How to Space Lilacs When Planting


Prized for their heady, sweet fragrance, lilacs announce the end of cold, hard winters and promise summer is on its way. These hardy shrubs survive for years in the same location and are often seen around old foundations or abandoned homesteads. Families in New England continue the tradition of digging up a section from the family lilac to replant when children move out to homes of their own, keeping the same tree alive for generations.

Step 1

Select an area that gets full sun with well-drained soil. Lilacs suffer with wet roots and prefer soil that drains quickly.

Step 2

Plant lilacs in either spring or fall. Dig a hole two to three times the size of the root ball. Fill in the bottom third of the hole with garden loam.

Step 3

Place the lilac in the hole and spread the roots over the soil. Position the sapling to its original planting depth and fill in around the roots with garden loam. Firm the soil down with your hands to remove air pockets and secure the shrub.

Step 4

Space individual trees 10 to 15 feet apart to grow as mature trees. For privacy shields, lilacs can be planted 6 feet part, but will require pruning to maintain their shape and size.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not prune lilacs after the middle of summer as the next year's buds are beginning to form. Pruning at this time reduces the amount of blooms in the spring.

Things You'll Need

  • Lilac saplings
  • Spade
  • Loam
  • Slow-release fertilizer


  • University of New Hampshire Extension: Growing Lilacs
  • Harvard University The Arnold Arboretum: Lilacs of Arnold Arboretum

Who Can Help

  • Alberta Plant Watch: Common Purple Lilac Information
Keywords: space lilac trees, plant lilac trees, plant lilac shrubs, spacing for lilacs

About this Author

Nannette Richford is an avid gardener, teacher and nature enthusiast with 4 years experience in online writing and a lifetime of personal journals. She is published on various sites, including Associated Content. Richford holds a Bachelor of Science in secondary education from the University of Maine Orono and certifications in 7-12 English, K-8 General Elementary and Birth to age 5.