Rooting Lilac Bushes

Can you start a lilac from clippings?

Hardiness Zone: 5a

By Shar from Chicago, IL

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I never have but I would sure try! Take a piece that isn't so woody and snip it, cut all the leaves off, dip it in rooting hormone and some sandy dirt, and try it. Heck do 5 or 6 at a time cause maybe you'll get 1 out of 6. Happy gardening.

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By Ellen Brown


I saw a show on TV where they spoke about rooting lilac branch cuttings. I didn't catch the whole issue, they claimed you could root from a lilac bush by soaking in water.

Is this possible and how do I do it?

Hardiness Zone: 5b

Sandra from NH



Lilacs can be rooted this way. I've never tried it, but the basic premise is simple. Select a few shoots (maybe 12 inches long and the diameter of a pencil), dip the cut ends in some rooting hormone, place them in a pail of water, and wait for roots. It may be a whole lot easier and faster just to transplant some suckers. Use a shovel to dig up and slice the sucker's roots away from the mother plant, trying to preserve as much of the root as possible. Replant in the prepared location of choice, water well, and voila! New lilacs.

A third way is to root cuttings in soil. Take 6-8 inch softwood cuttings from this year's new growth. Remove the lowest leaves (leave 2-3 pairs on top), dip the cut end in some rooting hormone, and plant them in potting soil. Moisten the soil and cover them with plastic to create some humidity. You should expect to see some roots in 6 to 8 weeks.

Good luck!


About The Author: 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

Rooting Lilac Bushes

When I rooted lilacs I just took cuttings off my mom's lilac bush. Then I put them in tubs of water until they got roots. They did very well and I planted them and they are beautiful bushes now. (05/29/2008)

By Mythi

Rooting Lilac Bushes

One year, my neighbour decided to cut down a bunch of his lilac trees. He leaned them up against the fence around our yard until such time he was to dispose of them. In less than two weeks, the cut lilac branches had rooted. Today I have a number of beautiful lilac trees that are as high as the house. I also moved some of the "sucker" lilac roots to another location, watered and within two days, they looked like they had been there forever. (05/30/2008)

By Karyn01

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Does anyone know how one can begin lilac bushes without purchasing from a nursery? We have several wild lilac bushes near our house and my wife wants to put some in our yard but I do not know if we can " root" them or how to "root" a branch from the wild lilac bushes.


Rooting Lilac Bushes

I have taken a small amount from the youngest bush trying not to cut to much from the remaining root, then kept it in a bucket of water just so the very bottom of the root base is covered, this can be tricky but I have done so on a couple of occasions with good results, once you see a new root system starting, plant in the new space that you want and add a plant food, or something in the lines of a bone meal, (I'm writing from Ontario so you may have different products).

Rooting Lilac Bushes

We have wild lilacs near our home too and we have always just dug up the sprouts root and all to transplant. They have always lived and thrived beautifully! Also, we have done so at different times of the year with no ill effects, just water them generously.

Sherrie E.

Rooting Lilac Bushes

You should be able to dig up the lilac and transplant it. Do not let the roots dry out. If not still covered with dirt, wrap them in wet paper towels. Dig a hole twice as large and deep as the root system. fill in the dirt as needed. You should place your bush in the ground no deeper than one inch above the top root. Water well. Best try to do this on a cool day or early evening, so the lilac suffers the least stress. Lilacs can be moved anytime after they bloom. Remember also that they bloom on newer wood. After your bush is established - a year or so, it is desirable to cut back the bush by 1/3 each year, to allow for new growth.

Good luck.

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Q: I am disabled and on medicaid and hence have no dollars to spend on my garden. Many of my neighbours have lilac bushes and I'm sure a request for some part of their bushes for rooting or transplanting would meet with generous approval.

What part(s) of these bushes should I ask for? How do I go about rooting them? Is it too late for this year Also, there are several mature but small (about 3 feet high) bushes that I may be able to transplant. Again, is this the wrong time of year?

If I can transplant these bushes - beyond digging them up - what immediate care will they need?

Thank you so very much for any help you can give me!
Suz Long Island NY

A: Suz,

The usual way to root lilac bushes is to dig up suckers near the base of the plant and transplant them. To minimize stress on the transplants, the best time to do this is in the fall after the leaves drop, but before it freezes. Or if you prefer, you can also do this in the spring before the buds start unfolding. In an area receiving full sun, dig a hole at least twice as wide and deep as the roots. Lilacs prefer well-drained, not-too-rich soil that has a neutral or slightly alkaline pH. As you fill in the hole with dirt, add in a small amount of compost. You can also add some compost to areas around the hole to encourage the roots to spread out as they grow. Make sure you water the transplants thoroughly and add mulch around the base of the plants. After planting, the transplants shouldn't need any special care other than routine watering. Expect transplants to take at least three years to get a decent start.

Ellen (05/28/2006)

More Answers:

lilacs won't bloom

Lilacs are known to take four years to bloom. If you plant a "new" bush, you can expect them to bloom the fourth season, not likely before that. Be patient! They're worth it! (05/31/2006)

By Leigh Ann

Rooting Lilac Bushes

To propagate lilacs from a cut branch is very difficult and requires added nutrients to the water. It is very difficult to achieve but it can be done.
Another way of propagating lilacs is to grow them from small shoots taken from an existing plant. Shoots that are one or two feet tall should be selected for best results. The plant should be dug up deeply, to ensure that as much of the root system is removed as possible. The root system should be strong and full. The main root should be attached to the mother plant, and clippers should be used to cut the selected shoot from the main bush. The new shoot can then be planted in the desired location. This should be done in a time of colder weather, to increase the survival rate. Three to five shoots should be planted in each area for this type of propagating to work best.

It is generally about three years before lilacs are able to create blooms once they have been planted.

I wish you luck! My parents had their entire yard enclosed in lilac bushes and it smelled heavenly and looked gorgeous!


By michellejones3

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