How to Propagate Lilac Bush
Lilacs have long been known and loved for their distinctive, sweet spring fragrance and beautiful pink, white, or purple spring flowers. They are fantastic to use for screening around fences and shrub borders. The best of all is that they are extremely easy to propagate.
If you are looking to add some shrubs to your landscape but money is an issue, consider taking some lilac root cuttings to grow your own lilac shrubs. They are fast growing, very hardy, and propagating them is almost fail proof.
Process Slide ShowClick thumbnail to view full-size
What You Need
- Pruning sheers or some other kind of garden cutting tool
- Shovel or hand trowel
- Gardening gloves
Taking the Cuttings
The best time to take suckers from a lilac is in the spring or fall (I have successfully done both). Look around the base of the lilac bush for the fresh, young shoots coming out of the ground. Try to use shoots that are no larger than one foot tall, because the larger the shoot, the more roots you need to take to be successful.
Remove the soil around the shoot until you can see the roots and cut the shoot away from the parent plant, using pruning shears or a large shovel. Make sure that you have a few inches of root attached to the new shoot. Plant three to four shoots together either in a one-quart pot or you plant them right in the ground wherever you want the new shrub to be. If you want, you can add a little rooting hormone to the roots, but this is not necessary. Plant the shoots at the same depth that they were planted while attached to the parent plant. Keep the new plant well watered until it becomes established.
I have done this twice and it really is extremely easy. At first, the new plants may not look like they are doing well, but that is just because all of the plants energy is going to the roots system. Once the roots get going again, your plant will take off. Remember that the more root you take with the shoot, the better healthier the plant will be.
Planting the New Lilac Bushes
Preparing the site for your new lilac bush correctly is well worth the added effort as your new bush will become an established, healthy plant much faster. To start, dig a hole about 12 inches deep and about 12 inches in diameter. Water hole well and add about three inches of composted manure, which can be purchased at any lawn and garden store for under $2.00 a bag. Mix the composted manure into the existing soil and fill the hole back up with dirt. Use a hand trowel to plant the cuttings in their new home.
The Tools I UseClick thumbnail to view full-size
What to Look for in Gardening Tools
When choosing gardening tools, the most important features are strength and durability. Tools made from reinforced stainless steel will resist corrosion and will be less likely to bend or break when working in heavy soils or thick plant roots.
Make sure your tools are full tanged or the handle make break off with use (that happened to my husband with a trowel he purchased and used one time). They should feel heavy in your hand and have a comfortable grip.
High quality tools may cost a little more up front, but are worth it in the end because they will last much longer and you'll enjoy using them so much more because you won't have to stop to bend them back into shape between digs!
This is the second spring since I transplanted this lilac bush. It is taking off and becoming tall and bushy!
Last fall I got a very tall cutting with very little root from a family member. I really didn't think it would live, but it made it through the winter and is sending up shoots. Lilacs really are fail proof!
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
What does a lilac shoot look like?
The shoots are the little twigs coming out of the ground around the bush. If you look at the base you will see the new branches coming out of the ground. It’s the main way many bushes and shrubs propagate themselves.
If you dig around the shoot and pull them out a little, you will see that they are still connected to the root system of the parent plant.Helpful 12
My lilac did not bloom this year. When is the best time to prune it?
There are lots of reasons a lilac won't bloom--including low light, late freezes, and age. Heavy pruning can cause the bush to stop blooming for several years. Lilacs bloom on old wood, so try to prune only lightly right after the blooms fade (or when they would have faded if you'd had any). In a year or two, you should start getting those wonderful flowers again.Helpful 13
I am ready too cut down my lilac bush because it is dry and dead. Towards the center, a little bush is growing. How can I save it?
Cut away all of the dead dry stuff and the center live plant should be just fine.Helpful 12
I took cuttings from an old lilac bush. There wasn't anything coming up from the ground. I cut the stem about an inch at the bottom pounded it just a little to stimulate. All I could do is throw it in water with miracle grow. I'm seeing new growth. I don't want to lose them, what should I do?
If you are seeing new growth, that is a good sign. I'd plant the cutting in good potting soil and leave it alone for a few weeks to let the roots develop. Maybe around six weeks from now, you should be ready to plant it in the ground.Helpful 6
I live at 9000 ft (Bailey CO). Should I try to propagate a lilac bush in the spring or the fall?
If you have really harsh winters I would take cuttings in the spring to give the new plant plenty of time to get established before winter hits.
You might also protect it the first winter.Helpful 6
© 2010 Sarah