Growing lilacs in pots

Container Grown Lilacs: Learn How To Grow Lilac In A Pot

With their unmistakable fragrance and beautiful spring blooms, lilacs are a favorite of so many gardeners. However, not every gardener has the space or the long-term living situation for big, old, flowering bushes. If this is your situation, maybe you should try growing lilacs in containers. Keep reading to learn more about how to grow a lilac in a pot.

Container Grown Lilacs

Planting a lilac shrub in a pot is doable, but it isn’t ideal. Lilacs can get huge, and they grow best when their roots are free to spread out. When growing lilacs in containers, the first step is to pick a variety that stays relatively small.

Some dwarf varieties exist, such as:

  • Minuet
  • Pixie
  • Munchkin

Some non-dwarf varieties that stay small include:

  • Syringa meyeri
  • S. pubescens
  • S. patula

Even small container grown lilacs need lots of room for their roots, so get as large a container as you can manage, preferably at least 12 inches deep and 24 inches wide. Terra cotta is better than plastic, since it’s stronger and better insulated.

Potted Lilac Care

Another challenge to planting a lilac shrub in a pot is getting the soil right. Lilacs can’t tolerate acidic soil, and most commercial potting soils contain at least some pH lowering peat moss. The best way to handle this is to add 1 cup of dolomite lime to every 2 cubic feet of potting soil.

Move your container to its final resting place before planting, since it will probably be very heavy when it’s full. Place it somewhere that receives at least 6 hours of full sun every day.

Keep it relatively moist, watering every time the soil dries out to an inch below the surface.

If your winters are harsh, protect your lilac from the winter cold either by burying it in the ground or heavily mulching around the pot. Don’t bring your lilac inside for the winter – it needs the cold to set buds for next spring’s flowers.

34. Lavender

USDA Zones— 5 – 9

Climate— Lavender grows best in temperate climates. However, you can also grow it in subtropical regions.

Grow lavender in a pot with sufficient drainage. Keep it in full sun. You can read our article on growing lavender here.

35. Lilacs

USDA Zones— 4 – 9

Climate— Temperate regions with mild summers are best for growing lilacs

If you love fragrance, you will love lilacs. Growing lilacs in containers are possible with care. Choose more compact and dwarf variety and a deep pot. Also, care about the proper airflow around the shrub. Keep it in a location with full sun where it receives, at least six hours of sunlight daily.

36. Magnolia

USDA Zones— 6 – 10

Climate— It is possible to grow magnolia in the warm climate as well as in the temperates.

Fragrant and beautiful magnolia flowers add charm to any place. No matter how small your garden is, you can have it too. Magnolias grow slowly, which means you can have one in the pot for a long time. But the best way to grow magnolia in a container is to buy its dwarf shrub variety, it will not exceed the height above 2-3 m (8-10 f). Here’s a helpful article you can read on growing magnolias in containers

37. Crepe Myrtle

USDA Zones— 7 – 10

Climate— Crepe myrtle is a tropical or subtropical shrub or tree that is native to Australia and Indian subcontinent

Beautiful, vibrant, and colorful. Crepe myrtle flowers bloom in abundance. Dwarf, shrub-like varieties are suitable for containers. It is also maintenance free though requires regular pruning when grown in a pot.

38. Pittosporum

USDA Zones— 8 – 10

Climate— Pittosporum requires a warm climate to grow, it can tolerate mild freezing temperatures.

Beautiful shrub with beautiful foliage and very fragrant flowers. Pittosporum when blooms, fills the air with orange like a fresh breeze. Dwarf varieties are suitable for containers, they grow about 1-1.5 m high, and other commonly cultivated varieties can reach 3-4 m in height after slow growth.

Also Read: How to Grow Pittosporum

39. Peony

USDA Zones— 3 – 8

Climate— Peonies are extremely cold hardy, frost resistant and grow in the climates with mild summer

Stately and plump peony flowers are very large and often fragrant, single or double petaled. You can read a useful article on growing peonies in pots here.

40. Potentilla

USDA Zones— 2 – 7

Climate— Cold hardy shrub, tolerates frost.

A Beautiful perennial shrub that grows up to only 1 m tall. It starts to flower from mid to late summer and blooms till late fall.

41. Rose

USDA Zones— 3 – 11

Climate— Roses grow almost everywhere in a variety of climates

Planting shrub roses in pots is a good idea. However, roses require care and regular maintenance. You can read our rose care tips for help.

Also Read: 30 Diagrams to Make you Master in Growing Roses

42. Rosemary

USDA Zones— 6 – 9

Climate— Mild temperate climate

Rosemary is a highly aromatic perennial shrub, a useful culinary herb. Its beautiful blue colored flowers and silvery-green foliage also makes it an ornamental plant.

43. Sedge

USDA Zones— 4 – 10

Climate— There are 100 of species to choose from. Sedge is a diverse plant and can be grown in both cooler and warmer regions.

Sedge is a fake grass that offers a wide variety of colorful foliage– green, yellow or blue. It is easy to maintain. Grow sedge in a pot on your patio or terrace. Keep it in a sunny position in a temperate climate and in the shade in tropics.

44. Spirea

USDA Zones— 4 – 9

Climate— It is a cold-hardy shrub but grows diversely in warm climates too.

Dwarf varieties like Spirea Japonica “Nana” are ideal for growing in a container. It requires slightly moist soil to grow.

Also Read: How to Grow Spirea

How to grow Lilac Shrubs | Growing Lilacs in containers | Lilac care

Lilac Shrubs

Learn How to grow Lilac Shrubs, Growing Lilacs in containers, Lilac care, Suitable varieties of Lilacs and more about this shrub. Lilacs can be planted for the most easily in all Shrubs, for this it requires just a little care, a lot of sunlight, good drainage, and fertile soil. If you give it a place in your garden, then in spring you will get an enchanting atmosphere with aromatic flowers.

The flowers of lilac are fragrant and are attractive for butterflies. They can go up to a height of 5 to 15 feet, depending on the different types of grounds. The lilac can be planted in the spring before being too cold or after the fall. Lilac comes in seven colors, but usually, we are more familiar with Syringa Vulgaris. Nature Bring here is telling the plantation of Lilac shrubs.

Lilac Shrubs


Scientific name Syringa

Common name Lilac

Plant type Flower

Sun requires Full Sun/part Sun

Blooming time Spring/summer

Soil any

Soil pH 6.5-7.0

Zone 3-7

How to grow Lilac Shrubs

Soil selection

  • Lilac likes fertile soil to choose such soil so that it is natural to alkaline, well-drained (hence the soil pH 6.5-7.0 is better). If there is any deficiency in your soil, then enrich it first. See for more information on soil Amendments.
  • To test the site for drainage before planting, dig the 8-inch diameter and 12-inch deep pit for it, then fill it with water. If the whole water is dried after one hour, then the soil is correct or choose another site.


For this, choose a place where the full sun comes, lilac flourishes very well in the presence of the sun, its shrub requires at least 6 hours of sunlight. If you do not get enough sunshine, your lilac will not be very good. It requires adequate space for future development, Its shrubs go up to 7-8 feet wide and 10 feet in height. Read more.


If you want more propagation your lilac shrub, then cut healthy shoots from Mother Plants in the spring season. Then wait until the fall ends. In this way, it gets a chance to develop some roots, and there is more success. These are the types of shots that are capable of enduring the season to season. Keep waiting because new lilac plants take about 5 years to flower the flowers.


It is also easy to transplant the Lilac Plants from the nursery. If the containers, grow plants, you want to put it in the ground, then first arrange the roots that spread out, if you have balled or burlapped roots then remove it before planting. Crush 2 to 3 inches deep into the ground and fill it with the topsoil around and water it.

Given the lilac dispersion on the basis of diversity, place between 5 to 15 ft between place.

Growing Lilacs in containers

There are many compact varieties of lilac that can be easily grown in the container. Among them. Pubescens, S. Patula, and S. meyeri etc. are included. Large lilac becomes striking when grown in a containers. Consider the dwarf lilacs, ‘Miss Kim’ and ‘Dwarf Pixie’, it is a suitable type of container. Read more.

Lilacs Care

  • In the spring season, make a compost surface on the basis of its plant, followed by the original moisture content and the control over the weeds.
  • If it is not raining in the summer season, then give one-inch water per week.
  • If you use more fertilizer than lilac will not bloom. Therefore, use 10-10-10 fertilizer in late winter, but do not feed too much.
  • When your Lilac bush stops blossom, then lime around the base of the bush and keep the well-cooked compost.
  • Timing is very important in Lilac Bush, so remove all the suckers while shaping to the bush. Read more.

Lilacs Pruning

  • The thumb rule of pruning is that any shrubs stems should not be cut more than 1/3 each year.
  • This increases the health, increase and production capacity of the plant. However, according to the rules, you do not need 1/3 of all the shrubs, at that time you use your discretion.
  • Lilacs bloom on old stems, after significant pruning in the spring they get a chance to get blooming. If you prune it after the summer, then you can remove the wood.
  • After blossom, remove all the dead stems from the bush. Also, sort out the old stems and remove all the small suckers. Cut a weak branch to a strong shoot.
  • If your Lilac bush is very old and is in poor shape, then you should prune 1/3 of the bush in the first year, 1/2 part in the second year and the rest of the third year.

Suitable varieties of Lilacs

Many wonderful varieties of hybrids of Syringa vulgaris are very suitable, which can bring charm to your garden landscape.

  • Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’ (Dwarf Korean)
  • Descanso Hybrids- It develops in light winter weather in California.
  • Syringa reticulata (Ivory silk) – Its flowers are of white color.
  • Bloomerang – they bloom in the spring and fall. See more.

Pests and disease of Lilac

  • Lilacs do not invade any kind of insects on the bush. This bush is more likely to be damaged by four-footed pests. Voles and Mice enjoy its barks. Keep original from the base of the trunk.
  • Powdery Mildew is a common disease in the Lilac shrub, especially in moisture and wet summers.
  • Lilacs may also cause borer problems in the bush, it likes the old wood, so regularly pruning helps.
  • Leaf miners do not cause serious damage to it, but they make the leaves unsightly. See more.

Read also: How to grow Rosemary herb. How to grow Garden phlox. Growing Ridge gourd at home. During the monsoon maintain your garden. Growing and caring Gladiolus plants. Michelia Champaca alba tree growing guide. 8 Gardening Tools for beginners. Onion growing and care. Growing Spring onion in containers. Avocado tree growing and caring.

Happy Gardening.

For Pin:

Growing lilac: make way for heavenly scents

The other situation that I have wanted to emulate was in Michael Parkinson’s garden, which borders the Thames. His wide flagged terrace had a few large pots of standard white lilacs. The delicious scent and impact from these fine specimens made the outdoor eating area memorable. By putting them in large pots and growing them on a short leg or stem, they had excellent year-round form. You could also add seasonal colour by putting pelargoniums, cosmos or whatever takes your fancy around the top of the pots for the summer. As lilacs tolerate drought, they will survive in pots better than many other plants. However, I would always prefer to remove the base of the pot and replace the hardstanding immediately below it with topsoil. That way you will not have to water the pot after the first few months and the occupant will grow into a larger, healthier specimen than you could ever expect to achieve otherwise.

Lilacs can also grow into fine small trees for gardens. With age, the trunks become attractively twisted and many have an unusual shaggy bark, which adds to their character. Most taller Syringa vulgaris cultivars such as ‘Sensation’ (purple/red-edged white flowers) would be perfect for this. Indeed, any of the more readily available cultivars, such as ‘Katherine Havemeyer’ (purple/lilac), can reach treelike proportions, about five to six metres (16ft-20ft), if left unpruned. To get the more treelike form, simply remove the lower branches and let one stem develop, or go for a multi-stem effect and let two or three develop at the base, to get a canopy. They grow quite quickly. From a 60cm-high (2ft) shrub you will have a good specimen in 10 years, but will still enjoy its flowers and form many years before that. After 20 years they are something special.

Perhaps the most memorable lilac specimen for me was an old white “florists” lilac that Fiona Lawrenson used in her Chelsea garden, A Garden in Provence, in 1996. It was a beautifully gnarled shrub, which she found in Holland. There they are brought in for forcing in large pots – usually every other year, so as not to exhaust plants – and pruned to produce long stems.

Blooms are sold to the cut-flower market mainly for Christmas. Lilacs have been forced since the 1770s and in 2005 more than half a million cut stems were sold by the Dutch. The cut flowers last in water about three to five days.

Lilacs are often grafted. This is usually on to privet rootstock (Ligustrum ovalifolium), according to Chris Lane, who has a large collection of them built up over 20 years or so. This is because you get a bigger plant quicker. However, most would agree that propagating them by cuttings (taken four weeks after bud break using new wood and bottom heat) and growing them on their own roots is better as you then have no problems with suckering.

When you buy a plant, you have little way of telling if it has been grafted, so the advice is to plant them 150mm deeper than the depth at the top of the pot. This way grafted plants will send out their own new roots from the top part, whereas a non-grafted plant will survive anyway. Otherwise, if you carry out renovation pruning on an old lilac that has been grafted, you can just get the privet rootstock leaping back.

Pruning to keep shrubs at a contained height and give bigger blooms (it flowers on older wood) involves removing about a fifth of the oldest wood as near to the ground as you can on a five-year cycle when the flowering starts to fade. Renovation pruning can be done in winter. If you have a lilac as a tree, just remove the dead wood. The flowers will then be higher and smaller but more numerous.

There are many beautiful lilacs apart from the well-known S. vulgaris cultivars – though these have the most unique and pleasing fragrance. For example the Daphne lilac, S. pubescens subsp. microphylla ‘Superba’, which flowers in April/May then intermittently until October. This has highly fragrant rose-pink flowers and can form an informal hedge or be trained against a wall. Chris Lane’s Witch Hazel nursery near Sittingbourne, Kent (01795 843098; will have a wisteria open day in three weeks. His lilac collection can be seen at the same time. Even if you have only a tiny space, you must find room for at least one.

The lilac (syringa) belongs to the classical garden shrubs and smaller trees, which emit the essence of spring. The tube formed blossoms, which appear on the wood in May, grow in colorful panicles and radiate an exquisite, unique scent. Without the blossoms, the visual appearance of the lilac shrub is stepping into the background. We will show you with our care instruction how to do everything right at cultivating the lilac (syringa).

Plant Profile

  • Plant family: Oleacea
  • Species: Lilac (Syringa)
  • Trivial name: Lilac bush, lilac, lilac shrub
  • Origin: Asia or Southeast Europe
  • Summer green shrubs or smaller trees
  • Growth height: Between 1,5 and 7 Meters
  • Flowering period: May/June
  • Scented, blue violet, rose colored or white blossom umbels

The lilac bush spends the whole year a rather unassuming life – until the blossoms open in May and the spectacular show for the senses is commencing. The lilac shrub can barely be beaten by another plant when it comes to enchanting scents; the looks; the appearance furthermore leaves for no desires with its mostly violet or white panicles.

While the scented shrub could not be missed in parks or farmers gardens, it has become out of fashion in the last years. Now the lilac appears to be back in fashion with new varieties and new species.

From May to June, new blooming lilac shrubs (syringa) shine everywhere in the garden. The lilac is sometimes recommended as a covering shrub for planting on embankments or as wind shelter. However diverse the usage of the scented shrubs might be, it deserves a special position in the garden, in order to emphasize its beauty.

Lilac (syringa) mostly grows as a multi stem shrub, sometimes as a small tree of up to seven meters in growth height. Whoever does not have enough space is better saved with a dwarf lilac.


You are getting a very uncomplicated and low maintenance plant for your garden with the lilac shrub, which blooms ravishingly even without elaborate care. Whoever adheres to some basic rules, will enjoy the wood very much and like the sight of scented blossoms which he is confronted with every spring.

Concerning the location for the lilac tree one foremost has to abide by the following: Syringa, Lilac explicitly likes the sun and does not tolerate shadow. That is why the shrub is ideally planted at an exposed position or as solitary plant or on a southern or southwest facing house wall. If the lilac does not receive a sufficient amount of light it might grow leaf mass, however blossoms only to a moderate extend.

  • light requirements full sunny
  • at least six sun hours per day
  • great air circulation required
  • tolerates city climate

Soil conditions

The syringa, lilac shows itself as an uncomplicated shrub, as it loves lime rich and nutrient rich soils, does however also thrive in weak sour garden soils. In order for the wood to unfold its full beauty, the ground should be fertile, rich in humus and well permeable to water. If a lilac tree is too moist, its growth will be insufficient.

  • humus
  • moderate nutrient levels
  • fresh moist until moderately dry
  • well permeable
  • pH Value: Neutral to light in lime
  • some varieties like a slightly sour substrate

Planting period

In order for the lilac shrub (syringa) to properly root before driving out in spring, the ideal planting time lies in autumn. If you have missed the planting season in autumn, you can buy a blooming container plant in spring and plant it in a garden or a bit bucket.

Planting in the bed

The lilac tolerates every ordinary potting soil, if it is rid of water. That is why it is not exactly difficult, to find a suitable spot in a sunny position with sunny conditions in the garden, which offer the perfect growth conditions for the shrub or a smaller tree. Before the planting, the potting soil should be loosened and some ripe compost should be added.

  • Planting depth: Somewhat deeper than in the pot
  • Exception: With moist soils
  • begin with installing a drainage
  • fill up a small hill of substrate
  • plant the lilac approximately 10 cm over surface level
  • root bales should be well watered before planting
  • place the plant inside and complement the planting
  • slowly tread on it and water sufficiently

In order for the syringa, lilac stays ready to blossom, the ground should be free from grass in a one meter distance to the shrub. Weeds or other growths are staying. In the first week after the planting, a sufficient supply with water for the blossom shrub is inevitable.

Planting in the pot

Nearly all variety of the lilac (syringa) can be cultivated in planting pots. Especially the dwarf lilac varieties are low maintenance because of their small growth height. Big specimens like the Syringa vulgaris offer a nice look for the whole year through, if it grows on a short stem. In order for the shrub not to grow too big, a pair of very old or thin shoots should be removed through the year. As the lilac tolerates dryness, it survives in planting vessels better than other ornamental woods.


When planting a lilac shrub (syringa) into a planting pot, one should take a focus that the substrate is permeable to water and air. Ideal is a high quality bucket planting soil, which already comprises all of the ingredients readily combined.

Your own mixture can be mixed with the following components:

  • 70% humus potting soil
  • 10% coarse sand or grit
  • 10% Perlite or lava granulate
  • 10% compost or peat moss
  • Depending on the variety: a hand full of lime


Lilac requires relatively big, stable planting pots. Not only the roots require a sufficient amount of space, regarding bigger varieties, the bucket should be sheltered from wind and falling over. From the beginning, a yearly replanting of the young plants is necessary. If older plants are being regularly cut back and thus are hindered in their growth, the replanting is still necessary but with longer intervals between them.

  • in an older age choose, if possible, a big planting pot
  • has to include drainage holes
  • ideally choose heavy specimens from stone or peat
  • young plants should be replanted more often (at least yearly)
  • old bushes should be only be supplied with fresh earth every three to four years


In times of low precipitation, the syringa, lilac bush has to additionally be watered. This is only necessary, if it has not rained for a longer period of time and the temperatures are very high in summer. The syringa, lilac reacts sensitively on too much water that is why it should only be watered moderately.


Supply your syringa, lilac tree yearly with a portion of ripe compost, which should either be added as a layer on the ground or carefully be raked below the garden soil. You can, per shrub, mix a hand full of high quality blossom shrub fertilizer (NPK 10-10-10) in late winter below the soil. But please, under no circumstances more than that, as over fertilized plants do not blossom, but only grow leaf mass. After the flowering, sour grounds should be limes.

  • Late winter: A hand full of blossom shrub fertilizer per plant
  • alternatively add some ripe compost in spring
  • possibly lime in June

Starting with August, the lilac shrub should not be fertilized, so that fresh tribes will wooden before the first frost occurs and there are sufficiently winter hardy.


A lilac (syringa) should only be very moderately cut. The shrub grows the best, if it is left alone. Lilac grows its big inflorescence on two year wood. If the one year shoots are not being cut as well, they can blossom in the next year.

Maintenance pruning

Of course you can cut out withered as well as dead or sick wood on a dry day. The cutting spots are drying faster and close in an improved fashion if done like that. This prevents the intrusion of pathogens.

  • cut only on cloudy, but dry days
  • Spring: Cut frozen shoots
  • During the blossom: Cut withered parts on the base
  • Maintenance pruning: After the blossoms
  • remove dead branches
  • sick shoots should be cut back into the healthy wood
  • remove weak and strong closing branches
  • inwards growing and crossing branches should be removed

Rejuvenation cut

If an older lilac tree (syringa) has slowly lost its form, a radical rejuvenation cut can do wonders. A radical cut should preferably be done in summer. There are generally two methods, to rejuvenate the lilac. For one, the whole shrub can be radically cut back. This cause less work, however lasts, until is blossoms again (at least two years). An acceptable alternative is, to cut only a third of the main shoots for three years.

  • Time: Generally perennially, with the ideal time being in summer
  • Smaller shrubs: Cut all main shoots to a meter
  • big shrubs and trees should be cut to eye level
  • keep an eye on a smooth, clean cut
  • alternatively cut back a third of the oldest shoots to ground level
  • remove all root sprouts
  • Hedge plants should be rejuvenated in a five year rhythm (Cat a fifth every year)

Lilac, syringa is very compatible to cuts and drives out reliably. Some specimens should be cut radically due to a lack of space every five to six years. Whoever cuts all of the shoots at once, has to be aware that the shrub might not blossom in the coming two to three years.


Outdoor plants are sufficiently winter hardy in our latitudes (up to – 30 degrees) and require winter protection. Buckets should be placed on a Styrofoam plate or “feet” and the fleece should be covered in fleece, to prevent the freezing of the root bale.


As the seeds of the lilac (syringa) are not germinating easily, the wood can be most easily multiplied in a vegetative way. There are three different methods, to get new plants. Cuttings and saplings.


With older plants there are shoots showing, so called saplings, which grow out of the roots and shoot from the ground adjacent to the plant. You can dig out these saplings in summer and replant them on a different spot in the garden.

  • generously dig up the ground around the sapling
  • separate with a sharp knife from the mother plant

With top varieties like the “Charley Joly” or “memory of Ludwig Späth” the method of the saplings does not do anything, as they are refined varieties. Refined lilac is either being grafted on Ligustrum or on young seedlings of the wild variety.


Another, very simple method is the multiplication with cuttings. It is suitable for the Chinese lilac (Syringa x chinensis), the Hungarian lilac (Syringa josikaea) and the bow lilac (Syringa reflexa). The success rate with refined lilac varieties is very low. As only every tenth cutting grows, you should always cut the same amount of cuttings

  • Time: Autumn, after leaf fall
  • Select well grown, one year shoots
  • Cut pieces approximately 15 cm in length
  • The pieces have to close above and below with the bud pair
  • Abrade the bark on the side
  • Place in half shady bed with humus earth
  • Cover with a fleece tunnel
  • Alternatively place in unheated greenhouse


With nearly all syringa, lilac varieties, a multiplication with cuttings is possible. This method is primarily being used with hybrids. For doing this, cut approximately 15 cm long shoots in early summer. Remove the lower leaf pair and stick the cutting in moist cultivation soil. The cutting roots in a warm, half shady location in the next weeks or months.


Aside from the refined lilac varieties with its big, dense blossoms, above all the French and Russian varieties are on the forefront of popularity. Belonging to one of the most beautiful varieties of the lilac is “Beauty of Moscow” with polar white, porcelain like blossoms.

Syringa vulgaris “Charles Joly”

  • Refined lilax with a densely grown panicle
  • Color: Magenta
  • Growth height: 3 to 7 meters

“Syringa vulgaris “Primrose”

  • Refined lilac with a thick, full panicle
  • Blossom color: White
  • Growth height: Up to 7 meters

Syringa vulgaris Sensation (Refined lilac Sensation)

  • Noticeably big single blossoms in two colors
  • Blossom colors: Violet with a white seam
  • Growth height: 3 to 7 meters

Syringa vulgaris Alba (White wild lilac)

  • Domestic lilac variety
  • Very resisting
  • Panicles reaching a height of up to 20 cm long
  • Growth height: 4 to 7 meters

Syringa “Tinkerbell”

  • Dwarf scented lilac
  • Blossom: Outside dark, inside bright rose
  • Growth height: 150 to 200 cm
  • Perfect for buckets or small gardens

Syringa patula “Miss Kim” (Korean Dwarf lilac)

  • Dwarf scented lilac
  • Blossoms: White like with a hue of blue, very delicate
  • Growth height: 150 cm

Syringa reflexa (Bow lilac)

  • Long, overhanging panicles
  • Growth height: 3 to 4 meters
  • Preferably slightly sour ground


Planted on the right spot, the lilac is not very susceptible to certain diseases. If the plant however does not receive a sufficient amount of sun or the garden soil is too wet, the otherwise very robust shrub is more sensitive and susceptible for a range of fungal disease or even a bacterial or viral infection.

Belonging to it are the following:

  • Real mildew
  • Leaf roll disease (Virus)
  • Root knot nematodes
  • Verticilium withering


In summer, one occasionally encounters lice or caterpillars from butterflies or the lilac moth on the lilac. Those animals are generally not causing a significant amount of damages though.

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How to Grow Lilacs, it is easier than you think. Lilacs are an easy shrub that rewards you with sweet scented blooms every Spring.

Let’s find out how to grow lilacs. It really is easy.

Every Spring our neighborhood is perfumed by the numerous lilac shrubs. They were planted by the lumber mill workers and their wives back in the 1940’s.

This neighborhood is the land that the mill owners provided for the mill workers to build their homes on. It is one of the oldest neighborhoods on this mountain and it has the vintage plants to prove it.

Today I am sharing about lilacs and what you need to know so you can grow Lilacs successfully too.

In other posts I have shared how to Propagate Lilacs from Suckers and Rooting Lilacs from cuttings. Which might come in handy if you want to start your own that way.

Also I have an entire post dedicated to Why Your Lilacs Won’t Bloom!

Why Grow Lilacs

Spring just would not be Spring in our neck of the woods without the sweet scent of Lilacs wafting around the neighborhood. Scent is an added element to our gardens that bring us such sweet delight. Lilacs thrive on neglect and provide such a great way to welcome the coming of Summer.

Most of the Lilacs in the photos I share were planted back in the 40’s when this neighborhood was established and they have thrived. The variety of colors is wonderful along with their being both single and double (also named French Lilacs) type.

Examples of Single & double Lilac bushes

This photo below is an example of a Single Lilac flower (you can see the individual flowers clearly).

Next is an example of a Double or French (it is harder to tell the individual blossoms apart, they are so jammed together). It reminds me of the fur of a French Poodle.

Neglect is Good when growing Lilacs

All of the Lilacs in my photos are planted in areas that get little or no watering in summer . They live off of what they get through the winter and Spring. We rarely get summer rains. Many of the lilacs are quite neglected as they are on properties that are not lived in.

I live in Zone 8, on the colder end. In winter we can get down into the teens with plenty of rain and snow but on average winter lows are in the low 30’s. In the summer time our temps range in the upper 80’s with a few 90’s tossed in here and there. Keep in mind those are the averages, we do get weird years where we have some hotter days for longer periods of time.

How to extend Lilac Bloom time

The Lilacs in my neighborhood bloom within a week of each other and though the blooms on each bush only last a few weeks the succession lasts for about 5 weeks. So if you wish to get a longer bloom time be sure to plant varieties that bloom at early, mid and late season.

Choose Lilac bushes for your Zone

For healthy lilacs plant a variety suited to your Zone…these heirlooms (Syringa Vulgaris) grow best in Zones 3 – 8 (I have seen some old lilacs flourishing lower down the mountain so this is a bench mark and not a hard and fast rule)

If you live in a warmer zone that does not get the winter chill needed for the heirloom lilacs to bloom there are some newer Hybrids just for warmer zones.. here is a link to some.
Lavender lady
Blue Skies
Excel Lilac
Angel White

I have read these are good in Zone 9 but I have not tested them, I do believe they grow these in Descanso Gardens in Southern California but I have yet to verify by visiting.

Lilacs for a Small Garden

There are hybrids bred for compactness for the smaller garden called Dwarf Lilacs. Some claim they are superior to the heirlooms as they don’t take as long to bloom and maintain a more tidy appearance in the garden, they even have cute names like Miss Kim, Tiny Dancer and Tinkerbell Lilac. I have yet to try either so I cannot say whether they really are superior or not. I have a small garden and I just keep my lilacs in a half whiskey barrel to contain them.


If you start your lilac from cuttings be aware that you won’t get blooms for about 3 years and they can take up to 5 years. So the buying a potted Lilac may be the ticket for you if you are impatient.

Where to plant lilacs

1. Choose a sunny spot (6 hours of sun) if you are in a very hot summer area they may like some afternoon shade
2. Well drained soil (lilacs do not like wet feet)

3. Neutral PH to slightly alkaline soil

4. Spread out the roots when planting your container grown lilac in the ground so dig your hole a lot larger than the diameter of the container it is in, some say to plant it deeper than it was in the container by 2 inches and some say level to the ground around it. You decide on that one.

Lilac Bush Care

1. Do not over fertilize. Spread some compost around the base in late Winter/early Spring and you can add some after they have bloomed or later in summer. If you over feed them you will get lots of green growth but no sweet smelling flowers! (we have snow on the ground in late winter/early spring so nothing is added to them at that time in our neighborhood)

2. The first year keep it watered through the summer, no more than an inch a week, to get your Lilac established then after that be light handed on the water.

3. After your lilac has finished blooming trim or prune to shape it. Don’t wait, if you prune off the new growth that comes soon after the bloom you will sacrifice next years flowers. It is not necessary but to me a good idea to prune back to eye level. What is the point of blooms way over your head and these heirloom lilacs can easily get to 20 feet tall.

Pruning Lilacs

When pruning cut out any dead or weak canes, cut out 2/3rds of the suckers coming up at the base, leave 1/3 for future blooming stems. You can actually dig them up and pot them to make more lilacs if you wish, they actually mature faster than taking cuttings and rooting them. Some say to have only about 10 canes per bush for best health but not sure how correct that is.

What if your Lilac refuses to bloom?

I have an entire post on 10 reasons why your lilac may not be blooming, go here to read about that.

This may sound strange but it has worked for so many on different flowering shrubs and fruit trees. Visiting a local nursery I spotted one of the workers whacking the potted lilacs with a rubber hose. I had to ask what in the wide world he was doing and he explained he was promoting blooms.

As he was telling me this, I thought he was pulling my leg. But then he explained that by beating the plant (not enough to break through the bark) it makes it think it is dying, goes into survival mode and in turn flowers.

On larger trees and shrubs you can use a wood stick or 2 x 4 lumber. So remember don’t hit hard enough to do damage to the trunk but enough to wake it up. As he was explaining it to me I remembered my uncle had told me to do that to some tomato vines I have that were not producing though they had all the right conditions. Obviously a tomato plant has a much more tender base. On the tomato I used a bamboo cane to give it a good beating and it worked. From then on it bloomed, set fruit and was productive.

If your Lilac is not blooming try and give it a good beating about the base and see what happens! You might be pleasantly surprised.

Here is to a sweet smelling garden!

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Are you a fellow flower lover? My favorite garden book of the moment: Floret Farm’s Cut Flower Garden

Happy Planting!
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More Lilac articles
All About Lilacs

  • Exposure: Full sun
  • USDA Hardiness Zones: 3 to 7
  • When to plant: Early spring or early fall
  • Recommended varieties: Congo, Sensation, Bloomerang Dark Purple (reblooming type)
  • Pests and diseases to watch out for: Powdery mildew, aphids

Eddie Phan How to Plant Lilac Bushes

Pick a spot in your yard with good air circulation, not right up against the house, in order to minimize disease risks. Dig a hole about twice as wide as the root ball. Don’t add anything, such as potting soil or peat moss, to the hole. Soil additives can cause drainage problems, and lilacs don’t like wet feet! Place plant in hole no deeper than it was in the pot. Backfill around plant, firmly pressing soil in place.

How to Care for Lilac Bushes

Keep the plant evenly moist, but not sopping wet, while the roots are getting established the first few years. Feed with a rose fertilizer once in early spring according to package directions. Pruning is not necessary; but if you do have to take off a damaged or too-big branch, do it in the spring right after flowering so you don’t remove next year’s flowers.

Can a lilac bush be planted in a pot?

Yes, but choose a dwarf variety. Enjoy it for about three to five years until it outgrows the pot and needs transplanted into the ground.

How do you transplant a lilac bush?

If you need to move a plant away from the house or fence line, wait until right after it flowers so you can enjoy this year’s blooms. Dig the hole it’s going in first so the plant spends as little time as possible out of the ground. Use a spade to make a trench around the outer edge of the plant a few inches beyond the spread of the branches. Use a garden fork to dig under and lift the plant onto a tarp to carry it to the new location. Follow the same planting steps as above.

How do you start a lilac bush?

It’s tricky and takes several years before you’ll see blooms. But let’s say you have a sentimental attachment to a lilac that’s in your grandma’s yard and you want to start your own from her plant: Snip a four to five-inch branch of soft new growth in early spring; avoid the woody pieces or suckers around the base of the plant. Remove leaves along the bottom, dip in rooting powder, place it in a small pot and keep evenly moist. You should see new growth in a few months.

How long do lilac bushes live?

They’re super-hardy and may live 75 years or more! Just look at old, abandoned farmhouses where the lilacs still bloom vigorously.

GROWER TIP: “Lilacs usually are unbothered by insect pests, but if you see a few aphids, knock them off with a blast of water,” says Stacey Hirvela, horticulturalist with Proven Winners Color Choice Shrubs. “To prevent diseases, make sure your plant gets six hours of sun and clean up fallen leaves beneath the plant in autumn.”

Arricca SanSone Arricca SanSone writes for,, Family Circle,, Cooking Light,, and many others.

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