Container Grown Lilacs: Learn How To Grow Lilac In A Pot

container lilac
container lilac
(Image credit: bbstudio_aad)

With their unmistakable fragrance and beautiful spring blooms, lilacs are a favorite of so many gardeners. However, not every gardener has the space or the long-term living situation for big, old, flowering bushes. If this is your situation, maybe you should try growing lilacs in containers. Keep reading to learn more about how to grow a lilac in a pot.

Container Grown Lilacs

Planting a lilac shrub in a pot is doable, but it isn’t ideal. Lilacs can get huge, and they grow best when their roots are free to spread out. When growing lilacs in containers, the first step is to pick a variety that stays relatively small. Some dwarf varieties exist, such as:

  • Minuet
  • Pixie
  • Munchkin

Some non-dwarf varieties that stay small include:

  • Syringa meyeri
  • S. pubescens
  • S. patula

Even small container grown lilacs need lots of room for their roots, so get as large a container as you can manage, preferably at least 12 inches (30 cm.) deep and 24 inches (61 cm.) wide. Terra cotta is better than plastic, since it’s stronger and better insulated.

Potted Lilac Care

Another challenge to planting a lilac shrub in a pot is getting the soil right. Lilacs can’t tolerate acidic soil, and most commercial potting soils contain at least some pH lowering peat moss. The best way to handle this is to add 1 cup (237 mL.) of dolomite lime to every 2 cubic feet (57 l.) of potting soil. Move your container to its final resting place before planting, since it will probably be very heavy when it’s full. Place it somewhere that receives at least 6 hours of full sun every day. Keep it relatively moist, watering every time the soil dries out to an inch (2.5 cm.) below the surface. If your winters are harsh, protect your lilac from the winter cold either by burying it in the ground or heavily mulching around the pot. Don’t bring your lilac inside for the winter - it needs the cold to set buds for next spring’s flowers.

Liz Baessler
Senior Editor

The only child of a horticulturist and an English teacher, Liz Baessler was destined to become a gardening editor. She has been with Gardening Know how since 2015, and a Senior Editor since 2020. She holds a BA in English from Brandeis University and an MA in English from the University of Geneva, Switzerland. After years of gardening in containers and community garden plots, she finally has a backyard of her own, which she is systematically filling with vegetables and flowers.