MUST transplant lilac now instead of spring..

Ronald, WA(Zone 6a)

I have to transplant my 10 year old lilac now instead of in the spring, or I will lose it to a home remodel. I've been told that they can only be transplanted successfully in the spring, but I'm hoping that someone can tell me what I can do to increase it's chances of surviving the move. I've had a new hole dug down 5 feet deep, and about 3 feet wide, I've sifted the dirt so there are no clumps or rocks, I filled the hole with water and let it drain (I read that with the original planting instructions) and now I'm ready to dig up the lilac.The plant is about 10 feet tall now, but I've kept it trimmed so it is not bushed out much. What size of root ball should I expect, and should I rinse the roots or leave them alone? Any tips for putting it into the new location? Thanks in advance for any and all help.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

You need to trim your lilac back as far as possible to reduce stress on the plant. You may have to sacrifice blooms in the spring to move it now, however. You want to get as much of the rootball as possible and disturb the soil around the root ball as little as possible. Use an old tarp or sheet or plastic to move your plant to help keep from breaking up the root ball. Work the soil in the new hole and place the lilac at the same level it is currently growing. Replace half the soil, water in thoroughly, and add the remaining soil and water again to settle the soil. You may want to stake your shrub to help it settle in. mulch well and water weekly until established.As far as location, try to give it the same conditions it is currently growing in...why mess with ten years of success....grin

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

And if the new area is in the sun and your weather is hot, you may want to try and rig up some shade for it on super hot days to help further reduce the stress.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Thanks Ecrane, I knew there was something else I wanted to remember to say....

Belfield, ND(Zone 4a)

It's been my experience that lilacs are a little tricky to relocate, but it can be done. Your shrub sounds like it's very large, therefore has a very large and deep root system. Dig as deep and wide as you possibly can and get as much of the root as possible. Once it's transplanted into it's new home, keep it very well watered.

Which Lilac do you have LateToBloom? Is it the so called "old fashion one's"? Your Lilac is quite large to transplant and everyone here has given you some great advice! Good Luck.

If you ever need some seedling's just let me know. I have plenty and will share;-)


Jackson, SC(Zone 8a)

i cant add much to what has been written here but isnt there something on th market called transplant shock? rember my gran using it everytime she transplanted a rose. dont know if it is still out there or not.

Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

I believe you are correct Imzadi. I know using RootStarter when you transplant helps promote root growth and helps reduce the shock a bit. I use it after I fill the planting hole half way and settle it in. Then I mix up a bucket of RootStarter and pour half in the partially filled hole and the rest after the plant is planted and watered in.

Ronald, WA(Zone 6a)

Thank you one and all for the advice.
themoonhowl : You advised me to trim it back as far as possible, and I'm willing to sacrifice all of next year's blooms to keep it alive, but I'm not sure how much is "as much as possible", all I've ever done is cut off the blooms when they are spent each year, and clipped off the new branches at the trunk to keep it from getting in the way of the door to the porch. Do you mean I should cut the height of it down too, and if so, how much?
RachelLF: I don't think it is the one called "old fashioned one", it is a very deep dark purple and highly fragrant too. My husband bought it for me the year we met, and I would hate to lose it no matter what kind it is.
Joan: I'm posting a picture so you can see the size of it, and I would surely appreciate any comments on how wide and deep to dig to avoid disturbing the root system more than necessary. The top of the door is 6' 8", and the lilac is 2 feet taller, but as you can see it isn't very full.

Thumbnail by LateToBloom
Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Lateto bloom, this is where someone with Lilac experience needs to step in. The basics of transplanting are pretty much the same all over, but pruning back is plant specific, and we can't grow Lilacs here due to heat and humidity, so I am not familiar with what they will tolerate. It may be as little as tipping it out, yet may be able to withstand heavy cut back (reduce height by 1/3 or more) I wish I could be of more help there. I just know it reduces stress on the plant.

When digging it up, think in terms of a bowl...wider at the top tapering at the bottom. If you start just in from the dripline, you are getting most of the root system. That distance varies of course, but since your's is fairly narrow it shouldn't be more than about 12 inches out on all sides.

Rachel? Joan? Ecrane? Please jump in here

This message was edited Aug 13, 2009 7:26 AM

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

Sorry, I don't have lilacs either so I don't know for sure. We had them when I was growing up in Ohio, but never had a need to severely prune them so I don't know if they can handle that or not. Some shrubs can't be cut all the way back, but on those they always tell you to cut it back by 1/3 every year for a couple of years instead of whacking it back to the ground all at once, so I'm sure cutting it back by 1/3 ought to be fine. Whether it can handle more than that I don't know though.

One other thing I would add is if you're worried about losing the plant, you might consider trying to start a few cuttings of it before you transplant. I have no idea if this is the best time of year to try and do cuttings from them, but you've got nothing to lose by trying and if you do get a couple cuttings to root and your plant doesn't make it, then you'll have a baby to replace it.

Belfield, ND(Zone 4a)

I wouldn't prune it at all. Trees and shrubs are much different in terms of transplanting than perennials. We have a tree farm not too far from here, and they grow, sell and transplant lilacs, as well as other types of trees. From what I have seen, they don't prune them at all prior to digging them up. They use a tree mover of course, but the rootball they take out is about 36 inches wide, with the tree in the middle, and about the same depth. The depth tapers into a cone shape as was pointed out earlier. I've never actually measured, I'm just going off of memory from what I've noticed when they are transporting them.

I've not transplanted one as large as yours. I try to get suckers and start them that way.

Jackson, SC(Zone 8a)

i found these but dont know how well it will do with an established one but goes along whats been said here

Sorry, but I cannot add anything extra of value that has not already been said. Ecrane3 added a great suggestion about trying to start your Lilac from cutting's just in case.


Prairieville, LA(Zone 9a)

Latetobloom, I hope this has helped you and wish you the best of luck with your lilac.....please post pictures when it blooms, so we can see how lovely they are.

Casper, WY(Zone 4a)

I have grown Lilacs and found they are hard to kill. I had to kill one that someone planted along my fence with only 3ft clearance from the back to the front. I got tired of going throught the house each time to get to one side of the house.

Anyway, they take pruning very well. To keep them healthy the oldest branches that are woody should be cut to the ground they become to old to produce blooms. Also to open up the center for air circulation.

In the case of transplanting, you should first remove the woody branches to the ground. Then cut to one third of the height. You have to balance the top growth with the root system. No matter how carefully you dig it up, you will lose roots. What is left can't support the whole tree, the reason for cutting back.

What you should do right now is to go around the drip line of the tree with a shovel to prepare the tree. Put the shovel down to cut the roots. It will grow new roots closer to the trunk by the time you transplant it. Fall is the best time to plant shrubs, perennials, trees, etc. Plants won't be stressed by heat. The roots will continue to grow as long as the ground remains unfrozen. Mid-September to end of September is good, depending on where you live. Allow at least 6 weeks before expected freeze to allow the tree (or any plant) to become at least partially established before winter. You don't have to shade it.

I would mulch your Lilac after transplanting the first year---grass clippings, bark, etc. works to prevent heaving of the soil and keep it evenly moist. Also be sure to stake your tree in 3 directions to keep it growing straight.

Good luck with it.

Lecanto, FL(Zone 9a)

Any cuttings I would try to root. Right after transplanting water well then give it a gallon of Quick Start by Mirical Grow. It wont even wilt. You're getting night temps in the 50's this coming week. I think that's good.
Sorry if someone said it already, I couldn't read the whole thread.

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