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Select a site with full sun and moist, well-drained soil.
Plant in spring or fall. Space plants 5 to 15 feet apart, depending on variety. Dig a hole only as deep as the root ball and 2 to 3 times as wide. If your soil is in very poor condition, amend the soil you’ve removed from the hole with a small amount of compost. Otherwise don’t amend it at all. Carefully remove the plant from the container and set it in the hole. Fill the hole half full with soil, then water it well to settle the soil and eliminate air pockets. Let the water drain, then fill the remainder of hole with soil and water thoroughly.
Apply a layer of compost under the plant each spring, followed by a 2-inch layer of mulch to retain moisture and control weeds. Water plants during the summer if rainfall is less than 1 inch per week. Prune lilacs immediately after flowering, removing dead and broken branches, then cutting back as necessary to maintain the desired size and shape. Overgrown lilacs can be pruned back by as much as one third.