I have a lilac in my front yard grden that sends up very annoying shoots all over my garden all season long. It is back breaking trying to cut them out. I am getting fed up. Is there anything I can do besides cutting this tree down? Thank you in advance for your response.
Have a great day.
Thank you for contacting the Toronto Master Gardeners with your inquiry.
I am sorry to hear about your problem with your lilac bush. Lilacs are known for what is called “sucker growth,” which is when the plant sprouts from the root system. Suckering is a form of asexual reproduction, also known as vegetative reproduction. The offspring created through vegetative reproduction are clones of the mother plant,
Some Lilac varieties are more prone to sucker growth than others. Suckers can emerge when a tree is water stressed or as a natural response to warmer weather and moisture. Over pruning can also stimulate a tree to produce suckers.
Unfortunately, suckers are hard to control, because the more you damage the roots by digging or cutting the suckers, the more the plant produces – it’s a stress response.
Unlike other pruning jobs, where a clean cut is desirable, sucker removal is best done by ripping the sucker from its attachment. Remove suckers as close as possible to the point of origin on the root, scraping away soil to reach the base if necessary. Tear, rather than cut away, the shoot so that the majority of dormant basal buds are removed, thus reducing the possibility of regrowth. In grassed areas where roots are surfacing, strip off the turf and raise the soil by 5-7.5cm before replacing the turf in late autumn or early spring.
In spring, it is not uncommon to see a cluster of new stems emerging from the base of the tree, or several feet away from the trunk. Most root systems are approximately three times the size of the tree canopy. Suckers can emerge anywhere along that root system.
Unfortunately, there is no easy way to remove suckers, however with diligent tearing and removal of the basal dormant buds you may be able to control the number of suckers produced.