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How to Move a Lilac Bush

By Tracy Morris ; Updated September 21, 2017
Lilac bushes were established in the U.S. in the mid-18th century.

Lilac is an old shrub that was first brought to the United States in 1750, according to the University of New Hampshire. The plant requires a long cold season in order to produce abundant blooms, and will not do well in the temperate southern United States. Lilacs adapt well to transplant, although they may not produce abundant blooms the year after they are moved.

Time transplanting your lilac bush in early spring while the plant is dormant. This will help the plant recover from transplanting shock faster.

Root prune lilacs a year before transplanting to help the shrub develop new roots in the root ball and recover from transplant quickly. Insert a spade into the ground to a depth of 12 inches and work the spade in a circle around the plant's drip line.

Select a new location for your lilac bush that is in full sun with well-drained soil.

Tie up the lilac's branches with nylon rope to keep them out of the way. Avoid cutting back lilacs before transplant. While most shrubs should be pruned to make the shrub easier to transport, lilacs will not bloom if you cut them back before you transplant them.

Mark the north side of the lilac with a piece of survey tape so that you can orient the plant into the soil facing the same direction. Lilac bushes that are not oriented the same way may face sunscald, a form of sunburn that can severely damage the plant.

Dig a planting hole for the lilac that is twice as wide as the root ball and the exact same depth of 12 inches.

Insert a shovel in a circle around the lilac bush at a point 4 inches further away from the plant than the root pruning line. Slip the shovel under the plant and lift upward to remove it from the ground.

Place the lilac into the new planting hole so that it is oriented with the marked location pointing north. Fill in around the sides of the root ball with soil. Pat firmly to dislodge air pockets and water so the soil is as damp as a wrung-out sponge.

Water with 1 inch of water per 1 inch of soil all around the lilac bush every seven days for four weeks to help the plant’s roots become established.


Things You Will Need

  • Garden spade
  • Rope
  • Survey tape
  • Shovel
  • Garden hose


  • A lilac that is transplanted may not produce an abundant display of blossoms the year after being transplanted.

About the Author


Tracy Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World." She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from the University of Arkansas.