How to Grow Lilac Bushes


Lilac bushes are one of the hardiest bushes, surviving temperatures of minus 50 degrees Fahrenheit. They also are among the easiest to care for and will endure on their own for years without any care at all. Starting them out right and following a minimalist care plan will ensure your lilacs are hardy and healthy for many years to come.

Planting Lilacs

Step 1

Soak the bare roots of the lilac bush in a bucket of water while the planting site is prepared. Choose a sunny location that receives at least six hours of sunshine per day.

Step 2

Using the shovel, dig a hole approximately 3 to 4 feet wide or wide enough to accommodate the width of the root system. Dig to a depth no deeper than 1 to 2 inches deeper than the original planting depth of the bush.

Step 3

Widen and deepen the hole for clay-type soils. Mix the manure or compost with the soil from the hole. Add some of this mixture to bucket or road gravel, mixing thoroughly.

Step 4

Pour some of the gravel-compost-soil mix into the hole. Place the lilac bush into the center of the hole. Gently fill in the hole with the rest of the gravel-compost-soil mix. Add any remaining soil mix to the top and tamp down.

Step 5

Pour the water from the bucket the bush was soaking in gently over the filled hole. Spread mulch over root base, covering the filled hole with a layer 3 to 4 inches deep.

Caring for Lilacs

Step 1

Use pruning shears to prune damaged or diseased branches during dormancy in the late fall or winter. Prune for shaping purposes after last flowers have begun to fade.

Step 2

Replace mulch annually to maintain moisture, control weeds and provide consistent temperatures to the root system. Remove any fallen leaves or branches from base of bush.

Step 3

Water only during periods of drought. Add fertilizer only if the bush does not grow vigorously about once every three to four years.

Tips and Warnings

  • Avoid fertilizing the first year. Avoid shady areas when choosing a site. Avoid pruning other than as described above as pruning in the fall or winter will remove the blooms for the coming spring. Either of these conditions can minimize blooms. Use caution when working with pruning shears.

Things You'll Need

  • 5-gallon bucket of water
  • Lilac bush
  • Shovel
  • Compost or manure
  • 5-gallon bucket half-filled with road gravel
  • 1 bag of bark mulch
  • Pruning shears
  • Water
  • Fertilizer (optional)


  • Fox Hill Lilac Nursery: How to Properly Plant your Lilac
  • Creative Homemaking: Tips for Growing Lilacs
  • University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension: Growing Lilacs

Who Can Help

  • Gardener's Network: Lilacs
Keywords: lilac, planting, soil

About this Author

Theresa Leschmann has been a freelance writer for five years. She has written for local newspapers as well as websites such as Associated Content, Helium, Bukisa and Demand Studios. She also writes movies reviews for and writes a blog, Movie Muse. Leschmann brings her love of home and garden, traveling and movies to her writing.