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Beginner Gardening Questions: lilac cutting has grown buds but no roots

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DoGooder
Hopkinton, MA
(Zone 5b)

December 1, 2013
2:40 PM

Post #9719655

In early autumn a storm knocked down a neighbor's lilac tree. I had often admired its purple blooms, so I took a 15" cutting and planted it in the ground next to my home foundation. The healthy green leaves dropped off in a few days and it did look dead but I kept watering it. When I checked the cutting a few weeks ago I noticed it had about ten 1/3" green buds.

Today I transplanted the cutting to a sunnier location because it only got one hour of sunlight per day and when it's time for the new tree to grow leaves in spring I wanted it to be firmly rooted. Anyway, I noticed that the cutting had no roots at all, and I was wondering if it's normal for tree cuttings to grow buds first then grow roots. The lilac is obviously getting adequate moisture and nutrients, or else it couldn't have grow buds in autumn. But I'm wondering if the lack of roots forebodes a winter death.

The original lilac tree was 20 ft. tall, but now only a 4-foot offshoot remains since the main trunk was destroyed. It used to be covered in dark purple flowers for one month in late spring/early summer, and the attached picture is a photoshopped version of another (pink) neighborhood lilac because I don't have a photo of the purple parent tree. It was growing in a part sun location (morning and afternoon sun) protected from the wind. Today, I transplanted the cutting in a similar location in zone 5b.

DoGooder

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Doug9345
Durhamville, NY
(Zone 5b)

December 1, 2013
4:43 PM

Post #9719702

From every thing I can determine Lilac cuttings have very low success rates even when they are made ate the right time. I'd believe that is they hadn't grown roots in a couple of months they won't in the future.

Here's a commentary on cuttings.
http://aces.nmsu.edu/ces/yard/2005/051405.html
DoGooder
Hopkinton, MA
(Zone 5b)

December 1, 2013
5:52 PM

Post #9719745

Doug9345, thanks for the advice and the link! What confused me was why the buds formed on the branch after it was cut from the tree yet no roots were apparent except what appeared to be two small nubs at the base of the cutting. I had read that lilac buds form in mid winter so the timeframe of the buds forming was also strange because they were already well-developed in autumn. I'm certain roots are more important than buds for the long-term well-being of the cutting, so I guess all I can do is be patient and if the buds form leaves in spring then I will assume roots have formed by then.

DoGooder
Diana_K
Contra Costa County, CA
(Zone 9b)

December 1, 2013
10:17 PM

Post #9719851

If you can find some rooting hormone that might help.
Rootone is one brand name.
DoGooder
Hopkinton, MA
(Zone 5b)

December 1, 2013
11:57 PM

Post #9719861

Diana, have rooting hormone in the fridge, but I didn't think of it at the time I transplanted the cutting because my goal was to plant the cutting quickly and I had assumed that since many buds had formed there would be an extensive root system, so I was taken by surprise and my only thought was getting the cutting in the earth as quickly as possible because of the cold weather. I could remove the cutting and add root hormone then plant it again, but I'm worried because frost temperatures began a month ago and I don't want to cause transplant shock when the cutting is probably traumatized by the onset of cold weather. But maybe it has become dormant already so it would experience minimal shock yet dormancy might inhibit root growth rendering the hormone ineffective. However, I did notice this particular garden does not have freezing topsoil which might be because it's the only garden with leaf mulch.

DoGooder

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