There are four basic ways to propagate lilacs in your home garden to create more, free plants. Methods like growing from division and taking cuttings yield the quickest results.

Our Lilac Growing Guide has excellent tips for choosing the right lilacs for your garden and how to keep them happy for decades to come.


How To Propagate Lilacs (Syringa)

There are four basic ways to propagate lilacs.

The fastest and most efficient methods involve cloning but do not be alarmed by the term. In the plant propagation world, this simply means removing part of an existing plant and growing it on as its own new plant. Because no sexual reproduction is required, the new plant will be genetically identical to the original one. In other words, it’s a clone.

Growing from seed is the slowest method and least reliable due to the time involved, but still an intriguing challenge for some gardeners.

Which method is best for your situation will depend on the donor plant and your expectations.

Plant Patents: Some plants are patented and asexual reproduction is not permitted without permission from the patent holder. Patents and trademarks are listed on plant tags.

1Division

Division is easiest method. If your lilac is sending up shoots at the root base, you can cut them away from the main plant, keeping their roots intact, and grow them on as new plants.

Not all lilacs send up root shoots. Some are actually sold with the promise that they won’t do this because some gardeners don’t want the upkeep to maintain a more orderly appearance.

I have a white lilac grown from a shoot. It came from a lilac bush, a “heritage lilac,” first planted in a local garden in the late 1800s. While a lovely, sentimental favorite, it does indeed sent up a lot of shoots.

I’ve allowed some of the shoots to continue growing to form a lilac hedge. The rest I divide and give away as new plants.

2Stem Tip Cuttings

Stem tip cuttings are another option. You will also see this referred to as softwood, semi-ripe, or hardwood cuttings, depending on when the cutting is taken.

Basically, a non-flowering section of stem is cut from the main plant and prepared for rooting.

You can do this with clean pruners or snippers (my favorite).

This tutorial on taking hardwood cuttings shows the process step-by-step.

3Layering or Runners

Layering is a method where a stem from the plant (still attached to the main plant) is pinned to the soil and kept in place as new roots (“advantageous roots”) form at a node.

You can hold the stem in place with landscape staples or a rock.

This method can work on any shrubby lilac that has stems flexible enough to pin down. It may take a year or more for roots to form. Some lilacs do this on their own.

You may also see this referred to as growing “runners,” similar to how strawberry plants self-propagate.

Once the roots have formed and the shoot can sustain itself, you cut the whole thing off the mother plant and grow it elsewhere.

4Seeds

While absolutely possible to start lilac from seed, it’s a long-slow process that may require many months just for germination and then a few years for the plant to grow and get established.

If you have the patience, it could be quite rewarding.

With any propagation, hybrids will not reproduce true to the parent which may or may not matter to you.

While not commonly sold by seed companies, you can find lilac seeds for sale at Etsy shops.

You can also save seeds yourself by collecting lilac seed pods after flowering.

Seeds from hardy lilacs are going to need a few months of cold stratification outdoors or in your fridge prior to sowing and germination.

Resources

Is my lilac a tree, shrub, bush or hedge?

How your lilac grows will depend on some combination of its genetics, age, and how to care for it.

Some lilacs become massive, tree-like structures.

Others remain round-ish bushes.

And there’s plenty of in-between examples. Often the wording is just semantics.

You can read more here about different types of lilacs and how to identify yours.

Watch Lilac Videos

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=videoseries

Summary

Propagation by division is easiest if your lilac is providing shoots from the roots.

Otherwise, growing from cuttings or layering are the next best options.

Growing from seed is for patient, dedicated garden geeks only (and I say this fondly).

~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛

Kitchen Propagation Handbook cover

Kitchen Propagation Handbook
7 Fruits & Vegetables To Regrow As Houseplants

by Melissa J. Will

Learn how to grow houseplants from avocado, oranges, lemons, ginger, and more using leftover pits, seeds, and roots.

About This Ebook

This ebook is a digital file (PDF format) you save to your device. It is not a physical product.

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White lilac blooming in garden.

Melissa J. Will

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