How to Start Lilac Bushes


The lilac is a flowering plant that grows in a bush or tree shape and is known for the strong, fragrant flowers it produces in late spring. Lilacs are often planted as an eye-appealing shade or privacy hedge as they can reach a height of 8 feet or taller. The lilac bush should be planted in spring as soon as the ground thaws to give the plant enough time to establish the first year. In areas with short growing seasons or harsh winters, plant the lilac in the fall season.

Step 1

Select a planting location that has full sun for at least six hours a day and a well-draining soil. Test the soil pH as the lilac bush prefers a neutral soil of 6.0 to 7.0 on the pH scale. Apply limestone to the soil to increase the pH number.

Step 2

Dig a hole that is the same depth as the container the lilac came in and slightly wider. Water the root ball well to loosen the roots and gently set the plant in the hole. Spread the roots in a vertical direction and carefully fill the hole with soil. Tamp the soil while adding it to prevent air bubbles.

Step 3

Apply 1 inch of topsoil mixed with a balanced fertilizer around the base of the lilac immediately after planting. Water the lilac thoroughly to stimulate root growth and absorption of the fertilizer.

Step 4

Water the lilac bush in the spring months until the blooms have faded. Do not over-water or have standing water around the roots as lilacs do not respond well to excess water.

Step 5

Apply loose mulch around the base of the lilac to prevent weed growth and retain moisture.

Step 6

Apply a general purpose fertilizer in the spring prior to blooming. Do not use a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen as this will decrease bloom production. Continue to apply the fertilizer every two weeks until the blooms have faded.

Step 7

Prune the lilac to control the shape and spread. Cut branches near the ground first, followed by outside sprouts to narrow the bush. Use a narrow-edged saw to prevent excessive wounding of the plant. Do not crop the plant as this will reduce the amount of blooms produced.

Things You'll Need

  • pH test kit
  • Limestone
  • Water
  • Topsoil
  • Balanced fertilizer
  • Mulch
  • Pruning clipper


  • Helpful Gardener: Lilacs
  • Gardening Know How: Lilac Care
  • How To Do Things: How to Plant a Lilac Bush
Keywords: plant lilac bush, start lilac bush, grow lilacs

About this Author

Jennifer Loucks has over 10 years of experience as a former technical writer for a software development company in Wisconsin. Her writing experience includes creating software documentation and help documents for clients and staff along with training curriculum. Loucks holds a Bachelor of Science major from the University of Wisconsin - River Falls specializing in animal science and business.