One of the signs that spring is giving way to summer in Leelanau County is the blooming of lilacs. We have a ton of them, particularly around Leelanau’s many old farms, and they began to bloom a few days ago. This weekend and next week should be incredible for those who treasure the sight (and scent) of these hardy flowering bushes. If you’d like to get some in your own yard, read on!
Early spring until late spring, from when the lilacs develop buds until they actually have small leaves, is the best time to transplant. If you have lilacs growing in your yard — or if you have a friend who has lilacs — and you would like to start some new lilac bushes, here’s how:
1. Decide where you want to transplant the lilac bush or bushes.
2. Dig a hole that’s about one foot deep by one foot across for each bush you want to transplant.
3. Dig up a lilac shoot from somewhere around the main bush. Lilacs spread by runners. Use a shovel to dig up the shoot because you are going to have to cut off the runner, and a trowel will not be tough enough to do the job. Choose a shoot that is approximately 8 to 14 inches high. Smaller shoots that are only a few inches high will take a very long time to mature to the point where they will have flowers. Larger shoots seem to take a longer time to recover from being transplanted before they start to grow well. Do not worry about how much root you are getting with the shoot. You will not be able to take all of the root since the roots are all connected.
4. Put the shoot in a bucket of water if you are not going to transplant it immediately so that it will not dry out. If you are going to transplant it immediately, carry it to the hole you have dug and set it in the hole.
5. Center the shoot in the hole and fill in with dirt. Leave a three or four inch depression around the shoot so you will have a reservoir for water.
6. Water your new lilac bush with a couple of gallons of water. Continue watering the bush several times a week for the rest of the season to ensure that it has a good start. From what I have observed, lilacs seem to be quite drought resistant, although like any plant, tree or bush, they will grow more if they have plenty of water. In subsequent years, water your new lilac bush from time to time, especially if rain is in short supply.
Note: They have noticed that it takes 4 or 5 years for the new bushes to grow enough to start producing flowers, although bushes that I transplanted from small shoots only a few inches high are taking longer than that.
When lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d, And the great star early droop’d in the western sky in the night, I mourn’d, and yet shall mourn with ever-returning spring. ~Walt Whitman (read the complete poem)