There’s nothing so beautiful and fragrant as the lilac bush in spring. It’s blossoms are a wonderful welcome to the new season. Should you enjoy flowers, this shrub is too beautiful to pass by! In this post, I’ll teach you how to grow lilacs from suckers so that you can propagate and add their unique charm to your landscape.
An Old Fashioned Flower
While lilacs are not native to North America, they have become part of our heritage. Traditionally, lilacs were a favored plant, were often grown on many old farms and homesteads.
Even after these homes were vacated and began to crumble, the lilacs lived on. To us, they are a whimsical reminder of times gone past. In fact, if you ever find an old lilac bush growing in the middle of a field or at the edge of a forest, it’s likely there was once an old homestead nearby.
Perhaps their hardiness had something to do with their popularity among our ancestors? Lilacs are strong plants and need little personal care. While they do grow to be quite old, they are also self-preserving through their root system.
How to Grow Lilacs from Suckers
Because some lilac bushes sends out suckers (or shoots) through their roots, they are easy to propagate! In fact, if your neighbors have an old lilac, they’ll thank you to remove suckers the plant insists on sending up every year!
All you have to do is dig up these shoots with a portion of their root system intact. Let me show you how!
Digging Up Suckers for Successful Replanting
In order to dig up lilac shoots, you’ll need a shovel, a bucket for holding the suckers and pruning shears.
Choose a young shoot. With your hand shovel, loosen and remove the soil around it, until the roots are exposed.
Follow the sucker’s large root system and you’ll discover it travels horizontally in the earth, back toward the parenting shrub. This root must be cut with your pruning shears if you are to remove the sucker.
However, before cutting the plant free, look for roots that are fine and hair-like. These will support your lilac shoot once it is detached from the nourishment of the parenting bush. Once these fine roots are sourced, take your pruning shears and cut the main root just below the hairs!
Here’s an example of what you want to see:
Because this particular sucker has developed it’s own root system, it will be sure to survive on it’s own.
Replant Your Suckers Wherever You Want a Lilac Bush
Replant the lilacs wherever suits your fancy! By the barn, near the kitchen window or front door, at the mailbox or as part of a hedgerow! If you can’t decided where to put them, these tender young shoots should be planted in pots so the roots don’t dry out.
Whether you plant them in the earth or into pots, the young shoots should be given a hearty drink of water! Keep their roots moist for several weeks and they will begin growing for you.
Now that you know how to grow lilacs from suckers, spring is a wonderful time to add a few to your landscape!
Not sure if this is true but have had lilacs for years and they have hardly bloomed if at all… this year I added a second dud to the garden and my blooms went crazy!! I was told you need 2 to get blossoms… not sure if it’s true but worked for me 🤷🏼♀️
Mine did the same thing, except mine has been in ground for 10 years, it is still only about 3′ tall, but last year 2021 it bloomed and it was beautiful!
I planted a succour in a pot almost 8 years ago. It has survived outside that long, and moved with me twice. It is now in the ground. Over all that time, it has not died, but also has not grown. Any thoughts.
Hi Sue! I’m not sure what to say. Keep watering your plant and give it some nutrients. Maybe that will help it start growing again?
Sue, the same thing happened to me and it never flowered in the pot either. When I finally decided I was staying where I was I decided to transplant it. When deciding on a location transplant it away from other trees/shrub/perennials because it doesn’t like sharing space. Fertilize it with an acidic organic fertilizer and keep it well watered the first year. It should take off and with in two-three years you should have flowers. Best time to prune is AFTER the flowers die back and only to keep the shrub in the form you want.
Thanks for your input and sharing your experience, Karen! 🙂
Carol Strong says
I would like to transplant some of my grandmothers’s lilac bush from IL to my home in MIssissippi. Will it be too hot here in MS for the lilac to survive?
I’m not an expert on lilacs, but I do know most varieties need a cold climate to create buds and flowers. That said, I do believe there are some “warm climate” lilacs on the market. That said, I would certainly try in light of the fact that it was your grandmother’s bush! Try planting the lilac in partial shade and let me know how it goes!
Should I be using a root booster hormone powder for the shoots?
I’m in North Carolina close to border with South Carolina, lilacs love a cold winter and it gets enough cold evenings here (at or below freezing) to flourish.
I have heard of people trying to trick there lilacs by adding bags of ice around the base of the bush and ground underneath (or pot if in a container)….and it worked, they got blooms.
Wow Chery! That is amazing. I can’t believe ice worked! Thanks for sharing. Here in the north country we have no end of ice and cold temps, so I never know what to tell folks who live in southern climates. 🙂 Now they have a new idea to try!
Jo Aelfwine says
1) will transplanted suckers grow and bloom like the parent plant?
2) I have one lilac that I thought was dead but this year there is new growth at the base. How do I tell the difference between suckers and a plant that is rejuvenating itself?
I’m not an expert on lilacs, but it sounds like your plant is rejuvenating itself! Good luck! To the best of my knowledge, suckers should bloom like the parenting plant.
When is the right time of the year to cut and transplant suckers? I live in Western NY.
Suzanne, I’ve only ever tried this in the spring. But as long as you water things well, I imagine summer or even early fall would still be ok.
Thank you. I will do it in the spring. It’s in the 60’s days and low 50’s at night now.
Wendy Kenney says
I moved 4 years ago and transplanted a shoot of my lilac. It is alive and fine but has remained about 2′ tall for 4 years. Why isn’t it getting any bigger? 🙁
Hi Wendy! I’m not sure I have an answer for you, but here’s what comes to mind! 1) Your lilac may not be happy with the soil it’s in, 2) it may not be getting enough water, 3) make sure it isn’t a dwarf variety! Hope that helps !
Soil PH could be wrong. Insufficient water or nutrients. Gophers nibbling away? It should get at least 6 hours of sunlight.
How would you treat a potted one? Inside during the winter, or left outside? Novice here, thank you!!!
Hi Kate! I really have no experience with keeping lilacs potted long term, so I could say. Sorry I can’t be more helpful, but I’m afraid I don’t have the answer! All the best, Autumn
Using the same method, I have successfully transplanted and kept many lilacs in pots. Left outside year round.
is there anyway I can remove the shoot and not replant it right away (have it remain dormant for a while) and then replant it? I’m moving and want to propagate my lilac bush at the new place
Elizabeth, just plant the shoots in a small pot of soil and keep moist. It works well! If you don’t have that option, you could also try cutting shoots off near the root, putting the roots in a bag and refrigerating them until you are ready to plant.
I’ve had a couple shoots planted in a huge pot for just over a couple of years to get the root system established. The plant is growing fine and I am confident that it’s time to plant in the ground. However, I have yet to see any sort of blooms. I wasn’t sure how long it takes for the blooms to start. I’m desperate for your professional advice. Thank you
I’m not a professional when it comes to lilacs but I’ve been told it takes anywhere from 3-7 years for blossoms to appear. Pruning may help wit this as well.