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How to Propagate Lilac Bush

Updated on April 05, 2016

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, and best of all, 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 Show

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Find a healthy parent lilac bush with new shootsCarefully dig around new shoots to expose roots and remove shoots Check to make sure that cuttings have at least 1 inch of root.Plant new shoots in pots or at new site.This is a new lilac bush I planted last fall.  Now, in early spring it already looks like a little bush!
Find a healthy parent lilac bush with new shoots
Find a healthy parent lilac bush with new shoots
Carefully dig around new shoots to expose roots and remove shoots
Carefully dig around new shoots to expose roots and remove shoots
Check to make sure that cuttings have at least 1 inch of root.
Check to make sure that cuttings have at least 1 inch of root.
Plant new shoots in pots or at new site.
Plant new shoots in pots or at new site.
This is a new lilac bush I planted last fall.  Now, in early spring it already looks like a little bush!
This is a new lilac bush I planted last fall. Now, in early spring it already looks like a little bush!

What You Need

  • Pruning sheers or some other kind of garden cutting tool
  • Shovel or hand trowel.  
  • Water
  • 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 1 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 3-4 shoots together either in a 1-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 3 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.

**UPDATE**

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!

© 2010 Sarah

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    • Ultimate Hubber profile image

      Ultimate Hubber 6 years ago

      Another useful hub. Would love to read more gardening hubs.

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 4 years ago from United States

      Have never tried this but am going to now--although it's not the best time of year--to start a few plants for a friend with a new house. Thanks for the information! Very useful.

    • profile image

      Carol 2 years ago

      Lilacs are not always all that easy to propagate. There is a high failure rate no matter which method you use - collected seeds, stem cuttings, or root cuttings.

    • modern housewife profile image
      Author

      Sarah 2 years ago from Indiana

      Sounds like you have had some trouble yourself. I know how frustrating that can be. I have taken cuttings from different lilacs 7 or 8 times and have never had problem. Perhaps you took the cutting during the wrong time of year ( early spring or late fall is best, although I have successfully taken cuttings in august) or didn't get enough root on the cutting (for best results you want several inches). Once you have taken the cuttings you need to keep them very well watered until they get re-established. other than that I really can't think of a reason the cutting wouldn't have made it. Lilacs fare well in partial shade or sun and are really hardy plants. Luckily, taking cuttings from lilacs doesn't hurt the plant and is completely free so you could keep trying until you get it figured out if you wanted to. Thanks for reading.

    • profile image

      Tracy 21 months ago

      Since it's the first week of June, & I'm in East TN, would this be a bad time to propagate lilacs? We have a massive amount in our yard at our old house we're selling. I'd hate to miss the opportunity to get some for free to place at our new home. Thanks!

    • modern housewife profile image
      Author

      Sarah 21 months ago from Indiana

      Tracy, go for it. If you had the option to wait until fall that would be ideal, but you can absolutely transplant now. Take extra cuttings in case you do lose a few.

      As long as your starts have plenty of roots and you keep them well watered, they should be fine.

      Good luck and congrats!

    • The Dirt Farmer profile image

      Jill Spencer 21 months ago from United States

      Am going to try this with a little Miss Kim. Thanks for the great tips. Wish me luck!

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 21 months ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      Good to know. I just love lilacs. My friend has one bush,maybe she will let me try this in the fall. Thanks!

    • Ben Zoltak profile image

      Ben Zoltak 21 months ago from Lake Mills, Jefferson County, Wisconsin USA

      Great! I've always wondered about this! What about from the seeds?

      Thanks!

      Ben

    • modern housewife profile image
      Author

      Sarah 21 months ago from Indiana

      I have never propagated a lilac from seed. I suppose it must be possible, but taking cuttings is so simple and reliable that I have never thought to try it.

    • profile image

      Tracy 21 months ago

      Thanks so much for your help! I'll give it a whirl & do my best! :-)

    • profile image

      Constance Zollo 18 months ago

      Ive always brought my cuttings inside to start roots. I place them in a big vase and I change the water every few days. The clippings begin to root in 2-3 weeks. Makes for a beautiful vase. I occasionally add a flower or two to brighten up the vase.

    • profile image

      Debi 7 weeks ago

      I like the article, thanks. However, I am looking at the photo at the bottom of your article listed as "update" and, maybe I am mistaken, but those are peonies spouting up, not lilacs.

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