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easy Rooting Lilacs from cuttings

Rooting Lilacs from cuttings is an easy way to propagate this sweet smelling Spring favorite. Taking cuttings is an age old method of getting more plants from established ones to pass on or keep to expand your own garden.

Rooting lilacs from cuttings is a great way to get more of these beautiful bushes. Does your parents, grandparents or friend have a Lilac you would love to grow in your garden? You can replicate it by taking cuttings from it to root and grow on. This works great too if you are moving and can’t take your favorite Lilac with you.

May is typically when my neighborhood is filled with the scent of Lilacs.  You know Spring has arrived in White Pines when everywhere you walk smells so sweet.

heirloom lavender lilac bush in full bloom, Flower Patch Farmhouse

It is one of my favorite things about living here.   The lilacs filling  the yards and gardens in my neighborhood are all mostly heirloom varieties planted back in the 40’s.

White Pines was established for the workers of the old lumber mill. Highly fragrant and tough as nails, even the abandoned lilacs are performing with no irrigating or tending.

Tough, reliable plants are the best foundation for any easy care garden. 

How to Propagate Lilacs from cuttings,

Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you decide to make a purchase through my links, at no cost to you. Please read my disclosure for more info.

Bypass Pruners
Rooting Helpers
Cloning Gel
Garden Safe Take Root (some of I have used in the past and did fine with)
Old wine crate or DIY WOOD CRATE
Peat Moss (I have now switched to Rice Hulls in place of peat moss) You can find it at most feed stores as well as this link on Amazon.

10 Gal. Fish Tank (I found mine at Wal-Mart)

Just FYI, I have started a YouTube channel for my DIY posts, I have a few propagation tricks for you there, you can click here to subscribe!

Prepare Container for Lilac cuttings

First I prepare my propagation box.

I fill it with my own DIY Potting Soil mix which you can read about here.

This method with the crate is for starting a ton of cuttings at once. You can do something similar in pots. (For my latest method that works on a windowsill check out this post: ROOTING ROSES, it will work for the lilacs too!)

The crate has slats on the bottom with wide gaps for great drainage. This one is sitting on the gravel floor of my greenhouse. It gets great indirect light.

I have built a crate in this post so you can easily replicate one yourself. It is useful for so many things!

I fill the crate nearly full of potting soil.


Cover for Humidity

To maintain good humidity I use a clear cover or translucent cover that fits the crate.

These fish tanks come in handy in creating a mini greenhouse effect while being tall enough for longer cuttings. They last for years if proper care is taken of. You don’t need to have it in a greenhouse like I do just be sure if yours is outside it is in a bright yet shaded area.

I have also used the clear plastic tubs from Wal-Mart, the Sterlite brand.


When & How to Take Lilac Cuttings

Choose new growth just after the Lilacs is finished blooming. Bloom time varies by your growing season.  For me, the Lilacs bloom in May so they are done in early June.

Cut a branch about 8 to 12 inches long.


Take plenty of cuttings, there is about a 50/50 success rate so the more you try to start the more chance of success.

How to Prepare Lilac Cuttings

I haul them all to my potting bench and begin.
If the cutting is 8 inches I leave it that long, if it is 12 inches I cut it in half.

Strip most of the leaves from the cutting.
Coat the ends into the rooting medium or cloning Gel.  I like the Olivias but have switched to this one, Hormex 8. It is a bit stronger for semi-hardwood cuttings.


I use a small paint brush to cover the length of stem that will be under the growing medium.

note: you see I have put the stem into the bottle of the gel, this is NOT recommended. It can cause contamination. Just use the paint brush to put it on your cutting.


Below you can see nodes on the stem, that is where roots begin and you want a good portion of nodes below the soil line.  You want to try and get at least 3 nodes under the soil line.


You may have noted some of these are also rose cuttings.  I like to fill up my box when I am doing cuttings.


Once they are all dipped in the cloning gel or powder sink them down into the potting soil mixture.  First use a dauber (a pencil works well) to create a hole to slide the cuttings down into the soil without removing the cloning gel. 


I place them far enough apart they do not touch each other and away from the edges so they won’t touch the cover.

Some like to remove more of the leaves, as they are where fungus can grow more easily. I left them on so you could see them better in the photos.

After placing the cuttings in the box or crate I carefully place the cover over them.


Note there is s space around the fish tank where potting soil shows.  That is how to water without lifting the tank. You want to keep the soil moist but not too wet.  You shouldn’t need to water often. The tank cover will keep the soil moist for long periods of time.  

Put something under the tank edge to prop it up half an inch or so for air flow. I use a small flat stone, nothing fancy. 

If using a clear plastic tote you can drill a few holes in it. If your cuttings are not very long this type of humidity dome works well too.

How long for Lilacs to Root?

You should have roots in one to two months.  You can leave newly rooted cuttings in place to develop further or you can pot up into individual pots to grow on. I let mine grow in pots until firmly established and hardy enough to take the rigors of garden life. 



How long before Lilac cuttings will bloom?

Lilacs can take three years or more to bloom from cuttings.  Want faster bloom then visit How to Propagate Lilacs from Suckers and get a larger plant faster!


Before you know it you will be picking beautiful bouquets like this one. 

How to Propagate Lilacs by cuttings,

And create heavenly scented displays for your home.

Rooting lilacs, easy and fragrant fun,
Rooting lilacs, easy and fragrantly fun,

Need tips and tricks for growing and caring for your lilacs, How to Grow Lilacs.

Happy Gardening. 

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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Bonnie Crim

Saturday 25th of July 2020

Does anyone know where I can purchase some inexpensive Lilac cuttings this time of year? Thank you...please contact [email protected]

Daniel Park

Sunday 20th of August 2017


I am trying to grow lilacs from cuttings. Backstory: these are lilacs from my wife's childhood home I gave her for her birthday. We were seeing lots of new buds on all branches after about 3 weeks but we went on vacation for a week and when we came home nearly all the buds dried out except for two branches with leaves/buds. Obviously, this being a gift that my wife loves, I'd like very much to do everything perfect to keep these two cuttings alive. The cuttings have now been in the pot for 6 weeks. My questions:

- these cuttings are currently in a clear plastic bag with a tomatoes cage holding up the plastic and I spray two or three times a day with a spray bottle to keep things humid. Everything I've read says to keep the cuttings humid. However, I've also read that lilacs are prone to fungus so I'm worried the leaves will rot if I leave them in too long and worried that they'll dry out if I take them out too soon. How do I know when I should I move the cutting with the leaves (currently the biggest leaf is about a half inch wide) out of the humid evironment? Should I remove any cuttings that look like they are dead or probably not going to sprout buds to reduce the likelihood of rot and mold or is there still a chance these will generate buds?

- The cuttings are in a west facing window. I put a sheer curtain between the window and the pot to mimic indirect light which is what several online resources say the cuttings need. Now that the leaves on one of the cuttings are getting bigger, should I expose them to direct light? They probably get around 6 hours of light in that window. Is that enough?

Your help is very much appreciated. Thank you!

Happy to send pics of that would help.



Sunday 20th of August 2017

If any are dried out and dead looking it is most likely a lost cause. Many times cuttings will sprout new leaves from the energy they have stored in them and are not a sign they have rooted. You should not have to be spraying them if they are in an enclosed environment. The humidity already present should be plenty. If there are droplets of water present on the plastic then it is too much. A shady spot on your porch is better than in a window inside. Outdoor light is 100's of times better than any indoor light. It is safe to remove them from the bag when you know they have roots. Are they in a container that you can see through the bottom of? That makes it so much easier to know if they have roots. If one is growing well then you can assume it has rooted but it is better to put it in a shady spot on your porch as stated before than direct sunlight. I wish you success. It sounds like you are doing pretty good. I hope this is helpful. Pamela


Sunday 12th of June 2016

Just wondering if your pictures and content was given permission to be posted on another blog? If so disregard . I did a search for rooting lilacs. Your post showed up first and a few posts later there is one by mountain man or something. With your pictures and content. Just curious.


Sunday 12th of June 2016

Sorry it is backwoods cottage that has the same content. Backwoods/ mountain same thing right?? No? I hate it when people steal content and push it off as their own.

Fotini Donnelly

Monday 23rd of May 2016

Great post Pam. One thing to ask after the cuttings have developed roots: what do you do with the freshly potted young plant? In Minnesota, lilacs bloom early spring (mid to late May). Do you let the young lilac outside all summer, fall, then bring it in during winter? What is a good follow up?


Monday 23rd of May 2016

Our Lilacs bloom in early to late May also. After potting up the rooted cutting I keep it in a well lit but shady spot all summer and fall. I keep mine in my greenhouse during the winter the first season but then after that it is outside all the time. My greenhouse is unheated and not insulated so I don't know how much protection it really gives. I still have mine in pots now as I am not sure where I want to plant them. I keep changing my mind. I am in Zone 8, we get snowy winters but the temps rarely go below 10 degrees. In a colder areas in winter I would bury the pot in the ground if left outside and/or protect it someway. Maybe put it in an unheated garage. I hope this helps.

Theresa @DearCreatives

Friday 29th of January 2016

Great tutorial. Not sure if I can grow them in the zone we moved to. But, lilacs are my favorite. Pinned for later. & Shared.


Saturday 30th of January 2016

Your best bet is to see if any of your neighbors have some. But also a local garden center (not big box store but a real plant nursery) would be able to tell you if there are any varieties that suit your area. I know a lot of hybrids have been bred to fit in many zones that are not typically hospitable to lilacs.

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