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Lilac- Plant Bio: Podcast Ep#95

Lilacs are one of the most iconic spring blooming shrubs! With their full foliage, plentiful flowers and sweet fragrance you can't go wrong adding this to your garden!

Blooms & Plant Description:

  • Lilacs shrubs bloom in mid-spring with a range of white, purple, pink, red, yellow and blue flower. Most commonly, you will find them in shades of pink, purple and white. You see many varieties blooming right now (month of May) but after the plant blooms, it will product medium green foliage. Depending on the variety, you may have smaller round leaves or larger heart shaped leaves. The shrubs can range anywhere from 5' tall to 20' tall.

  • You may also find Lilac shrubs grafted to a stem and when shopping, these are considered trees. They look like giant lollipops! The actually stem will not grow any taller but the shrub part will just continue to grow as it would if it weren't grafted.

  • Lilac trees bloom late spring, early summer usually with a white or cream flower. These trees can come in a single stem tree form a multi- stem tree form and can range from about 20-30' tall.

Lilac Varieties:

There are over 25 different species of Lilac with many cultivars out there. The below list do not include all cultivars but many I've dealt with or heard of over the years...

Lilac Shrubs:

  • Common Purple Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

    • Up to 20' tall, purple blooms, hardiness zone 3-7

  • Sensation Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)

    • Up to 12' tall and 8' wide, bright purple with white edge blooms, hardiness zone 3-7

  • Charles Joly Lilac (Syringa vulgaris 'Charles Joly')

    • Up to 12' tall and wide, purple/red double blooms, hardiness zone 3-9

  • Minuet Lilac (Syringa x prestoniae)

    • Up to 8' tall and 6' wide, lavender/pink blooms, hardiness zone 3-9

  • Bloomerang® Dark Purple Lilac & Bloomerang® Purple Lilac

    • Up to 6' tall and wide, dark purple & purple blooms that will bloom in spring and again in late fall. Usually the second bloom isn't as prolific as spring, hardiness zone 3-7

  • Miss Kim Lilac (Syringa pubescens subsp. patula)

    • Up to 6' tall and wide, pale pink/purple blooms, hardiness zone 3-8

  • Baby Kim® Lilac (Syringa x 'SMNSDTP' PP32,969 PW)

    • Up to 3' tall and wide, pale pink/purple blooms, hardiness zone 3-8

  • Palibin AKA Dwarf Korean Lilac (Syringa meyeri)

    • Up to 6' tall and wide, pale purple blooms, hardiness zone 3-7

  • Superba Lilac (Syringa microphylla)

    • Up to 7' tall and 15' wide, pink blooms, hardiness zone 4-7

  • Tinkerbelle® Lilac (Syringa 'Bailbelle)

    • Up to 6' tall and wide, pink blooms, hardiness zone 3-7

  • Miss Canada Lilac (Syringa x prestoniae)

    • Up to 12' tall and wide, pink blooms, hardiness zone 2-7

  • President Grevy Lilac (Syringa vulgaris 'President Grevy')

    • Up to 12' tall and wide, blue/lavender blooms, hardiness zone 3-7

  • President Lincoln Lilac (Syringa vulgaris 'President Lincoln)

    • Up to 10' tall and 6' wide, blue/lavender blooms, hardiness zone 3-7

  • Common White Lilac (Syringa vulgaris var. alba)  

    • Up to 12' tall, white blooms, hardiness zone 3-8

  • Miss Ellen Willmott Lilac (Syringa vulgaris ‘Miss Ellen Willmott’)

    • Up to 10' tall and wide, double white blooms, hardiness zone 3-7

Lilac Trees (AKA Japanese Tree Lilac or Perkin Lilac):

  • Ivory Silk Japanese Lilac (Syringa reticulata)

    • Up to 30' tall and 25' wide, white or cream blooms

    • Most commonly found at local nurseries and garden centers.

  • Chantilly Lace Japanese Lilac (Syringa reticulata)

    • Up to 30' tall and 20' wide, white or cream blooms but with slightly smaller flowers. The foliage is variegated with pale cream/yellow edges. This tree benefits from partial shade.

  • Summer Snow Japanese Lilac (Syringa reticulata)

    • Compact cultivar growing up to 20' tall and 15' wide, larger white or cream blooms

Sun Requirements:

Lilacs thrive in full sun but can handle part sun. If you place a Lilac in part sun, the blooms will not be as prolific and the foliage may not be as dense.

Water Requirements:

This plant likes average moisture but can be drought tolerance once established.

It is best to water heavier and less frequently than less water and more often.

For the first full season, you will need to keep up with watering. Plants in the first establishing year need 2 inches of water a week. This could be provided by rainfall but if it isn't, a deep soak around out once every 5-7 days in enough water.

In the second and third year, you may need to provide supplemented water if there is a drought but they shouldn't need much more help.

Soil Requirements:

Lilacs are tolerant of many soil types including heavy clay soil. It is best to avoid wet or soggy conditions and they prefer a moist, well draining soil. If you have clay soil, I would recommend amending the soil around the new planting area as well. About 4-6" surrounding where the lilac will be planted, combine about about a 1 to 4 part ratio of compost and you original soil. This will allow the root system to get used to your clay soil while still giving them a little easier time to grow strong during that first year.

Fertilizer Requirements:

The type of fertilizer is up to you BUT you need to avoid a high nitrogen fertilizer! Using a high nitrogen fertilizer could prevent the flowers from blooming since nitrogen focuses on the foliage health. If you look at the NPK (Nitrogen, Potassium, Phosphorus) measurement on the package, you will see a combination of numbers like 10-10-10. If the first number is the largest (example: 30-10-10) that is a indication it is a high nitrogen fertilizer.

Other Facts:

  • All part of the Oleaceae family AKA Olive family

    • Other plants in the this family are Forsythia, Jasmine, Privet

  • Native to Eastern Europe and temperate Asia

  • Deer Resistant- but keep in mind, deer will eat anything if they are hungry

  • Salt Tolerant- great if you live an area with snow!

  • Cut Flower- perfect, fresh fragrance for your home!

  • Fragrant Flowers- 'nough said

  • Hedges & Screens- best when the shrubs are in full sun

  • Attracts Pollinators

  • Prune the shrub after flowering to keep its form and encourage a second bloom (on varieties this applies to).

  • You may notice suckers growing are the base of the plant but you can remove these to help the plant focus it's attention on the main part of the plant.

  • Fertilizer is up to you but avoid a high nitrogen fertilizer! Using a high nitrogen fertilizer could prevent the flowers from blooming since nitrogen focuses on the foliage health. If you look at the NPK measurement on the package, you will see a combination of numbers like 10-10-10. If the first number is the largest (example: 30-10-10) that is a indication it is a high nitrogen fertilizer.

  • For more Landscape information, check out the following podcasts and blog

Instagram Q&A:

I always ask followers if they had any specific questions, opinions or hot-takes I can address in this podcast and blog. Here are what people told me and and my answers for this topic:

"When can you cut and bring inside?"

  • I would say you can do this whenever you want! You can do it when the flowers are still not fully opened up and they will last a little longer in your home. To make them last even longer, remove all the leaves from the stem, recut the end of the stem vertically about 1-2 inches up the stem and twist the cut halves. This tip came from Chicago Botanic Garden!

"Hot take: they are the best! And smell the best... just the BEST💜"

  • YES! They make a great impact with their thick foliage, fragrant flowers and clumping blooms!

"Any lilacs that bloom more than spring?"

  • Yes! The Bloomerang® varieties are the double blooming lilacs but I'm sure someone it trying to invent a lilac that last much longer!

"When is the best time to move an existing lilac bush? Should it be moved to full sun?"

  • I think the best time is in really early spring to move an existing lilac. This allows the shrub the get used to it's new spot and establish a healthy expanded root system before colder weather hits. At the nursery I worked at, they dug up all the larger lilacs in early spring to sell and did not dig more during the year. I would treat this as a brand new lilac and make sure you increase water a little bit. Lilacs also have an extensive roots system so you may be digging deep and wide to get as much as the roots as possible.

  • If you can move it to full sun that is ideal! Lilacs bloom the most and get their fullest in full sun.

"Why does my lilac not bloom sometimes. Last year was a dud and this year was late."

  • This could me a combination of things! Is it in part sun or shade? Does the soil retain high moisture? Are you fertilizing with a high nitrogen fertilizer? Are their critters eating it? Those could all be things preventing it from blooming. I would start change some of those elements, if possible, and see if it changes your results!

"Also, I heard there was one that blooms all summer. Is that true?"

  • I haven't heard of one that blooms all summer long but the Bloomerang® varieties are the double blooming lilacs!

Resources, References, & Additional Knowledge

 

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Always written with extreme plant passion!

Love, Holly (Owner & Creator of Houseplant Homebody LLC)

 


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