How to propagate lilac tree

easy Rooting Lilacs from cuttings

Rooting Lilacs from cuttings is an easy way to propagate this sweet smelling Spring favorite. Taking cuttings is an age old method of getting more plants from established ones to pass on or keep to expand your own garden.

Rooting lilacs from cuttings is a great way to get more of these beautiful bushes. Choose the lilac you wish to propagate. Take a few cuttings just after flowering. Dip in rooting hormone and plant in pots. Cover for humidity and wait. Read on to see how it is done, photo step by step.

Does your parents, grandparents, or friend have a Lilac you would love to grow in your garden? You can replicate it by taking cuttings from it to root and grow on. This works great too if you are moving and can’t take your favorite Lilac with you.

a faster way!

Start Lilacs from Suckers

Yes, starting lilacs from suckers is much faster and easier than cuttings. Grab a shovel and start digging for propagating Lilacs much quicker!

May is typically when my neighborhood is filled with the scent of Lilacs.  You know Spring has arrived in White Pines when everywhere you walk smells so sweet.

It is one of my favorite things about living here.   The lilacs filling the yards and gardens in my neighborhood are all mostly heirloom varieties planted back in the 1940’s.

White Pines was established for the workers of the old lumber mill. Highly fragrant and tough as nails, even the abandoned lilacs are performing with no irrigating or tending.

Tough, reliable plants are the best foundation for any easy-care garden. 

Related: Garden by Zones?

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking a link I may make a small commission at no cost to you.

Bypass Pruners
Rooting Helpers
Cloning Gel
Garden Safe Take Root (some of I have used in the past and did fine with)
Old wine crate or DIY WOOD CRATE
Peat Moss (I have now switched to Rice Hulls in place of peat moss) You can find it at most feed stores as well as this link on Amazon.

10 Gal. Fish Tank (I found mine at Wal-Mart)

Propagation Box for Lilac cuttings

First I prepare my propagation box.

I fill it with my own DIY Potting Soil mix which you can read about here. You can use regular potting soil purchased in bags. It is not recommended to use potting soil that has added fertilizers.

When & How to Take Lilac Cuttings

Choose new growth right after the Lilacs are finished blooming. Bloom time varies by your growing season.  For me, the Lilacs bloom in May so they are done in early June.

Cut the tip of the branch about 8 to 12 inches long.

This method with the crate is for starting a ton of cuttings at once. You can do something similar in pots. (For my latest method that works on a windowsill check read all about it in, ROOTING ROSES, it will work for the lilacs too!)

The crate has slats on the bottom with wide gaps for great drainage. This one is sitting on the gravel floor of my greenhouse. It gets great indirect light.

I have built a crate in this post so you can easily replicate one yourself. It is useful for so many things!

I fill the crate nearly full of potting soil.

Cover for Humidity

To maintain good humidity I use a clear cover or translucent cover that fits the crate.

These fish tanks come in handy in creating a mini greenhouse effect while being tall enough for longer cuttings. They last for years if proper care is taken with them. You don’t need to have it in a greenhouse, just be sure if yours is outside it is in a bright yet shaded area.

I have also used the clear plastic tubs from Wal-Mart, the Sterlite brand.

Take plenty of cuttings, there is about a 50/50 success rate so the more you try to start the more chance of success.

How to Prepare Lilac Cuttings

I haul them all to my potting bench and begin.
If the cutting is 8 inches I leave it that long, if it is 12 inches I cut it in half.

Strip most of the leaves from the cutting.
Coat the ends into the rooting medium or cloning Gel.  I like the Olivias but have switched to this one, Hormex 8. It is a bit stronger for semi-hardwood cuttings.

I use a small paintbrush to cover the length of the stem that will be under the growing medium.

note: you see I have put the stem into the bottle of the gel, this is NOT recommended. It can cause contamination. Just use the paintbrush to put it on your cutting.

Below you can see nodes on the stem, that is where roots begin and you want a good portion of nodes below the soil line.  You want to try and get at least 3 nodes under the soil line.

You may have noted some of these are also rose cuttings.  I like to fill up my box when I am doing cuttings.

Once they are all dipped in the cloning gel or powder sink them down into the potting soil mixture.  First, use a dauber (a pencil works well) to create a hole to slide the cuttings down into the soil without removing the cloning gel.  

I place them far enough apart they do not touch each other and away from the edges so they won’t touch the cover.

Some like to remove more of the leaves, as they are where fungus can grow more easily. I left them on so you could see them better in the photos.

After placing the cuttings in the box or crate I carefully place the cover over them.

Note there is s space around the fish tank where potting soil shows.  That is how to water without lifting the tank. You want to keep the soil moist but not too wet.  You shouldn’t need to water often. The tank cover will keep the soil moist for long periods of time.  

Put something under the tank edge to prop it up half an inch or so for airflow. I use a small flat stone, nothing fancy. 

If using a clear plastic tote you can drill a few holes in it. If your cuttings are not very long this type of humidity dome works well too.

Just FYI, I have started a YouTube channel for my DIY posts, I have a few propagation tricks for you there, you can click here to subscribe!

How long for Lilacs to Root?

You should have roots in one to two months.   You can leave newly rooted cuttings in place to develop further or you can plant them up into individual pots to grow on. I let mine grow in pots until firmly established and hardy enough to take the rigors of garden life. 


How long before Lilac cuttings will bloom?

Lilacs can take three years or more to bloom from cuttings.  Want faster bloom then visit How to Propagate Lilacs from Suckers and get a larger plant faster!

Before you know it you will be picking beautiful bouquets like this one. 

And create heavenly scented displays for your home.

Need tips and tricks for growing and caring for your lilacs, How to Grow Lilacs.

Happy Gardening. 

FAQs about Propagating Lilacs

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You can Propagate Lilacs from Suckers

Lilac suckers, also known as lilac shoots, are a much faster way to start new lilacs than cuttings.

Spring is a great time to do this as the soil is moist, easy to dig and the suckers are rapidly growing.

Today you are going to learn how you can propagate lilacs from suckers. You’re going to love this one because it is so easy and you get a lovely new lilac in short order!

All it takes is a sharp shovel, a bucket of water, and a lilac. Read on and I show you how easy it is.

Why Propagate Lilacs from Suckers or Shoots

This method to propagate lilacs from suckers is easy and you get a new plant that blooms much faster than you would get from cuttings.

My How to Grow and How to Root Lilacs from Cuttings are two of my most popular posts in the Spring. It seems Lilacs are a favorite of many people.

Be sure to watch the video at the end. I was able to convince my neighbor to let me dig up a sucker of the Lilac you see in the top photo!

NOTE: this will not work if the lilac you are taking the suckers from is a grafted variety. Look at the trunk of the lilac between 6 inches and a foot from the ground. Is there a knobby area with a change in the appearance of the bark? If so then the Lilac has been grafted and what you see on top is not what the suckers will grow to look like.

Related: Garden Zones and what you need to know about them!

What are Lilac Suckers

Suckers are shoots that grow from around the Lilac base.  Some feel they can be a menace but most folks just cut them off with a mower or weed wacker to keep them in check. 

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on a link I may make a small commission at no added cost to you.

This is a white Lilac in a friend’s yard.  She said I could come to dig up all the suckers or shoots I wanted.  

Now it does take a good sharp shovel and a bit of muscle but it is not too hard.

Find some suckers that are far enough away from the parent bush to get in there with a shovel and have some leverage.

This soil was super compacted so I didn’t get as much root as I would prefer yet it still worked.

How to Dig Lilac Suckers

With a good push with your foot shove the shovel straight down and cut through the sucker root.  

You will have to put your weight into it, slicing through can be tough. (having a sharp shovel is helpful)

Slice down all around the sucker and pop it up out of the ground, hoping you have a good portion of the root.

My latest acquisition cuts right through the roots like a hot knife through butter, it is called the Root Slayer! I love this shovel.

Dig up as many lilac suckers as you can.  You may lose a few but so far I have had 100% success rate with this method.  If you dig up plenty you can be assured to have one survive and if all survive you can always give away what you don’t want to keep. 

Soak them

Keep a bucket of water nearby and put them right in it.  Keeping them moist helps to lessen the shock and will keep it hydrated until you can pot them up.

I had something come up and could not get to them right away but they seemed to do fine in the water for a few days. They were kept in the greenhouse but a shady spot in the yard will work just fine too.

Potting the Lilac Suckers

With some I had to cut the large roots back so it was easier to fit them in the pots, the smaller roots will be fine to get started.

Fill some 1-gallon pots or taller 4-inch pots with potting soil halfway then place the lilac sucker or shoot into it before filling the pot the rest of the way with soil.

I had to use the larger diameter pot for this mass of roots.

Propagating Lilacs in pots

Some of the Lilac bushes I had rooted from cuttings were still in their containers and had suckers coming up in the pots.  

So I decided to divide those as well. It was quite simple as the roots were not that big yet.

For potted lilacs, you just pop the Lilac out of the pot.  These in the photo really do need to be potted up, planted in the garden or divided and I opted for dividing.

Grab a garden knife and slice through the entire root mass between the center rooted cutting and the side shoots, which are the suckers.

Now repot them up in separate pots with fresh potting soil.

You can see the mother plant and two daughter plants all in their very own pots.

I did this a few weeks ago and they are growing strong and healthy.  Not even a bit of droop from shock. I ended up getting so many I had plenty of lilacs to share with friends and family.

Transplanting Lilac Shoots

You do not have to put your freshly dug suckers or shoots into pots.  You can plant them directly into the ground. 

To plant your freshly dug lilac sucker in the ground, dig a hole deep enough, loosen up the soil some by digging around with your shovel. Place your lilac sucker or shoot into the hole and fill back with the loose soil.  Gently firm it in with your foot.  Water it in well.

Keep your fresh planted lilac watered until it is established. This is best done in Spring before the temperatures get too hot so the roots can start to get growing and be able to bring up water. Keep a close watch on it for a few months.  

And that is how you propagate lilacs from suckers. Lilac propagation is how you get a lilac just like Grandma’s. 

I wish you a sweet-smelling garden!

Watch me dig up some lilac suckers with a chipped shovel

Just one more note, I credit my chickens and their leavings (doo) with a lot of my success in gardening, a great soil builder. But you don’t have to have chickens to build your soil.

easy organic soil

Build Healthy Soil

Building healthy soil is not only a budget-friendly way of gardening but it is better for the environment than bagged fertilizers. See how easy it is!

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Lilac propagation by cuttings: a step-by-step master class with photo

In late spring and summer, lilacs can be easily propagated at home using rooted green cuttings. In this article, we will describe in detail and show how to do it correctly.

Ornamental lilac varieties are propagated by shoots, layering, grafting and cuttings. To plant a lilac, you need to have some skills, and it is convenient to propagate a bush that is already growing in the country with shoots and layering. If you want to bring a plant from another place, it is best to resort to cuttings. Using this method, you can root lilacs even from a bouquet. Provided that it was cut no later than one day ago.

Also, keep in mind that lilac is a hard-to-root plant. Therefore, for successful propagation, it is important to comply with certain conditions :

  • Do not miss the right time for harvesting cuttings. Lilac green sprigs are cut during flowering or immediately after it, as lignified cuttings do not take root. And the best time to do it is early in the morning.
  • Use suitable cuttings. They need to be cut from the middle of the crown of young bushes (up to 6 years old) and from the middle part of the shoot. At the same time, there must be 2-3 buds on the handle (10-15 cm long). Shoots coming from thick branches (tops) are unsuitable.
  • Temperature and humidity resistant . The optimum temperature for rooting cuttings is 22-25°C, and humidity is 85-95%.

Cuttings must be green

Preparing green cuttings

1. Using a sharp pruner, remove the leaves from the bottom node of the cutting.

2. As close to this knot as possible, without leaving a stump, make an oblique cut. Please note: cuttings with cuts in the internodes do not take root.

Be very careful when cutting on the handle: lilac roots grow only in the region of the lower node. And an incorrectly made cut will lead to the fact that the plants will not take root.

3. Shorten all the leaves remaining on the cutting by half.

4. Above the top node, 1 cm back, cut off the top of the shoot. In this case, the cut must be even.

5. Place the prepared cuttings in a solution with a root stimulator.

Water temperature must be between 18-20°C. For this, you can use any drug, but, as our experiment showed, it is more effective to use Epin-Extra. Keep the cuttings in the stimulant solution for 14-17 hours.

Rooting lilac cuttings

1. Prepare the soil. It is best to root the cuttings in a mixture of peat (2 parts) and coarse-grained perlite (1 part). Sand is undesirable.

2. Spread a small layer of drainage into the stalk (or any other container with a plastic lid), and on top of it - the prepared soil mixture with a layer of 10 cm.

Then spread a layer (3 cm) of coarse sand - preferably river sand.

3. Moisten the soil liberally. To avoid infection with fungal diseases, you can spill the earth with a fungicide solution.

4. Use a thin stick to make a small hole in damp sand and place the cutting into it to a depth of 1 cm. Plant the remaining cuttings so that they do not cling to each other with leaves.

5. Spray cuttings with water at room temperature using a spray bottle.

6. Cover the container with a transparent plastic lid (you can use a cut-off polyethylene bottle) or film and place in partial shade.

Care of Lilac Cuttings

Spray cuttings with water daily to maintain moisture. The sand must not dry out. To prevent mold from forming on the leaves, spray them once a week with a light pink solution of potassium permanganate.

Blot off the condensation as needed, and after the roots have formed, begin to air the cuttings.

Roots usually appear in 30-60 days. Until autumn, grow the cuttings in the cuttings (if they have taken root by this time), and in September plant them in a growing bed located in a well-lit place with light, fertile soil of neutral acidity, then water. In this case, the distance between the cuttings should be about 30 cm.

If the leaves on the cuttings turn dark in autumn, don't worry. It is important that the buds and roots do not die out.

Cover the cuttings with spunbond or spruce branches for the winter. In the spring, with the onset of warm weather, remove the shelter. After 1-2 years, the lilac seedling can be transplanted to a permanent place. And after 2-3 years the plant will bloom.

As you can see, it is not difficult to grow lilacs from green cuttings. But at home, they tend to take root only in 50-70% of cases. Therefore, prepare a few branches of lilac.

Lilac reproduction - basic methods

Like any other plant, lilac has reproduction features. Compliance with the rules of propagation by seeds, cuttings, layering or grafting will allow the gardener to grow a healthy and beautiful crop, for personal use or further sale. It is important to carefully study the types of seedlings and learn how to interact with them!

Contents of the article:

  • Lilac propagation methods
  • Seed propagation
  • Propagation by cuttings
  • Propagation by layering
  • Propagation by grafting
  • Types of seedlings

Lilac propagation methods

In order to quickly get a blooming lilac garden (syringaria), it is best to plant ready-made seedlings. They can be purchased from nurseries and horticultural firms. But in order to make the right choice, you need to have a clear idea of ​​how lilacs are propagated. After all, it is on this that the type of seedling depends, the features of caring for an adult plant and the ability to independently propagate the variety you love.

Propagation by seeds

Non-varietal lilac can be successfully propagated in this way. There are many types of lilacs, most of them are quite decorative in themselves. But if you are interested in some specific, bred variety, then seed propagation will not work. Seedlings obtained from seeds of varietal lilac will only partially inherit the properties of the mother plant. They will be no less interesting and decorative, but you will not get an exact clone of the desired variety. In nurseries, seed propagation is mainly used for growing rootstocks, on which various varieties are then grafted.

Own-rooted lilac, especially grown from seeds, has an enviable longevity compared to grafted specimens. The average life expectancy of such a plant is 100 years. In addition, own-rooted lilacs can be painlessly rejuvenated by cutting off old trunks to a stump. New skeletal branches are formed from young shoots.

Propagation by cuttings

This method of propagation is vegetative. With all vegetative methods, the varietal properties of the mother plant are inherited. Propagation by cuttings is as follows. During the flowering period, young shoots are cut from lilacs and cut into cuttings about 10 cm in size. Each cutting should have at least two buds. The bottom cut should be located exactly under the node; roots do not form in the internodes. Leaves are not cut from the cuttings. Before planting, it is necessary to treat the cuttings with a root formation stimulator. Usually heteroauxin is used - soaked for 16-18 hours in its aqueous solution. Then they are washed and planted in a greenhouse for rooting (best in a peat-perlite mixture). In September, they are transplanted to a permanent place. From the cutting, a root-own varietal plant is obtained, which can subsequently be propagated by any vegetative method.

Seedlings of common lilac, Hungarian lilac or privet are usually used as rootstocks for grafting varietal lilacs. Plants grafted onto privet do not have frost resistance. When using Hungarian lilac, the tissues of the scion and rootstock are poorly combined, the grafting site is very fragile and can break off under the weight of the bush.

Propagation by layering

For this type of propagation, the root shoots of the mother plant are used. It should be remembered that new plants will inherit all varietal properties only if the mother plant is its own root, and not grafted. In grafted plants, in most cases, the root growth comes from the rootstock. Although there is a way to transfer the grafted plant to its own roots, if, when planting, the grafting site is deepened into the soil. But even in this case, it can be difficult to distinguish which growth comes from the rootstock, and which from new adventitious roots.

The method itself consists in digging the basal shoots with soil so that their roots form on them. Then the rooted cuttings are cut into pieces (each with roots and a new above-ground shoot) and seated as separate plants.

Propagation by grafting

Grafting is carried out in early spring or summer. Summer vaccination in a T-shaped incision is popular. Shoots are harvested on the day of vaccination, buds with a piece of bark are taken from its middle part. On the lateral shoot of the stock at a height of at least 1 m, a cut of 1.5 x 3 cm is made. The bark is carefully folded over and the scion is inserted. The vaccination site is wrapped with a medical film for compresses, the kidney is left open. The result is visible after 2.5 weeks - the non-engrafted kidney will dry out and turn black. With successful grafting, the strapping is removed in the spring and the stock is cut 5-7 cm above the grafted bud, the cut is treated with garden pitch. A grown shoot is tied to the resulting spike so that it does not break off.

Types of seedlings

The most common is the division of seedlings into two large groups: own roots and grafted. As it has already become clear from the foregoing, seedlings obtained from seeds, cuttings or layerings of the mother plant are called proper roots. The grafted ones, respectively, are obtained by grafting a certain variety of lilac on a non-varietal hearth.

Another classification is the division of planting material into seedlings and seedlings. Seedlings are called plants obtained from seeds. Seedlings - obtained by vegetative propagation. Varietal lilac seedlings are exact clones of the mother plant. Seedlings (we recall once again) do not inherit varietal properties or inherit partially.

One cannot be said to be better or worse than the other. Each of them has its own characteristics, which, depending on the situation, can be considered both as pluses and as minuses. Seedlings have a higher vitality, they develop better, more successfully resist adverse environmental conditions.

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