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How to Start a Lilac Bush From a Clipping

Lilacs are low-maintenance bushes, but the paybacks are huge. When the blooms covers the bush in early spring, the scent of lilac will fill the neighborhood with the sweet smell of spring. Lilac bushes can grow several feet tall and can provide leafy shade on hot summer days. Lilac bushes can live for many years, as evidenced by the lilac bushes that surround old rural homesteads. Lilac bushes aren't difficult to propagate from clippings. Just take a softwood cutting in June, and in two months, you should have a tiny, new lilac bush.

Choose a stem from the upper part of a healthy lilac bush. If the stem is at the proper stage for rooting, it will break with a snap when you bend it. If the stem doesn't break easily, it's too young. If it breaks without bending, the stem is too old. Take softwood cuttings from the lilac tree during the morning, when the bush is still well-hydrated.

Wipe pruners or a sharp knife with rubbing alcohol to kill any bacteria. Cut several stems, each 4 to 6 inches long, with five to six sets of leaves. Make the cuts at an angle just below a leaf node, which is where a leaf is attached to the stem.

Strip the leaves from the lower half of the stem cutting. Dip the cut end in powdered rooting hormone. Fill several 4-inch containers with a mixture of 1/2 perlite and 1/2 peat moss. Plant a lilac cutting in each container, with the bare stem approximately 3 inches deep in the soil.

Water each container thoroughly to settle the potting mixture around the lilac cuttings. Place each container in a zip-lock bag, and place the containers in indirect light. Avoid putting the lilac cuttings directly in a sunny window, because the sunlight magnified through the plastic will bake the cuttings. Open the bag and mist inside with a spray bottle whenever the potting mixture feels dry to the touch.

Watch for the lilac cuttings to develop roots in four to six weeks. Using a spoon, lift a cutting carefully from the soil to check the progress of the roots. Once the roots are at least an inch long, open the top of the bags so the lilacs can get accustomed to the dry air. After a week, remove the cuttings from the plastic bags. Keep the potting mixture damp, but don't water excessively.

Move the young lilacs to one-gallon containers filled with commercial potting mixture in late summer. Be sure the containers have bottom drainage holes. Place the containers in an outdoor area where they will be protected from freezing wind, and let them mature for at least a year before planting them in their permanent home. Continue to keep the soil moist, especially during warm, dry periods.

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