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How To Propagate Lilacs: Ultimate Guide

Gardeners have been managing the healthy-pruned branches of Lilacs in a very efficient way, i.e., by using them to propagate the Lilacs themselves.

Generally, you may use stem cuttings, shoots, and seeds to propagate the Lilacs or simply air layer them. Spring or early summer would be the best time to propagate your Lilacs.

Upon successful propagation, there is no way to escape the lush clusters of lavender-colored flowers.

Read to know the proper way to propagate Lilacs.

Reasons to Propagate Lilacs

Gardeners grow Lilacs for pleasant spring fragrance and beautiful multicolored flowers. Besides, Lilacs serve as screening around fences and borders of shrubs. 

Many propagate Lilacs to increase the number of cultivated plants and to produce an attractive plant from an aged plant. But the benefit of propagation is beyond that.
A side-by-side photo of propagated Lilacs, with a vertical view on the left and top-angle view at the right.
Propagation through stem cuttings is an easy and relatively successful method.

Not only do your home garden look vibrant, but cuttings taken for propagation also increase the concentrations of blooms within a Lilac bush at its limited size. 

Stem cutting taken for propagation helps manage an overgrowing Lilac.

Further, during the process of getting the cutting, you get to have a close inspection of the plant for pest or disease attacks and treat them, if any.

Out of many reasons, you cannot let go of the fact that propagation saves your rambling around nursery time. Also, you don’t have to pay a single penny to add a new Lilac to your plant’s collection.

Propagation Of Lilacs- Complete Guide

You can propagate Lilac via shoots, stem cuttings (softwood or hardwood), or by air layering.

Regardless of the method, the ideal time for propagation is in the spring or early summer. The soil is moist during the spring, which helps increase the chances of rooting propagated parts.

To propagate Lilacs, you’ll require the following materials.

1. Propagation via Stem Cutting 

Gardeners commonly use this propagation method because it is easy and almost fail-proof. Also, the growth rate of cuttings is high.

To propagate the Lilacs by stem cutting, you can choose softwood cutting (taken during the growing seasons) or hardwood cutting (obtained during the dormant winter period).

For softwood cuttings, it is apt to cut the stems early in the morning when the woods are fresh, most turgid, and snaps easily on bending.

If the cutting breaks readily, it is too immature. In contrast, if it does not break, the cutting is mature and has fewer chances of rooting.

Remember! growing roots from hardwood cutting is less successful and takes longer than softwood cutting.

Nevertheless, you’ll be following similar steps both ways

  • Avoid the shoots with long internodes and make an oblique cut in a stem (0.5 inches thick) below the nodes, removing all the leaves. 
  • Dip the cutting in some rooting hormone to encourage the growth of healthy roots.
  • Insert the cuttings in washed sand, one and a half inches deep such that there is enough gap between the cuttings.
  • Cover the cuttings with plastic wrap to ensure that it is airtight. 
  • Remember to remove the cover on a humid day and remove the falling leaves and dead cuttings. 
Two stem cuttings planted in seperately in glass jar, bigger one at the left and smaller at the right, just beside the window.
You may use modern pots or even jars to propagate the cuttings.

Lilac roots will take seven weeks to form in the soil. If it is unsuitable, move to the next.

But the wait shall continue for hardwood cutting until the Lilac begins developing its leaves next spring.

Like the propagation in Polka Dot Plant, you could also propagate the stem cutting in water instead.

All you do is place the cuttings in a glass of water without dipping the leaves. Change the water every 2-3 days and wait for the root initiation.

Lilac cutting takes six to eight weeks to develop roots in water. Once the roots are successfully grown, you need to place the cuttings in the soil medium ultimately. 

Rooting Lilac cuttings in potatoes are also possible. For this, make a deep hole to adjust the cutting, coat the cuttings with the rooting hormone, and place it inside the potato.

2. Propagation via Shoots

The roots of existing Lilacs give rise to numerous tiny stems called suckers or shoots capable of producing a new plant with the same characteristics as the parent.

First, you’ll need to dig out the shoots to get the exact clone of your favorite Lilacs.

  • Identify a healthy shoot at the periphery of the Lilac plant.
  • Differentiate whether the part is a branch or shoot growing from the soil. 
  • Clear away the plant leaves to ensure that it is a sucker. 
  • After you recognize the shoot, dig a circle around the shoot. Keep digging with a shovel to find the root of the parent plant. 
  • Cut the hard root with a shovel blade and remove it from the soil along with the sucker with some roots intact.
  • Plant the shoots in the desired location.

3. Propagation via Layering

  • Remove the leaves 30 to 60 centimeters from the tip of the selected branch. 
  • Use a sterilized knife to cut the branch only through the bark. Make another shallow cut 2.5 cm below the first cut.
  • Peel the bark between two cuts, then spray some rooting hormones. 
  • Spread the sphagnum moss over the exposed area and cover it with a plastic bag such that no air can pass in. Use duct tape to seal everything together.
Air Layering in Lilac using sphagnum moss and clear plastic ready to wrap them.
Plastic is used to wrap the wound to retain moisture around them.
  • Do not let sunlight enter the branch. You can use paper that will help to prevent heat.
  • After the root forms in about 2-3 months, cut and separate them from the mother plant. 
  • Plant the shoots in garden soil mixed with peat moss, and remember not to remove the sphagnum moss.
  • Place the container in a shady location till the Lilac settles nicely into the soil.

Though grafting Lilacs needs expertise, it is beneficial for populating non-suckering Lilacs. 

4. Propagation via Seeds

Compared to other means to propagate, Lilacs take a long time to grow via seeds.

However, seed propagation is a blessing for species of Lilac like Syringa reticulata and Syringa villosa.

To start the process, you’ll need to pre-soak the Lilac seeds.

  • After you soak the seeds for a day, pack them in a bag of perlite, seal and refrigerate them for two months. Chilling the seeds for a longer period is known as stratification. 
  • Make sure to mist the perlite to avoid dryness. 
  • Now, in a 4-inch pot, add some garden soil or seed starter mix and sow seed at 1/4th inch depth. The pot must have enough drain holes, if not, drill some by yourself.
  • Lightly water the seeds afterward to keep the soil moist.
  • Place the container where it gets adequate light and a warm surrounding to favor germination.

The seed will take about one month to germinate. And once you witness roots around the drainage hole, you know your plant is ready for a bigger home.

Transplant the seedling in a larger pot with fertile soil or into the garden at least 10 feet apart. It may take three years to get your first Lilac blossom.

Other propagation methods can be your choice over seeds if you want Lilac to bloom more quickly.

Tips to Care for Recently Propagated Lilacs 

If you have successfully finished rooting the Lilacs through propagation, congratulations! However, your responsibility does not end.

For this deciduous multi-stemmed shrub to attain the proper height of 8 to 12 feet, you must provide proper care.

  • Lilacs are sun-loving flowers, so ensure full sun exposure to Lilac for at least 6 to 8 hours per day.
  • Moist, well-drained, and slightly alkaline soil of pH 6.5 to 7.0 provides the ideal condition for the Lilac to flourish.
  • Water the propagated Lilacs once or twice a week or when the top soil becomes dry during growing seasons. And deep-water (preferably bottom water) Lilacs once in ten to fourteen days during their flowering season. 
Top angle view of a propagated Lilac in a terracotta pot.
Lilacs grown in pots need transplantation later in the garden.
  • Lilac flowers can bloom best in average temperatures of 75° F. But they can tolerate cold temperatures up to -40° F.
  • Lilac bushes can flourish well in 50-60% relative humidity. You may use a humidifier indoors for the same.
  • The first year of planting Lilacs does not require fertilization. But you need to apply the general balanced fertilizer annually later. 
  • You should prune the Lilac bushes annually after the propagated Lilacs get two years old.
  • Use potassium bicarbonate to treat if the Lilacs suffer from Powdery mildew. 
  • Also, apply pesticides to drive away pests like scales and borers from Lilac plants.

From Editorial Team

The different propagation methods of Lilac help you replicate and multiply your favorite plant at a negligible expense.

To cut it short, health, heat, and hydration are the three core things to propagate the Lilacs successfully. 

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