Can You Start a Lilac Bush From a Cutting?


If you have a favourite variety of lilac (Syringa spp. and cvs. ), which can be grown in USDA zones 3 through 8, in your garden and find that you want more of it, you can try to propagate it by taking softwood cuttings of it in the spring. Be aware, however, that propagating lilacs from cuttings is a challenging endeavour before you throw yourself wholeheartedly into it. On the other hand, if you are careful about when you take your cuttings and obsessive about keeping them moist while their delicate root systems are developing, you may just be rewarded for your efforts with a number of new shrubs that are genetically identical to your old favourite. This can be accomplished by taking cuttings at specific times and being obsessive about keeping them moist.


Before you go and get your cuttings, you should get your container and your rooting medium ready because time is of the essence.

Collecting Cuttings

It is best to take cuttings of softwood early in the morning during the springtime, immediately following the flowering of the lilac, and when the new growth is between 6 and 8 inches in length. To determine whether or not a cutting is ready, bend it. It has reached its full maturity when it becomes woody and rigid. If it can be bent easily but does not easily break, then it is probably too young or still green. You should look for a cutting that easily snaps in half when bent and that retains some of its succulent quality. You can sterilise your pruning shears by wiping the blades with a clean cloth or paper towel that has been moistened with rubbing alcohol. Next, cut the desired number of cuttings that are between 4 and 6 inches long, as well as a few extras in case some of the cuttings do not develop into roots. There should be two or three nodes on each cutting. Nodes are the small, round, slightly raised areas where leaf stems attach. Take the leaves off the lower half of the cutting before you use it.


As you collect cuttings, place them in a plastic bag, wrap each one in a wet paper towel, and store the bag somewhere out of direct sunlight to prevent the cuttings from drying out. If they are left to wilt, there is no chance that they will root.

Rooting Medium

Place an equal amount of sand, peat, vermiculite, and perlite, or a combination of these, into a container that is either very big and clean, or numerous smaller containers. It’s important to make sure the rooting media is spotless, sterilised, and saturated with enough of water. Make a hole in the rooting media that is big enough to hold the lower half of each cutting, then poke it. Before inserting the cuttings into the holes that have been created for them, first wet the ends of the cuttings and then coat them with rooting hormone. To keep the cuttings in place, give the wet rooting media a very little squeeze all around each one. After that, you should moisten the cuts.

Caring for the Cuttings

It is essential that the cuttings never get dry while they are in the process of root formation. Either place them in a bed designed for mist propagation or spray them with a fine mist of sterile water many times each day. It will also be helpful to maintain humidity levels if you put them in a cold frame and water them on a regular basis. If you just have a few cuttings, you may use a plastic bag to create a little greenhouse. However, you will need to insert skewers or thin dowels into the pots to prevent the plastic from coming into contact with the plants. Although light is essential, cuttings should not be exposed to direct sunlight as this might cause them to overheat. Protect the cuttings by covering them with cheesecloth or shade cloth to prevent them from overheating.

Planting the Rooted Cuttings

After three to eight weeks, you should give the cuttings a little pull to test their viability. If they have established roots, they will fight against being pulled up. After the cuttings have developed roots that are approximately an inch long, transplant them into their own individual containers. After that, transfer them to a shady outdoor location, and keep a close eye on them there. Do not let them become dry by any means. When new leaves begin to emerge, gradually cut down on the amount of water you give the plant while simultaneously planting the cuttings in a permanent place with a soil that is rich, neutral to alkaline, and gets at least six hours of sunshine each day.


You can grow and propagate a variety of fragrant and beautiful lilacs in your garden, including the common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) and the Korean lilac (Syringa meyerii), both of which are hardy in USDA zones 3 through 7, and the littleleaf lilac (Syringa pubescens), which is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 7. Your lilac wish list and the amount of space you have available will determine which