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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - November 05, 2012

From: Toomsuba, MS
Region: Southeast
Topic: Non-Natives, Propagation, Transplants
Title: Transplanting a young lilac
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

This past spring I planted a hybrid lilac in the ground. The weather here has started to get cold, and much more so at night. Also, the temperatures go from warm to cold and back again as if unsure what season it is. The plant is still young, only about 13 inches tall. I want to dig it up, pot it, and bring it indoors (we may also be moving soon, and I want to take it with me). How can I do this safely, without damaging the plant? A. Lopez

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants specializes in plants native to the U.S.  Your lilac, Syringa, is not a native, although it is very widely grown in American gardens, especially in colder regions, since it needs winter dormancy in order to bloom profusely.  My best guess it for you to wait, if posslble, for the leaves to drop as colder weather arrives.  It can be safely transplanted at that time.  If you must move the plant while still in leaf, stop watering it now to promote dormancy.  Dig it up with as much soil as you can manage and place it in a large pot.  Water it with rooting hormone.  Leave it outside to allow cold weather to force it into full dormancy.  Don't let the soil become completely dry until you can transplant it back into the soil at its new destination.

Lilacs do best in slightly alkaline soil.  If your soil is acidic, mix a little lime into the soil when you place to lilac back into the ground.

 

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