Episode 6: Why Don't Lilacs Thrive In The South?

About This Episode

On this episode of Ask Grumpy, Steve Bender, also known as The Grumpy Gardener, and shares wise advice for lilac lovers. Plus, what you really need to know about planting lilies in your garden.

Question: I loved lilacs when I lived in the North, but never see them here in the South. Why not?

Grumpy Gardener Answer: Because they just don't do that great here in the South. A lilac is wonderful, it's probably everybody's favorite shrub up in the North. They have beautiful flowers and they're very fragrant, and they're very good for cutting. But the thing about lilacs is they like to grow in places that have long, cold winters, exactly the opposite conditions that we have down here. And if they don't get several months of really cold temperatures, the flower buds just don't open. And lilac without flowers is not worth growing. So that's why generally you don't see very many of them here.

There are a few lilacs that take short winters and mild temperatures during the winter.

  1. One of the best is called Lavender Lady. You want to know how it got that name? It has lavender flowers.

  2. There's another one that's called Miss Kim, and that one also has kind of purple-y, flowers. But what's nice about this one is if you have a small space, Miss Kim only gets to be about four to five feet tall and you don't have to prune it or anything. And that will reliably bloom down in the South.

  3. The third type is a new hybrid that they came out with, very clever on the marketing, they call them Bloomerang, which come In several different colors. They come in lavender, they come in purple, and I think they even come in white. And they're also kind of a compact shrub like Miss Kim, so they're not going to get in the way and grow all over your windows and everything. So it's a nice plant. These are all available in garden centers.

So if you can't grow the old-fashioned lilacs because our winters are just too short and warm, then you can try these, and they'll do good for you.

Tip Of The Week

All About The Lily

The most beautiful bulbs that you can add to your garden is the lily. I'm not talking about daylilies, which are the ones that open for one day and then close. True lilies are plants that basically have a single stem that comes up from the ground, leaves on the stem, and then it will open up a cluster of these huge trumpet shaped flowers, and most of the varieties are very fragrant. And they have all different colors. They have white, and yellow, and pink, and red, and orange, and some are spotted. They get to be rather statuesque plants. It's easy to plant a lily and after a few years have one that's a stalk that's standing five feet tall, that has 10 different blooms on it. The blooms are also great for use as a cut flower.

It's a nice plant to have in your garden, it generally blooms around June, but you can get later blooming ones to extend the bloom season. But if you're gonna plant lilies, there's just a few things they absolutely have to have:

  • The first thing is you want to plant them in a sunny spot. They're not going to bloom in the shade. So, that's number one.

  • Number two, they're really fussy about drainage. They want to have a loose, fertile soil that maybe has a lot of organic matter mixed in, because while they like the soil to be moist, if the soil has a lot of clay in it, or just stays wet for any length of time, the bulbs will rot.

When you go out to a garden center and buy the bulbs for lilies, sometimes you can buy them and they're in a bag, and you go and take them out of the bag. A lot of times you'll see them and they'll already be potted, so that you can just transplant them to your garden without disturbing the roots. If you are getting bulbs that are shipped to you without any soil, you need to plant those as soon as possible. You can't just put them on a shelf for two to three weeks, or whenever it's convenient, and then put them in the ground, because lily bulbs will dry out if you do that. And once they dry out, they won't grow. So when you buy the lily bulbs in the bags, plant the lily bulbs either that day, or the next day, don't wait.

About Ask Grumpy

Introducing Ask Grumpy, a new podcast featuring Steve Bender, also known as Southern Living’s Grumpy Gardener. For more than 20 years, Grumpy has been sharing advice on what to grow, when to plant, and how to manage just about anything in your garden. Tune in for short episodes every Wednesday and Saturday as Grumpy answers reader questions, solves seasonal conundrums, and provides need-to-know advice for gardeners with his very Grumpy sense of humor. Be sure to follow Ask Grumpy on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen so you don't miss an episode.

Editor’s Note: Please be mindful that this transcript does not go through our standard editorial process and may contain inaccuracies and grammatical errors.

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