How to Cultivate a Lilac Bush


Lilacs are a popular species of flowering shrub found throughout much of the United States. The plant produces blossoms in shades ranging from white to soft purple and pink. It is from this plant that we get the shade of purple named lilac. Although lilacs may be grown from seed, hybrid plants will not reproduce seed that is exactly like the parent plant. Instead lilacs should be grown from cuttings. Because lilac bushes are softwood, the cuttings root well and can easily be propagated.

Step 1

Sharpen your pruning shears before taking lilac cuttings to prevent bruising the cuttings.

Step 2

Soak a cloth with bleach and swipe the shears with it before taking a cutting to prevent the spread of disease.

Step 3

Time your cutting for late spring or early summer between May and early July for the best success.

Step 4

Select a healthy branch from a disease-free lilac bush to take your cutting. The branch should not be filled with blossoms; in fact, you should remove any blossoms from the branch before taking a cutting. A cutting with blossoms will put its energy into the blooms rather than into developing roots.

Step 5

Position your shears approximately six inches from the tip of the end of the branch right below the point where a leaf emerges. There should be at least three points where leaves emerge from the stem (leaf nodes).

Step 6

Make a clean, crosswise cut through the branch. Place the cut end of the branch into a sandwich bag filled with a tablespoonful of water for transporting.

Step 7

Fill a four-inch container with perlite. Strip the leaves from the lower two thirds of the cutting. Dip the cut end of the cutting in rooting hormone and insert it into the perlite two thirds of the way.

Step 8

Water the perlite mixture until it is as damp as a wrung-out sponge. Place a plastic freezer bag over the container to prevent it from drying out. Place the container in a sunny window out of direct sunlight. Check the cutting to see if it has taken root by pulling back the soil around the base of the cutting. Remove the freezer bag when roots emerge from the plant.

Step 9

Take the container outdoors and place it into the shade during the daytime to allow the plant to harden off once the plant outgrows its four-inch container. Once the plant has hardened off, dig a six-inch planting pocket in the soil. Remove the lilac from its container and place it in the planting pocket. Then cover it with soil and water until the soil is as damp as a wrung-out sponge.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Sharpeners
  • Bleach
  • Cloth
  • Sandwich bag
  • Rooting hormone
  • Vermiculite
  • 4-inch container
  • Freezer storage bags
  • Shovel
  • Garden hose


  • Iowa State University: Propagation of Shrubs from Softwood Cuttings
  • NC State University: Plant Propagation by Leaf, Cane and Root Cuttings
  • Washington State University: Common Lilac

Who Can Help

  • University of Missouri Extension: Home Propagation of Garden and Landscape Plants
Keywords: taking lilac cuttings, propagating softwood shrubs, rooting softwood cuttings

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."