Getting Rid Of Lilac Bushes & Learning How To Get Rid Of Lilac Bushes In The Garden

Lilac bushes offer fragrant, lacy blossoms in the springtime but can become very invasive. Once you have a lilac in your yard, you won't get rid of it easily.

Huge Lilac Bush
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(Image credit: Jennifer Martell via GKH Scavenger Hunt)

Lilac bushes (Syringa vulgaris) are fragrant and lovely in the springtime. However, they tend to be invasive. Read on for information about removing old lilac bushes once and for all.

How Do I Get Rid of Lilac Bushes?

Lilac shrubs reproduce by seeds, but they also grow new plants from suckers. Shoots grow from the roots that grow parallel with the surface of the soil. As the roots grow along, they send up sucker shoots. Each one of these can grow into a new bush.

A single lilac plant easily forms an entire grove of these shrubs over time. It may be the emergence of the grove that has you asking, “How do I get rid of lilac roots?”

The big problem with getting rid of lilac bushes is that the plant regrows from any piece of root section left in the ground, so cutting down the bush at ground level is a very temporary solution. Quite quickly, you will have many lilac shoots coming up from the stump area.

Getting Rid of Lilac Bushes by Pulling Them Out

How to get rid of lilac bushes? One solution to the problem of removing old lilac bushes is pulling them out. Watering the ground around the plant thoroughly helps loosen the soil. You can try pulling out the roots by hand if the plant is young.

Use a shovel and hoe to dig down on all sides, exposing the roots. Use the shovel to remove the entire rootball. With older, established plants, you’ll do better using a tractor or truck to pull out the plant’s root system. Tie a strap around the base of the lilac, put tension on it with the vehicle, then cut the roots on the other side. Keep adding more tension and eventually the root ball will emerge from the soil.

Removing old lilac bushes completely requires that all root sections be removed. Any piece remaining in the ground can resprout.

Getting Rid of Lilac Bushes Without Chemicals

We strongly urge that you avoid the use of chemicals whenever possible. When preparing to remove old lilac bushes, cut the bushes to ground level with a chainsaw and burn or dispose of all of the foliage.

If you are unable to dig the roots up by hand, you may need to hire a landscaper or someone who can bring in heavy equipment. For other solutions, contact your local university extension service or talk with a local garden center about organic alternatives.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.