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How to Transplant Lilacs

LeAnn R. Ralph

Lilacs are exceptionally easy to transplant. I have transplanted many lilac bushes from the original bushes that my grandmother planted on our Wisconsin dairy farm 70 years ago. Early spring until late spring, from when the lilacs develop buds until they actually have small leaves, is the best time to transplant. If you have lilacs growing in your yard -- or if you have a friend who has lilacs -- and you would like to start some new lilac bushes, here's how:

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  1. Decide where you want to transplant the lilac bush or bushes.
  2. Dig a hole that's about one foot deep by one foot across for each bush you want to transplant.
  3. Dig up a lilac shoot from somewhere around the main bush. Lilacs spread by runners. Use a shovel to dig up the shoot because you are going to have to cut off the runner, and a trowel will not be tough enough to do the job. Choose a shoot that is approximately 8 to 14 inches high. Smaller shoots that are only a few inches high will take a very long time to mature to the point where they will have flowers. Larger shoots seem to take a longer time to recover from being transplanted before they start to grow well. Do not worry about how much root you are getting with the shoot. You will not be able to take all of the root since the roots are all connected.
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  5. Put the shoot in a bucket of water if you are not going to transplant it immediately so that it will not dry out. If you are going to transplant it immediately, carry it to the hole you have dug and set it in the hole.
  6. Center the shoot in the hole and fill in with dirt. Leave a three or four inch depression around the shoot so you will have a reservoir for water.
  7. Water your new lilac bush with a couple of gallons of water. Continue watering the bush several times a week for the rest of the season to ensure that it has a good start. From what I have observed, lilacs seem to be quite drought resistant, although like any plant, tree or bush, they will grow more if they have plenty of water. In subsequent years, water your new lilac bush from time to time, especially if rain is in short supply.
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Note: I have noticed that it takes 4 or 5 years for the new bushes to grow enough to start producing flowers, although bushes that I transplanted from small shoots only a few inches high are taking longer than that.

About The Author: LeAnn R. Ralph is the author of the books "Christmas in Dairyland (True Stories from a Wisconsin Farm" (trade paperback 2003); "Give Me a Home Where the Dairy Cows Roam" (trade paperback 2004); "Preserve Your Family History (A Step-by-Step Guide for Interviewing Family Members and Writing Oral Histories" (e-book 2004). http://ruralroute2.com

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By Jlynn (Guest Post)
June 7, 20050 found this helpful

I was so excited to find your site through google search (transplant lilac.) My day has our lilac bush from several decades gone by. I've been wanting to start several bushes at my home. Now I know how. Thank you for helping me transplant many lovely memories!!

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By S (Guest Post)
June 22, 20050 found this helpful

My Lilac was dying where it was curently located I felt that i had no choice but to transplant it. What can I do to help it survive.

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It is Late June and I transplanted it in the cool evening. Is there anything that can be done or is it a hopeless cause?

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April 20, 20060 found this helpful

I have two bushes that were originally from my family home in NY. After at least 15 years, even though they bloom nicely every year, they haven't gotten much bigger around. Should I transplant them or take suckers and try to transplant them. It's April now and they have flowers so I don't know when to do it. I would like to divide them somehow and plant some on my son's new property too. Here's the pictures of the flowers cut from the bushes. They're huge, but the shrub part of the plant is not that big. Another lilac I have is called Japanese Lilac Tree, it's huge and I'd like to try to take cuttings of it too, but have no idea. Hope someone can help me.

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Bronze Feedback Medal for All Time! 153 Feedbacks
April 20, 20070 found this helpful

Is it a different variety? Not all varieties get tall, are the same color, or even exactly the same form. Not all varieties sucker as much as the old fashioned one.

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April 20, 20070 found this helpful

Does anyone know if this would work for mock orange bushes and bridal wreath? Both are on my grandparents home place and I would like to bring to my home to remember them by.

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I am in Wisconsin (Zone 3) Thanks, Robbyn

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By nuby74 (Guest Post)
October 28, 20070 found this helpful

My question is my grandmother sent my wife an I a lilac bush three years ago. We live in Atlanta and the thing is that it has not grown at all.It's about 2 ft tall. What is the problem with it and also when can I transplant it to our backyard? Please reply nuby74 AT comcast.net thank you

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By Beverly McPeek (Guest Post)
April 4, 20080 found this helpful

My lilac is 25 years old and needs to be transplanted now (April 4th in Alaska) due to a new extension of porch which will cover it. How to save and what to save, we can't dig too deep yet due to ice.

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By Cori (Guest Post)
April 30, 20080 found this helpful

What is the best time of year to transplant a lilac?

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By Terri Lynn (Guest Post)
May 21, 20080 found this helpful

A friend of ours has several lilac trees and I told him that I have always wanted one and he said that I could one of his, when is the best time of year to transplant a Lilac tree? I live in Eastern part of WV, I think we live in zone 6.

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Gold Post Medal for All Time! 523 Posts
February 4, 20180 found this helpful

I have not had a great deal of success with transplanting Lilacs. The reason I haven't, I think, is found in your tip. I believe I have been waiting too late in the season. You have given us a near exact time as to when to do the transplanting.

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Thank you

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