Lilac Care

  1. Planting & Growing Lilac Bushes

    What is a lilac?

    A lilac (Family: Syringa) is a deciduous, flowering shrub. Native to Europe and Asia, lilac plants can be naturalized just about anywhere in the world that has the proper growing conditions.


    Planting Lilacs

    Lilac plants also need a good amount of moisture in the soil to thrive, but standing water may cause rot. The best thing to do when growing lilac is to mulch heavily near the base of the plant. This will allow the soil to maintain moisture and also provide shade for the root system. If the plant is grown in a container, spread out the roots and put the plant into the hole. Put the plant 2 or 3 inches deeper than the container, and put topsoil around the roots. Water the plant thoroughly, and place more topsoil around the plant. Lilac shrubs should be 5 to 15 feet apart, depending on the variety.

    Watering Lilacs

    Growing Lilacs

    Growing lilacs is a fun and easy activity for any gardener. Lilacs are relatively easy to care for, if the proper conditions are given. Most lilac plants require full sun, yet some will tolerate partial shade, at the expense of fewer and smaller blooms. Growing lilacs should be done in a location with a good amount of soil drainage. While they are drought tolerant, growing lilac plants do need a good deal of moisture in order to thrive properly. They should be watered regularly to ensure that the soil is moist. Growing lilac shrubs can be done in areas all over the world, as there are lilacs that can thrive in zones from two to ten.

    Caring for lilacs

    Caring for Lilacs

    The most important part of lilac care is watering them. Lilac bushes will need a fair amount of water during the hotter summer months, but not a whole lot. Once established, lilac bushes will survive with watering as infrequently as once a month. Lilac bushes will also grow better when given a light fertilizer in the early spring months. The best place for a lilac bush to be planted is in an area that has full direct sunlight. Another important aspect of growing lilacs is how and when to prune.  Click here to learn more about pruning lilacs.      

    Read more »
  2. Propagating Lilacs

    Propagating lilacs is an easy process, and there are a few different ways that one can go about it. It is generally about three years before lilacs are able to create blooms once they have been planted in a region. Most lilacs are purchased from garden supply stored, and are already grown for a few seasons. In these cases, it may take fewer years to see the lovely blooms.

    Propagating lilacs in a home garden can be a fun and rewarding experience.   A second 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 before this type of propagating lilacs can be attempted. 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 lilacs to work best.

    Propagating lilacs can also be done from seed, although this is an uncommon way. After the growing season, the seeds can be harvested from the dead flowers. This should be done once the flowers have dried out, but before they fall out of the seedpods. Propagating lilacs from seed takes time and patience. It may take up to five or six years for the first bloom to appear. This is one of the reasons that propagating lilacs from seed is not as common as other approaches.   Propagating lilacs from seed is most commonly left to horticulturalists and garden centers or nurseries. When propagating lilacs from seed, the blooms can be cross-pollinated manually, to create new and exciting hybrids. This will take many years to accomplish, but is well worth the wait for the gardener who is getting tired of the same routine year after year in the garden.

    Read more »
  3. Transplanting Lilac Bushes

    Transplanting lilac bushes is a fairly straightforward process. It is very similar to the act of transplanting most other bushes or shrubs. Transplanting lilac bushes should always be done in the autumn months. Transplanting lilac bushes in warmer, windier weather will increase the likelihood of the root system drying out. The first step is to dig around the plant and fairly deep. The underground root structure of a lilac bush can sometimes get pretty large, and it is important not to damage any roots if possible.

    Once the plant is up, remove much of the soil from around the roots. This can be done using water or lightly shaking the roots.

    Once the soil has been removed, select a new location for the plant. For best results when transplanting lilac bushes, the new hole should be dug before removing the plant from its current location. This will limit the amount of time that the plant spends out of the ground. Ensure that the new location will satisfy the needs of the plant. There should be a good amount of direct sunlight each day, a minimum of six hours, and also good drainage of water.   The hole should be large enough to house the entire root system freely, and not in a large clump.

    Spread out the roots and add soil a little bit at a time and press firmly to remove any air pockets and reinforce the support for the plant. The crown of the lilac bush, where the roots come together, should be just an inch or so beneath the surface of the soil, as the roots need air to grow. Now, the plant must be watered gently, to ensure the roots are in contact with the soil.

    When transplanting lilac bushes, there is no such thing as being too careful to the roots. Damaging roots while transplanting lilac bushes can severely decrease the chance of survival.   Transplanting lilac bushes is often done for a variety of reasons. One reason is that the plant may not be thriving in its current location. This may be for several reasons, including not enough sun or soil drainage. Another reason for transplanting lilac bushes is to create a better screen for wind or unattractive sights.

    Read more »
  4. Pruning Lilacs

    Lilacs are low-maintenance, easy to grow, and are very hardy plants. They offer good summer shade once they have reached their mature height, and do provide privacy from the neighbors! The average size for a lilac bush is approximately 10 feet (3.04 m). Tackling the job of trimming, shaping, and pruning lilacs is easiest when you know how. Pruning should be done immediately after the flowers have died off. With a little pruning knowledge and how to replenish the old wood with new shoots, the shrubs can last a lifetime.

    Plan to prune your lilacs at the end of the bloom season, which occurs in early summer. Pruning too late will result in a reduction of blooms in the next season. Pruning too early will lessen the amount of time you have to enjoy your bush or lilac treeduring the season.

    Pruning Lilacs

    You will need pruning shears, a small saw and gardening gloves.

    Decide on the lilac bush height: Prune fewer old stems at the top of the bush if you prefer tall bushes. Since the older stems produce the flowers, trimming too many of them will cause the lilac bush to have less flowers.
    Clip off the dead flowers: Spent lilac flowers are primarily located at the top of the bush.
    Trim shoots near the ground: Keeping the new shoots trimmed off ensures the bush will not become overgrown and cumbersome.
    Reach into the bush and clip a few larger stems: This will allow more sunlight to reach the inside stems.
    Prune dead or unhealthy-looking stems: These are stems that are broken, withered and often hanging haphazardly on the tree.
    Trim branches: Focus on cutting the branches that stick the farthest out from the bush and any branches that are twisted around each other. Use the saw to cut the branches if your lilac plant is older and the branches are thick.


    It is best to mulch two to four inches to maintain soil moisture and to keep weeds down. Add compost and humus that is worked into the soil to provide added nutrients and retain water during dry spells. Use a general-purpose fertilizer in early spring to promote blooming. Do not give too much nitrogen since this will result in too few blooms. After the lilac has stopped blooming, add some more general-purpose fertilizer. Lilacs do not like wet soil over a prolonged period of time. The roots run very deep, so if there is an extended drought period, water infrequently but thoroughly. They bloom best in full sun and prefer organically rich, slightly acidic soils with good drainage. With its lovely spring accent, it makes a wonderful screen or border specimen! Or try some of the new dwarf lilacs such as the Dwarf Korean Lilac.

    Read more »