Lilac (Syringa)-Flowering Shrub

Lilacs are blooming in communities throughout the valley right now-their heavenly fragrance wafting through the warm early evening air. I love lilacs for a host of reasons. They remind me of walking to school with my two younger brothers, passing a long hedge of them and stopping several times to breath in the wonderful smell. When lilacs are blooming I know that spring has truly arrived! A bouquet of cut lilac stems always finds its way onto our dining room table for Mother’s Day; this year was no exception.

Nuts and Bolts

Lilacs can range in size from one to three metres tall, depending on the variety. The “French hybrids” (cultivars of Syringa vulgaris) are the best known and grow the tallest, forming large thickets of stems over time. Dwarf species have smaller, but still fragrant, blooms and a much more compact growth habit. All lilacs love a sunny location, and do best in well-drained alkaline soils. Soil that will grow good corn or potatoes is perfect for growing good lilacs. Lilacs are among the hardiest of all flowering shrubs, surviving winters in all but the coldest parts of the country.

Plant it With…

The large species and cultivars are best used as deciduous hedges or screens in the garden. Their multi-stemmed character makes it difficult to grow anything near them, so give them the space they need and admire them on their own. Dwarf varieties such as Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’ or Syringa patula ‘Miss Kim’ reach only a metre or so tall, making them good candidates for mixed plantings with other shrubs or perennials. These varieties are also available grafted onto standards, ideal for growing in large containers, or creating a formal look in a flower bed.

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