The Q&A Archives: Lilac Transplating

Question: I am planning to transplant (move) mature lilac bushes from my neighbor's yard. When is the best time to do this? What would be the easiest way to remove the bushes without damaging the root systems?

Answer: Shrubs can be transplanted any time of year as long as the ground isn't frozen. The optimal times however are in the early spring before new growth has started or, in the early fall. This gives the shrubs a chance to get acclimated to their new spot before dealing with extreme heat or cold. When digging up the shrubs try to remove as much of the rootball as you can. I like to take a spade and cut a ring around the tree out to the drip line and dig up the whole kitten kaboodle. This insures you get as much root as possible. Disturbing roots in any way can affect bloom so keep that in mind if your bloom isn't as great as it was in your neighbor's yard for a little while. Also, be sure to work lots of organic matter such as compost, leaf mould, or composted cow manure into the new planting area. Lilacs love rich soil and it will make them "feel better" after the trauma of moving. Be sure to water them in well, inadequate watering at transplant is a huge reason for transplant failure.

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