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Planting Lilac Bushes

By Ellen Brown

Planting Lilac Bushes


I would like to plant some lilac bushes. When is the best time to do this?

Hardiness Zone: 3b

Jenny from Milwaukee, WI



In general, the best time for planting lilacs is in the fall or spring. In zones like ours, which can have extremely harsh winters, I personally think it's best to wait until the spring. That way you can be sure they have plenty of time to adjust before winter arrives. It also pays to watch your local nurseries. In my area, nurseries always seem to have the best selections of lilac shrubs in the spring, so one can only assume that spring would be the optimal time to plant them.


Here are some general planting tips:

  1. Plant them in full sun. Lilacs need at least 6 hours of sun per day for maximum performance. Inadequate sun is the number one reason they fail to bloom.

  2. Make sure the site has well drained soil.

  3. For bare root lilacs, soak them in a bucket of water while you prepare a hole 3-4 feet in diameter (wider is even better) and as deep as the height of the roots.

  4. Lilacs prefer slightly alkaline soil. Add a handful of lime as necessary to correct pH.

  5. The soil should consist of a 3:1 ratio of loamy soil to compost or well-rotted manure. If the lilac comes planted in a container, use as much of that soil as possible when refilling the hole. Adding in coarse sand or gravel will help improve drainage.

  6. Score the roots of container lilacs before planting to encourage spreading.

  7. Mulch newly planted lilacs with 3-4 inches of bark.

  8. The University of Wisconsin Extension Service has an extensive media archive including a VHS title called, "Master Gardener Training #6 "Woody Ornamentals." It includes information on selecting lilacs for Wisconsin gardeners. These videos are available to borrow for free (you pay mailing costs).

Good luck!

About The Author: Ellen Brown is our Green Living and Gardening Expert. Click here to ask Ellen a question! Ellen Brown is an environmental writer and photographer and the owner of Sustainable Media, an environmental media company that specializes in helping businesses and organizations promote eco-friendly products and services. Contact her on the web at



Planting Lilac Bushes

I can't remember when I planted mine, but it seems like it was in July because it was hot. I dug out smaller Lilacs and transplanted them in the front of my yard. Do keep them watered, especially during the dry spells. Mine are still growing, and I did this two years ago. Our zone is 4. Hope this helps. (07/07/2006)

By Torrie

Planting Lilac Bushes

I planted 5 lilacs trees in our yard, we are zone 7. I have kept them watered well and weekly. Now at two years old I am looking forward to possible blooms in the third year of their growing. I read to put lime around them lightly, so rather then possibly burn them with lime, I liquefied the lime and poured that on to the plants on their roots. Lilacs bring back such lovely childhood memories for me, that is why I planted some in our yard. I understand that they prefer lime in the soil that they are planted in and that flowers would be produced after the third year of planting.

Good luck with such a beautiful plant! (07/12/2006)


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