The Q&A Archives: Planting a Korean Lilac in a pot

Question: I was given a korean lilac tree as a gift. Unfortunately I do not have a green thumb. I see that it needs full sun. I would like to plant it in a pot instead of the ground so that it can be placed closer to the house. Will it do well in a pot? If I have to plant it in the ground, what do you suggest I do if we have clay soil?

Thank you veyr much!


Answer: Based on my experience, I would not recommend trying to keep this in a pot. This plant is very winter hardy, but growing it in a pot means the roots are not well insulated the way they would be if grown planted in the ground. This exposes the roots to excessive cold as well as to stressful freeze/thaw cycles and can kill the shrub. The best thing to do would be to plant it as soon as possible.

This lilac does grow best and bloom best in full sun, this means direct sun all day long or for a minimum of six hours including the noon hour.

Although this lilac is very highly resistant to mildew, it is also a good idea to plant it in a location with good air circulation. This means it would be better not to plant it along the foundation, for example, where air flow is limited.

Over time, this shrub Syringa meyeri 'Palibin' grows to about 4 to 5 feet tall and maybe 6 feet wide, so it is much smaller and daintier than the typical lilac. It is also quite slow growing and compact compared to the typical lilac (Syringa vulgaris). It also blooms a little bit later in the spring than normal lilacs; the flowers are wonderful and the foliage is usually very healthy.

Lilacs are tolerant of many different soil types but they do need a well drained location. Do not plant it in a low spot or a place where water collects after a rain, or in spring after the snow melts. Planting on a slight slope would be excellent.

Dig the planting hole three to four times wider than the container and about the same depth. Loosen the sides of the hole and leave them rough cut, not smoothed off. This will help the roots expand into the surrounding soil. Plant it at the same depth as it is growing in the pot, no deeper. After planting, water thoroughly once to settle any air pockets. Then mulch with three inch deep layer of organic mulch, place the mulch in a flat layer over the root area and do not allow it to touch the stems of the plant.

Thereafter for the coming year, water (if needed) to keep the soil evenly damp, not saturated and not dried out. To know if you need to water, dig into the soil with your finger and feel it. If it is still damp, do not water yet. Be sure to water deeply, slowly, and thoroughly when you do water so it soaks down deep to the deepest roots. After watering, wait a few hours and then dig down to see how far the water went; sometimes it can be surprising. If the weather is normally cool and rainy you may not need to water any more this fall, but do check it and be sure to water if needed next spring and summer and fall.

I hope this helps you decide where to plant it.

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