I have three lilac bushes that need to be transplanted. Would you tell me the best way to do this? They aren’t very large.
The Gardener’s Answer
Hi, Phyllis: The best time of year to move your lilacs is going to be in the fall or early spring. Moving them now in the heat of summer is just too stressful on the plants. Transplanting in the fall when the temperatures drop will help them get their roots settled before winter arrives. Moving them in the spring should be less maintenance on your part in terms of watering if Mother Nature cooperates. Before beginning the process of moving your lilacs, you will want to choose a space in the garden where they will receive a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight. Otherwise, your shrubs can become leggy and will likely not bloom very well. The main objective is to reduce as much stress as possible when transplanting your shrubs. Having your new holes pre-dug will help eliminate stress by getting the roots back in the soil as soon as possible. Otherwise, they are exposed to the elements and can dry out quite quickly. When you dig up your lilacs, you want to use a sharp spade and start a couple of feet out from the base of the shrub. You can eventually work your way in but you want to make sure to keep as much of the root system intact as possible. This will make it easier on the shrubs in terms of becoming established in their new homes. They should be planted at the same depth they were before, so you may need to adjust the size of your holes after you have gotten them out of the ground. Water them immediately and apply a layer of mulch no more than 2 inches thick. This will help keep the moisture in and the weeds down. Treat your newly moved lilacs like any new addition to the garden. They will need extra attention from you for the first year while they get settled into their new home. Avoid fertilizing for the first year. It is better for the long-term health of your shrubs to become established in the existing environment rather than giving them nutrients that may not always be there. If you choose to move your lilacs in the spring, you may have to wait a year for them to bloom again. This is because they will be using their energy getting the roots established.