The common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is a popular ornamental shrub for hobby and professional gardeners alike. From April to June it enchants all our senses with beautiful, pedicel-shaped flower heads that appear in one of many colors – white, blue, purple, mauve, pink, yellow or red. During flowering, these fill the entire garden and surrounding area with an intoxicating, sweet, and absolutely unmistakable floral aroma. As we get closer, we can immediately hear the buzzing and buzzing of thousands of busy pollinating insects, just as attracted to the plant as we are. So is it any wonder that gardeners also want lilacs in their outdoor areas? There are two ways to acquire this plant. It can either be purchased from a garden center or propagated for free from a larger lilac. Many hobby gardeners underestimate how easy and fast the second method really is. Here we show you how to propagate your very own lilacs.
Lilacs exude a wonderful scent even as a cut flower for several days
Common lilac or silver lilac is a sight to behold when in full bloom
Lilacs propagate with root suckers
This is undoubtedly the easiest and quickest way to propagate lilacs, whether it’s edible lilac, buddleia or any other type of lilac. This is also the natural way in which this ornamental shrub multiplies, spreads and thickens. It is also a practical security measure. If the main plant dies for whatever reason, the root sucker will “carry on its legacy”. Because of this, your chances of starting a new lilac from a root sucker are almost 100 percent.
Every year in late spring (just after the end of the flowering period), the lilac develops small daughter plants that sprout from the large main root. These develop their own small root systems in the summer months and then show their first above-ground leaves in autumn.
This is what the first signs of a root sucker look like
This is one of the possible times to separate them from the mother plant and plant a new lilac somewhere else. You can separate it the following spring when its roots are really well developed. Whether you do this in the fall or spring, it’s best to do it in the morning. Then the root suckers will be well hydrated and will not wilt when you take them out of the ground.
First make a visual circle of about 15-20 cm around the daughter plant. Take a sharp spade and dig straight down. You must cut the root that connects the mother and daughter plants. Carefully lift the root sucker off the ground and remove excess soil from around the roots. Apply rooting powder and immediately plant the small lilac in a large pot or elsewhere in the garden. Thoroughly water and you’re done!
Noble lilac foothills form their roots very quickly
If you pull out runners in the fall, you should ideally wait until the following spring to plant them out
If, for some reason, your lilac doesn’t produce root suckers of its own, you can make your own. This propagation method isn’t usually as successful as the above, so it’s best to do multiple cuts. This increases your chances of one of them developing roots.
You can do this again either in the spring or in the fall. If you do your sinkers early in the year, they may be ready to be removed from the ground by fall. However, if you lower them in the fall, they will be transplanted in late spring, ideally in summer.
Now take a trowel and scrape an oblong pit near the main stem of the lilac. Take one of the young, non-lignified shoots and gently and carefully place it in the pit. Be careful not to break the flexible but thin stalk of the shoot. Cover the pit with soil and place a large stone over it to fix the shoot. Water occasionally. Once new leaves begin to grow above the ground, it means your sinker has developed roots. You can then transplant it just like a root sucker.
Once you see new growth, you need to let the shoots grow freely
Sinkers are a kind of artificial root suckers
Like many other perennial plants, lilacs can be propagated with cuttings. However, this method is not as reliable as the other two, as only about 1 in 10 cuttings will actually root. If you want to improve your chances of success, your cuttings will need regular care similar to a houseplant. If you want to try this method, here is how to do it.
Look for new growth around your lilacs during flowering or immediately after. Potential cuttings are easy to spot because they emerge from the woody trunk or branch while they are still green and pliable. They should be pencil thin with two small pairs of buds at the top and bottom. Woody branches have a very small chance of rooting, so it’s best to leave them alone.
Woody cuttings and shoots have great difficulty establishing their own roots
Now take a pair of sharp and well-disinfected pruning shears and cut off the chosen cuttings in the morning. Remove all but two or four leaves at the top. Halve the remaining two leaves. Make a clean, slanted cut just below the bottom pair of buds. Immediately dip the cutting in rooting powder and plant in potting soil.
Always cut in the morning when the shoots are still well hydrated
Halve the leaves – this way the cuttings don’t waste energy
Water thoroughly, then cover with a plastic bag or plastic bottle with the bottom cut off. If you have a greenhouse, just put the pot there. Room temperature, indirect light and high humidity is all your cutting needs. Check the soil daily and never let it dry out. Now you must arm yourself with patience. After around 40-60 days your cuttings should already have developed their first roots.
There are other methods you can use to propagate your own lilacs – grafting, mossing, even tissue culture. However, these three that we brought to you in today’s article are the easiest and quickest for home gardeners.
Last year’s lilacs need to be hardened off before planting out
In optimal conditions, lilacs grow as much as 50 cm per year