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Can California Lilac Grow In Shade And In Pots?

Finding new plants to grow in your garden can be difficult without the correct information. Do you want to try growing California lilacs but don't know if they like shade or pots? Is it better for this flower to be in the ground with full sun exposure?

We'll dive into these questions and many others throughout this article. With that said, let's begin!

For those wanting to grow a California lilac, you need to have it somewhere that gets at least six hours of sunlight per day. So, the shade won't likely be the best place for one.

In addition, you can grow these lilacs in a pot, as long as it has good drainage and gives your plant enough room to develop a root system.

If you check off these boxes, your California lilac could reach ten or more feet!

As we begin, we will cover all things California lilac and discuss how and where to plant one. Whether you're new to this species or already have one in your pot, we're here to offer some guidance. Without further ado, let's jump into this topic below!

macro shot of a California Lilac. Can California Lilac Grow In Shade And In Pots

How Much Sun Does A California Lilac Need?

Ideally, you want your California lilac to get full sun. As we mentioned, this flower does best with at least six hours of direct exposure daily. Therefore, you can't usually grow one successfully in the shade.

With that said, your plant doesn't need six hours of constant light. If it receives a few hours in the morning and then a few in the afternoon, it will continue to thrive.

The key here is ensuring your lilac doesn't get less than six hours, as this can lead to stunted growth. Also, a California lilac won't become as tall or full without proper sunlight, so this is a major factor to consider when planting.

So, if your garden has partial shade, your flower will be fine: as long as it's not excessive.

Close up of a bee on a Californian Lilac

Will A California Lilac Grow In Full Shade?

Depending on the amount of shade a lilac gets, it's possible to see stunted growth, no blooms, and even a sickly plant altogether. As we said above, California lilacs do best with six or more hours of daily sun.

If yours is in the full shade, it won't likely get more than two or three hours, which isn't enough.

However, partial shade can benefit a California lilac growing in hot conditions. For example, having your plant in partial shade can be a good thing if you're in southern California, Arizona, or Nevada.

This all depends on the weather and conditions. Moreover, it can be better for a lilac in hotter climates to be shaded through the afternoon, receiving most sunlight in the morning.

Generally, the hottest time of day is 1-3 PM, so if you have shade during this period, your flowers may thank you.

Can You Grow California Lilac In A Pot?

It should be fine if the pot you give your California lilac can sustain a large root system. Typically, this flower species prefers to stretch its roots out a bit, so many experts sizing up as much as possible.

Plant Addicts emphasizes the importance of getting a pot at least 12 inches deep and 24 inches wide for new California lilacs and increasing in size every few years.

In general, larger pots allow for better insulation and overall temperature/water control for a lilac, hence why they're so important.

It's also better to have your California lilac in a larger pot, so you don't need to repot often. Considering that repotting a plant can be traumatic, it's best to do this as little as possible.

You also need to choose a pot for your lilac with sufficient drainage (a hole at the bottom works best).

If your plant doesn't have a drainage hole, it's more likely to see root rot, water pooling, and an unhealthy lilac as you give it more water.

Do California Lilacs Prefer To Be In The Ground?

Although this can depend, a California lilac will do better in the ground than a pot. However, if you give your plant good drainage, it should thrive regardless of where it is.

Like most plants, your lilac wants enough room to spread out. As we said before, California lilacs tend to have wide root systems, so if your pot isn't big enough, this can cause trouble.

You also don't have to worry about transplanting or repotting your lilac if it's in the ground.

So, if you're looking for less work long-term and have the space, we think an in-ground California lilac is the better option.

Again, this will also depend on the weather/climate, so if you're somewhere super cold, then a pot is the safer bet.

A close up of a blue Californian lilac bush

What Zones Can I Grow California Lilac?

For anyone wondering what USDA zones a California lilac grows in, you want to stay between eight and ten. Generally, this flower prefers moderate weather, although it can survive hotter, drought-leaning locations.

Considering this species does well in almost any soil type, you won't likely run into issues. That said, it is a good idea to be cautious of your soil's drainage, as too much moisture can harm your lilac.

As we said, the shade can benefit California lilacs in hotter USDA zones, but you don't want too much. Think of these flowers as moderate climate growers.

The less chance of dramatic hot and cold spells, the better your lilac will grow and mature.

How Fast Does California Lilac Grow?

A California lilac can be a moderately quick grower depending on the growing conditions. However, starting a plant from scratch can be a long waiting period, especially if you grow lilac from seed.

Once your plant starts to mature, this is when more aggressive, fast growth will typically happen.

According to Den Garden, it's possible to see a healthy California lilac grow 10-15 feet within a year to two years, so that's a huge leap.

Again, this won't be a typical growth rate for this species, but it's certainly possible in ideal circumstances. Some gardeners train their lilac to grow in more of a tree shape as it gets so big.

Furthermore, a California lilac doesn't always grow tall, even with full sun and plenty of room. Some varieties only reach a foot or two tall and grow dramatically in width.

California Lilac blooming in front of marina with moored boats

Does California Lilac Have Invasive Roots?

No. Your California lilac shouldn't have invasive roots or behavior. Generally, this flower will be normal root-wise as long as you give it enough space.

For example, if your lilac is too close to another lilac, there's a chance one will overpower the other. That goes for any species, hence why leaving a few feet between your plants (big and small) is a good idea.

To put that in perspective, most California lilac roots span around one and one-half times the width of the shrub. So, it's not like you need to leave 20 feet of space around each flower.

There also isn't much risk for structural damage from a California lilac's roots, so that's good to know.

If your plant is near a sidewalk or pool, there isn't much likelihood of anything happening, so this plant is perfect for landscaping.

Furthermore, a California lilac isn't aggressive in its growth rate either, so you won't see one become super huge overnight.

Are California Lilacs Easy To Grow?

Growing a California lilac should be easy if they're in the correct USDA zone and have good sunlight and drainage. As we said, these flowers can become quite large and tend to grow quickly if they have enough attention.

That said, California lilac doesn't respond well to heavy wind or cold weather. Your plant will not handle freezing weather gracefully and could even go into shock and die.

Furthermore, this flowering species doesn't like too much water, so that can become a problem in wetter climates. However, this shouldn't be too severe if your plant's soil/pot has good drainage.

The key with this plant is giving it moderate conditions. One of the most important factors for raising California lilacs is the sun.

If your flower doesn't get enough light each day, this is when the chances of root rot, stunted growth, and malnutrition become greatest.

Something interesting about these lilacs is that they thrive on neglect. Generally, the less you mess with them, the more successful they will grow and bloom.

Do I Need To Fertilize California Lilac?

No, you don't technically need to fertilize a California lilac. Since this species has natural nitrogen-fixing abilities, adding additional products to their soil is not always necessary.

However, if you have recently pruned or your plant doesn't get enough sunlight, fertilizing every once in a while can be beneficial.

Furthermore, many experts recommend mulching around the base of a California lilac and adding compost to the soil, as this helps speed up growth.

If you want to fertilize, find a product with nitrogen that works specifically for lilacs/flowering shrubs and trees.

macro shot of California Lilac flowers. Can California Lilac Grow In Shade And In Pots

To Wrap It Up

Whether you have a California lilac or want one, it's always good to have the right conditions for your plant. From what we found, your lilac needs full sun (upwards of six hours daily).

In addition, you can grow California lilac in a pot, as long as it's big enough. Remember, it's better to size up as much as possible, so your plant's roots can spread and develop properly.

Regardless, give your lilac plenty of sun, and don't mess with it too much.

Made it to the end? Check out these helpful related garden posts below!

Lilac Bush Vs. Tree: What Are The Differences?

When To Cut Back Lilac Bushes (And How To Do That)?

Shrubs For Pots In Full Sun [17 Great Ideas For Your Landscaping]