Sometimes it becomes necessary to move a lilac tree from a spot where it has grown happily for many years to another site. Perhaps you are adding on to your home or building a porch extension. Maybe surrounding trees have grown so large that your lilac no longer receives the amount of sun it needs to bloom profusely. Whatever your reasons for moving your lilac, rest assured that lilacs are very hardy and will usually handle transplanting well.
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Timing the Move
Lilacs transplant best in early spring before flowering. The plant is gearing up for a good growth period and the weather is cool enough to prevent an extreme case of transplant shock. If you can't move it in the spring, fall is the next best time. Wait until the leaves have yellowed and fallen if you can.
Cutting the Roots
If your lilac tree is large and well-established, cutting through the roots several months before the actual move will help the tree adjust. Planning in advance will allow you to take a string and mark a circle around the tree. The website herbs2000 recommends dividing this circle into six parts and using the spade to cut down through the roots as far as possible in three alternating sections of your circle. Use the width of the foliage as your guide unless this creates a root ball that would be too heavy for you to move.
Selecting the New Location
Lilacs need sun to bloom. A spot that gets several hours of sun per day is ideal. Lilacs also need well-draining soil. Overwatering or sitting in wet dirt is one of the few ways to kill a lilac. The new hole should be about twice as large as the root ball but no deeper than the root ball. It is important for the lilac to be replanted at the same depth it came from. Mixing compost into the soil will help your lilac grow in its new home.
Digging Up the Lilac
On moving day, cut through the remaining three segments of the circle you marked earlier. Dig a trench around the lilac first to allow more maneuverability for your shovel. Start digging beneath the tree. Your goal is to include as many roots as possible. When you have freed the tree from the ground, slide some burlap sacking underneath. You can use the burlap to help you move the tree to its new home by dragging it.
Replanting the Tree
The lilac should be placed in the new hole, burlap and all. The burlap will rot quickly underground. The hole should be filled with a mixture of soil and compost to the same depth the tree enjoyed at its previous location. The plant will need a thorough watering and then regular watering every week to help re-establish the roots in the new location for the first season.