How to Start a Lilac Bush


Lilacs can be found in areas of the United States where winter provides them with the dormant chill they require to produce flowers. Lilac bushes range from 5 to 30 feet tall. Lilac blossoms are lilac-colored, purple, pink or white. New cultivars are available with yellow flower clusters and with bi-colored flowers. Lilacs can be propagated from seeds or cuttings, but the easiest and most reliable way to start a new lilac bush is from a sucker.

Step 1

Select sucker growth from a mature lilac bush. The sucker shoot should be at least pencil-sized in diameter, and about 2 feet tall. Look for suckers growing near the base of the mature lilac bush. They are new shoots that are connected underground to the roots of the lilac bush, and they have some fibrous roots of their own.

Step 2

Use a sharp shovel to loosen the soil around the selected sucker. Brush away some of the soil so you can see the roots where the sucker is joined to the parent plant.

Step 3

Cut the sucker from the parent plant, keeping the roots that belong to the sucker with it. A sharp shovel may do the job, or use a sharp knife or pruners to clip the connecting roots. The sucker should have some fibrous roots of its own, and it should be a complete plant after you separate it from the lilac bush.

Step 4

Plant the sucker in its new location. Set it at the same depth it was previously growing. Spread out the roots in the new planting hole, and firm the soil over them. Water the plant so there is good soil/root contact. If you need to hold the sucker to plant later, or will be moving it to a distant location, plant it in a container.

Step 5

Replace the disturbed roots of the parent plant, and replace the soil over them. Water the disturbed area to settle the soil.

Things You'll Need

  • Mature lilac bush
  • Sharpened shovel or specialty dividing shovel
  • Sharp knife, optional
  • Pruner, optional


  • About Lilacs: Propagating Lilacs
  • University of North Dakota Extension: Questions on Lilacs

Who Can Help

  • University of Illinois Extension: Plant Palette, Lilacs
Keywords: start lilac bush, propagate lilac, lilac bush division, lilac bush sucker, new lilac plants

About this Author

Fern Fischer writes about quilting and sewing, and she professionally restores antique quilts to preserve these historical pieces of women's art. She also covers topics of organic gardening, health, rural lifestyle, home and family. For over 35 years, her work has been published in print and online.