When selecting lilacs to plant, seek disease-resistant varieties

Backyard Q&A

May 12, 2002|By Dennis Bishop | By Dennis Bishop,Special to the Sun

Q. We would like to plant a lilac in our yard, but do not know which variety to select. Do you have any suggestions?

A. Because there are so many different lilacs it is difficult to recommend a particular variety. However, here is some information that might help. The common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is the tall leggy plant that most people associate with the term lilac. There are many different cultivars available that produce large white to pink to purple flowers on 8- to 15-foot plants. They are very prone to disease and insect problems, so be sure to choose a disease-resistant cultivar. If you were looking for a more compact and dense plant, I would consider the Meyer lilac (Syringa meyeri). It produces smaller violet-purple flowers and is not as disease prone as the common lilac. Also worth considering are the late lilac (Syringa villosa), which has beautiful flowers, but is not as fragrant as the common lilac, and the Manchurian lilac (Syringa patula), which is similar to Meyer lilac.

Q. Last year I purchased some New Guinea impatiens and planted them in pots at our rear door. They looked healthy all summer, but did not produce many flowers. Do you know what would cause this?

A. There are several things that could cause this. My first guess is that they did not get enough sun. While the standard impatiens will grow and bloom well in full or partial shade, the New Guinea impatiens must have more sun. This can be difficult because the sun causes them to dry out, but like standard impatiens, they need lots of water. The key is to plant them in a sunny location and to keep them well watered.

The other factor that could cause low flower production is over fertilization. Excess nitrogen causes some plants to produce an abundance of foliage but very few flowers.


1. Use slow-release fertilizers for your plantings. They are generally better for the long-term health of plants.

2. Young seedlings have very few roots and can dry out even when the soil seems moist. Keep them watered regularly.

3. It is time to prune azaleas and many other spring blooming shrubs. They should be pruned right after flowering is complete.

Dennis Bishop is an urban horticulture educator for the Baltimore office of the Maryland Cooperative Extension Services. If you have a gardening or pest problem, you can call the Home and Garden Information Center hot line (Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 1-p.m.) at 800-342-2507. You can also e-mail questions, order publications and diagnose plant problems by visiting the Web site, www.agnr.umd.edu / users / hgic.

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