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You can Propagate Lilacs from Suckers

Lilac suckers, also known as lilac shoots, are a much faster way to start new lilacs rather than cuttings. Spring is a great time to do this as the soil is moist and easy to dig and the suckers are really growing. Want to get a clone of your Grandma’s lilacs? This is for you!

Every May I love taking my morning coffee outside to sit on my steps under my front arbor. My neighbor has a large lilac that blooms prolifically and perfumes the morning air. 

I sit, sip and breathe in the sweet scent of Spring and feel my stresses melt away. I knew I wanted a lilac (or ten) so I  asked if I could dig up some of the suckers. 

Today I am going to show you how you can propagate lilacs from suckers and get more sweet smelling lilacs in your garden. You’re going to love this one!

Lilac in bloom with text overlay, the fastest and easiest way to propagate lilacs, Flower Patch Farmhouse

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Why Propagate Lilacs from Suckers or Shoots

My How to Grow and How to Root Lilacs from Cuttings are two of my most popular posts in the Spring. Seems Lilacs are a favorite of many.

This method to propagate lilacs from suckers is easy and you get a new plant which blooms much faster than you would get from cuttings.

Be sure to watch the video at the end. I was able to convince my neighbor to let me dig up a sucker of the Lilac you see in the top photo!

NOTE: this will not work if they lilac you are taking the suckers from is a grafted variety. Look at the trunk of the lilac between 6 inches and a foot from the ground. Is there a knobby area with a change in the appearance of the bark? If so then the Lilac has been grafted and what you see on top is not what the suckers will grow to look like.

What are Lilac Suckers

Suckers are shoots that grow from around the Lilac base.  Some feel they can be a menace but most folks just cut them off with a mower or weed wacker to keep them in check. 

How to Propagate Lilacs from Suckers, easy enough if you have a sharp shovel and a bit of muscle.

This is a white Lilac in a friends yard.  She said I could come dig up all the suckers or shoots I wanted.  Now it does take a good sharp shovel and a bit of muscle but it is not hard.

Find some suckers that are far enough away from the parent bush to get in there with a shovel and have some leverage. This soil was super compacted so I didn’t get as much root as I would prefer yet it still worked.

How to Dig Lilac Suckers

How to Propagate Lilacs from Suckers, easy enough if you have a sharp shovel and a bit of muscle.

With a good push with your foot shove the shovel straight down and cut through the sucker root.  You will have to put your weight into it, slicing through can be tough. (having a sharp shovel is key)

Slice down all around the sucker and pop it up out of the ground, hoping you have a good portion of root.

My latest acquisition cuts right through the roots like a hot knife through butter, it is called the Root Slayer! I love this thing.

Dig up as many lilac suckers as you can.  You may lose a few but so far I have had 100% success rate with this method.  If you dig up plenty you can be assured to have one survive and if all survive you can always give away what you don’t want to keep. 

How to Propagate Lilacs from Suckers, easy enough if you have a sharp shovel and a bit of muscle.

Soak them

How to Propagate Lilacs from Suckers, easy enough if you have a sharp shovel and a bit of muscle.

I have a bucket of water nearby and I put them right in it.  Keeping them moist helps to lessen the shock and helps in case the lilac was not well hydrated.

I had something come up and could not get to them right away but they seemed to do fine in the water for a few days. They were kept in the greenhouse but a shady spot in the yard will work just fine too.

Potting the Lilac Suckers

With some I cut the large roots back so it is easier to fit them in the pots, the smaller roots will be fine to get started.

How to Propagate Lilacs from Suckers, easy enough if you have a sharp shovel and a bit of muscle.

Then I fill some gallon pots with potting soil halfway then plop in a sucker before filling the pot the rest of the way with soil.

How to Propagate Lilacs from Suckers, easy enough if you have a sharp shovel and a bit of muscle.
How to Propagate Lilacs from Suckers, easy enough if you have a sharp shovel and a bit of muscle.

I had to use the larger diameter pot for this mass of roots.

Propagating Lilacs in pots

I noticed that the Lilac starts I had rooted from cuttings had suckers coming up in the pots.  So I decided to divide those too. It is much easier as the roots are not that big yet.

I popped the Lilac out of the pot and was pleased with the healthy root mass.  They really do need to be potted up or divided and I opted for dividing, I am not sure where I want to plant them yet.

How to Propagate Lilacs from Suckers, easy enough if you have a sharp shovel and a bit of muscle.

I grab my garden knife and slice through the entire root mass between the center rooted cutting and the side shoots, which are the suckers.

How to Propagate Lilacs from Suckers, easy enough if you have a sharp shovel and a bit of muscle.

Now repot them up in separate pots with fresh potting soil.

How to Propagate Lilacs from Suckers, easy enough if you have a sharp shovel and a bit of muscle.

You can see the mother plant and two daughter plants all in their very own pots.

I did this a few weeks ago and they are growing strong and healthy.  Not even a bit of droop from shock.

Transplanting Lilac Shoots

You do not have to put your freshly dug suckers or shoots into pots.  You can plant them directly into the ground. 

Just dig a hole deep enough, loosen up the soil some by digging around with your shovel. Place your freshly dug  lilac sucker or shoot into the hole and fill back with the loose soil.  Firm it in with your foot.  Water it in well.

Keep your fresh planted lilac watered until it is established. This is best done in Spring before the temperatures get too hot so the roots can start to get growing and able to bring up water. Keep close watch on it for a few months. 

And that is how you propagate lilacs from suckers. Lilac propagation is how you get a lilac just like Grandma’s. 

I wish you a sweet smelling garden!

Just one more note, I credit my chickens and their leavings (doo) with a lot of my success in gardening, great soil builder. That being said if you would like to get into chicken keeping here is a great resource on it: Fresh Eggs Daily, Raising Happy Chickens Naturally.

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More Garden Goodness for You to Enjoy!
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Chris

Monday 28th of December 2020

Oh wow, I noticed I have a lot of lilac suckers(not grafted) out front I can propogate. Knowing now that its easy to do I am excited! Excellent article and thank you for the tips! :)

Pamela

Monday 28th of December 2020

You are so welcome.

Kelly Hylton

Saturday 10th of October 2020

This was a great article, thank you so much. I have a lilac shoot I've been babying in a pot for a couple of months. (I think it was in shock at first but is better now.) It's October and I'm afraid to plant it because I live in Rochester, NY and the winters can be brutal. Where should I keep it over the winter? In the garage? The house? How much light does it need in the winter? Thank you so much for any advise you can offer!

Pamela

Tuesday 13th of October 2020

The garage may be your best bet. Just be sure it does not dry out completely but you don't want it wet either. If you have any windows in your garage have it as close to it as possible. As soon as temps start to warm up you will need to put it outside in a sheltered location as it wakes up for Spring. I wish you success with your baby lilac.

CK

Tuesday 5th of May 2020

Hello Pamela! My neighbor actually cut the lilacs w/branches and leaves on...no roots though :( Is there a way i can propagate them? Thanks in advanced.

Caroline

Wednesday 29th of April 2020

Thank you so much for that post! The way you explain things makes it easy to read and remember. I will definitely try transplanting lilac shoots this week!

Tabba Crae

Friday 24th of April 2020

Hello Pamela! So happy to find your site! A nearby home is going to be demolished to build yet another building! :-( There are lovely plants and trees in the garden that are going to be saved, so I would like to take the opportunity to salvage what I can and propagate for growing in pots on my balcony/terrace. There's a light lavender lilac and a variety I've never seen with the tiniest light pink flowers, seems almost vine-like. And there are quite a few rose bushes.

My questions are mostly about the lilacs and how long I can grow them in pots. If yes, will they flower? Can I put more than one "suckling" to a pot.

Many thanks for your advice! Like you, I can't help myself from asking from pieces and bits of plants that I find attractive wherever I may be: a restaurant, hotel lobby, etc...

Take care and be safe!!! TC

Pamela

Friday 24th of April 2020

Lilacs can be kept in containers but they will not get that big and yes they will bloom. You can put more than one sucker in a pot but one alone in a container will sucker itself so I am not sure why you would want to put more than one in a pot. The light pink one sounds interesting and I wish you well in salvaging what you can.

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