The Q&A Archives: Lilac Root System

Question: How far do Lilac root systems spread? I wish to plant a row of lilacs between my property and the house next door to us. Their lot is very unsightly and I believe a row of lilac bushes would be beautiful and also fragrant.

This being a front yard application, would the roots be a menace to our pipes that run from the street to our home? Please let me know. We (my husband and I) are having great difficulty in deciding on what to put between the two properties.

Thank you.
Mariel Warren

Answer: You can generally expect shrubs and trees to develop roots that extend out about one and one-half times the length of the branches. Lilac roots are not considered invasive, but a shrub that's 10' wide will probably have roots extending out about 15' in all directions.

Lilacs may not be the plant of choice if you're looking for a privacy screen, because they lose their leaves in the fall. Perhaps a flowering evergreen viburnum will appeal to you instead. Excellent choices include Viburnum rhytidophyllum (leatherleaf viburnum), with clusters of yellowish white flowers in spring and clusters of scarlet fruit in autumn, and Viburnum tinus, with dark green foliage, wine red new stems, clusters of fragrant white flowers from winter through spring, and bright metallic blue fruits that last through summer. Both produce dense foliage and make beautiful privacy screens.

Best wishes with your new shrubs!

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