Lilacs: Container size/plant size?

armisteadgardensAugust 16, 2008

Hello,

A friend gave me a lilac sucker, which I planted in a 6" pot. The sucker was round 8" tall when I received it, and it's still about 8" tall. It seems healthy, though.

I'd like this lilac to live in a container next to my front door (urban gardener, I don't have the space for a bush in my narrow beds).

Could the small size of the container be limiting root growth, and could that be affecting the size of the plant above ground?

Should I just get a giant container now and stick the little sucker in it? What size container should the lilac ultimately need? How many years does it take for a lilac to reach a mature size?

Thanks!

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Could the small size of the container be limiting root growth, and could that be affecting the size of the plant above ground?

The container can/will limit growth in a predictable manner - the tighter the roots ... the greater the reduction in linear branch extension, the smaller the leaves, and the shorter the internodes (distance between leaves).

Should I just get a giant container now and stick the little sucker in it? What size container should the lilac ultimately need? How many years does it take for a lilac to reach a mature size?

I'm going to say NO to the giant container. Not because it can't be done, but because the questions you ask tell me you probably haven't had enough experience in container culture to MAKE it work. There is a 3 way relationship to consider between plant mass, container soil volume, and soil type (mainly particle size and structural stability). You can MAKE it work with a very porous homemade soil, but it's more than likely you would be frustrated by your efforts using a commercially bagged soil.

The size of the container the plant will require depends on it's progress and how you handle the pruning - both above and below ground. With proper and judicious pruning of roots and shoots, you should be able to easily maintain the plant in much less than 5 gallons of soil indefinitely. For now, a gallon of soil is more than enough. If you want the illusion that the plant is growing in a larger container, just slip the 1 gallon (or other small) container it's in now, into a larger container filled with gravel or other soil. This can also help reduce the possibility/probability of you over-watering and help keep roots cool.

I cannot tell you how long it will take the plant to reach sexual maturity in a container, but I can tell you that basal suckers will take much longer to come to bloom than cuttings propagated from mature wood because of the difference in their ontogenetic age.

Al

    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 3:30PM
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armisteadgardens

That is excellent information. You brought up many things I would never have thought of. Thanks very much for the help!

    Bookmark   August 17, 2008 at 7:26PM
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garyfla_gw(10 Florida)

Hi
One more thing I''d add . Where will you keep the pot in the winter?? Lilacs need a definite cold rest period for x number of weeks .or they will not flower. .At the same time the roots can't freeze. In 7 you might get by burying the pot in a protected location.?? I would think generally a poor choice as a container plant.because of the required seasonal change.
I'm in 10 florida so am definitely familiar with "Required chill hours"lol

Since you already have the cutting might as well give it a shot. But Lilacs definitely REQUIRE seasonal change .
Good luck with them gary

    Bookmark   August 18, 2008 at 6:41AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

I think it will be fine in a container. Many of us grow hundreds of different plants that have chill requirements. Lilacs, as a rule, are extremely hardy & should have no difficulty surviving a zone 7 winter unprotected. If they would need any protection, it might be a burlap wrap to guard against dessication, but I doubt that root damage due to extreme cold would be an issue. The soil mass can freeze solid, and the unbound water (water between cells) also, w/o any tissue damage. It's only when bound water (inside cells) freezes that cells/tissue dies, and most lilacs will tolerate these extremes to zone 3 in the ground, making them hardy to probably zone 5, unprotected in a container.

Al

    Bookmark   August 18, 2008 at 7:48AM
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