It’s four weeks until the Lilac Festival; How close are the lilacs to blooming?

How close are the lilacs to blooming in Highland Park?

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Friday marks four weeks from the Rochester Lilac Festival, which is scheduled to begin on May 10. With that said, we took a peak at the growing bushes to see how they would fare come festival time.

Recently, we have had a lot of rain here in Rochester. Since the beginning of April we have had a total just shy of three inches with more in the forecast through the next 10 days alone. This is great news for the lilacs as this rain will be beneficial, especially with the lack of snow cover we had this winter.

We spoke to the Horticulture Team Leader from the Cornell Cooperative Extension Monroe County, Marci Muller and she said, “The lack of water is probably the biggest issue. Right now it seems like we’ve got some moisture but we were very dry going into the fall and with no snow that could create an issue.”

In the fall of 2023, we picked up only 5.69 inches of precipitation, which was about 3.5 inches below normal. As far as snow, we only picked up 52.5 inches of snow which is about half of what we usually see.

Even with that, the rain so far in April, and what is expected to fall through the next 10 days alone, should help the lilacs and keep them in full bloom through the festival. What about the warmth we have had?

We have had a very mild stretch of weather really starting since the beginning of winter. We have had the record warmest winter on record and that mild weather has made its way through most of March and so far in early April.

With that, we have seen plenty of plants beginning to sprout and grow so does that mean the lilacs will bloom before the festival? That is not expected as of right now, and the bigger fear going forward will be the threat of frost that could damage the flowers.

Marci added, “We have had some warm weather really since February, and if it’s extended long enough that could encourage some of those early flowering plants to bloom. Last year, I have a magnolia tree at my house, and it started to push and then we had some several frosts and most of my flowers got killed off by that.”

Marci also said the older established plants should be fine as they can handle the changes. To build off that, it’s April here in Rochester and we know that cooler temperatures are possible and colder shots of air will likely occur from now until the festivals beginning. But even with that, the lilacs should be just find come Friday, May 10.

The free festival runs for 10 days in a row, through Sunday, May 19. It runs from 10:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. each day. The festival typically draws over half a million people and features the largest collection of lilacs in the northeast. You can learn more and see this year’s music lineup here.