not produce flowers for the first five to seven years. Prune lilacs after flowering to remove dead and diseased branches, as well as old, unproductive wood.
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