Common Purple Lilac - syringa vulgaris

Beautiful and fragrant, lilacs are a staple of many New England gardens. Although their flowers only last 2-3 weeks, by planting 2 or 3 different varieties with varied bloom times you can enjoy bountiful flowers for up to 5 or 6 weeks.

Where to plant a lilac

Plant lilacs in a sunny location, larger growing varieties are well suited for specimen or accent planting, hedging, or screening in open areas where they have ample room to grow. Low growing and dwarf types are perfect for planting in smaller gardens where space is limited. Lilacs are beautiful companion plants for flowering shrubs and trees, bulbs, perennials and conifers.

Soil Requirements

For healthy vigorous plants and abundant bloom it is essential that lilacs be planted in good soil. Plant lilacs in loose, gravelly loam, with plenty of organic matter. Lilacs will not grow in compacted soil. Good drainage is a must. Add a couple of handfuls of lime at planting time and every three years or so thereafter, as lilacs are one of the few plants that do not like our acidic New England soil.

Pruning lilacs

Prune immediately after flowering to control size and shape, and to encourage new growth. Remove 1/3 of the oldest, heaviest wood each year by cutting it off at the base of the plant. Old lilac blooms are cut just above the forming buds for next year's blooms.

Fertilizing lilacs

Most lilacs will benefit from a light application of general purpose fertilizer as soon as the ground thaws in early spring.

Lilac Varieties

  • Common Purple Lilac (syringa vulgaris)
    Very hardy, fast growing, dense upright shrub with heart-shaped blue-green leaves. Bears large, fragrant clusters of lavender flowers in mid May. 8-15'
  • Common White Lilac (syringa vulgaris alba)
    White flowering form of above.
  • French Hybrids (syringa vulgaris)
    • Belle de Nancy-double pink
    • Charles Joly-double, purple-red, very fragrant, narrow upright
    • General Sheridan-lacy, double white
    • Katherine Havemeyer-large, double lavender pink, very fragrant vigorous
    • Ludwig Spaeth-single, reddish-purple
    • Michael Buchner-double lilac
    • Mme. Lemoine-double white, slow growing Monge: single, deep purple-red
    • Moscow Beauty-double, white, very hardy
    • Nadezhda-double blue President Grevy-double blue, large florets, large panicles
    • President Lincoln-single blue, very fragrant tall leafy plants
    • Primrose-single, creamy pale yellow, slow growing
    • Sensation-single purple-edged white, unusual
  • Chinese Lilac (syringa rothomagensis)
    Wide spreading, rounded shrub with slender arching branches. Bears large, loose clusters of purple flowers in late May. Prolific bloom. 8-15'
  • James McFarlane (syringa prestoniae)
    Very hardy, large, pyramidal, bright pink flower clusters bloom on stout sturdy stems in June, about two weeks after the common lilac finishes blooming. 8'
  • Dwarf Korean Lilac (syringa palibiniana/syringa meyeri)
    Compact, slowing. Small dark green leaves. Small flower clusters, reddish-purple in bud, open to violet purple fragrant flowers in late May. Very floriferous. 4-5'
  • Maiden's Blush (syringa hycinthiflora)
    Hardy, early blooming. Blooms 7-10 days before the French hybrids. Bears single light pink blossoms in early May. Very fragrant. 10-12'
  • Miss Kim (syringa patula miss kim)
    Dwarf, compact rounded form. Glossy green foliage turns red in fall. Fragrant single pale violet flowers bloom late in season, after most other varieties have finished blooming. 3-5'
  • Persian Lilac (syringa persica)
    Low growing shrub with dark green foliage on upright, arching branches. Small clusters of pale lilac flowers bloom in late May. Very floriferous. 4-8'
  • Pocahontis (syringa hycinthiflora)
    Very hardy, vigorous, heavy blooming. Maroon-purple buds open to single, deep purple flowers in early May. 10-12'