Lilacs are known for their fragrant and lovely blossoms, that bloom in spring and early summer. There are several different types of lilac bushes, out of which a few common species and varieties are explained in this article.
Lilac is a genus of about 20 to 25 species of flowering plants. The genus lilac is also known as Syringa and the plants of this genus belong to Oleaceae or the olive family. Lilacs are woody and deciduous shrubs or small trees, which can reach a height of 2 to 10 m.
The flowers are extraordinarily fragrant and beautiful, which is why lilac bushes are immensely popular for gardening and landscaping. The lilac flowers appear in large panicles from spring to early summer. They come in an array of colors, right from purple, pink, blue, burgundy, to pale yellow, creamy white, and pure white.
A Few Common Lilac Bushes
Common Lilac or French Lilac
Common lilac or Syringa vulgaris is a widely used ornamental plant in the gardens and parks. It is a deciduous shrub, that can grow to a height of about 6 to 7 m, with heart-shaped foliage of dark green or bluish-green color. The highly fragrant flowers of common lilac can truly add warmth to any garden or landscape. Today, several cultivars of common lilac are available for gardening and landscaping purposes, which can produce blossoms of many different colors, ranging from dark lilac and mauve, to white.
The botanical name of Japanese lilac is Syringa reticulata, which is native to the regions of Eastern Asia, Japan, Northern China, and Korea. The blossoms of Japanese lilac are known for their strong, but pleasant fragrance. This lilac shrub can reach a height of about 12 meters and is the largest species of lilac. The flowers of Japanese lilac are usually white or creamy white in color and they are produced in early summer, in broad panicles. There are three subspecies of Japanese lilac and they are known as, Syringa reticulata subsp. Reticulata., Syringa reticulata subsp. Amurensis, and Syringa reticulata subsp. Pekinensis.
Early lilac or Syringa oblata is a deciduous shrub, growing to a height of about 10 to 12 feet. The blossoms are fragrant and they appear in spring. The flowers of early lilac are usually white or pale purple in color and they are borne in loose terminal panicles. The leaves are oval-shaped, and dark green or blue-green in color, but turn reddish-purple in fall.
Hungarian lilac is native to the regions of Eastern and Central Europe, including Hungary, Romania, and Ukraine. The botanical name of this lilac shrub is Syringa josikaea. Hungarian lilac shrub can grow to a height of about 2 to 4 m, and produce strongly fragrant blossoms of dark pink color, in early summer. Flowers are produced in slender panicles, which can be up to 15 cm long.
Meyer lilac or Syringa meyeri is a deciduous shrub, native to northern China and northern Japan. The shrub usually grows to a height of about 4 to 8 feet, and a width of 6 to 10 feet. The pale purple or pink flowers of meyer lilac bloom in late spring. The flowers are highly fragrant. The leaves are smooth and small, and they hardly reach a length of 2 inches. This lilac shrub blooms profusely at a very young age and is ideal for landscaping.
Afghanistan lilac is a large deciduous shrub, characterized by dark green foliage, purplish-brown shoots, and purple to lavender-blue blossoms, that appear in long panicles. The flowers are fragrant and they usually bloom from mid to late spring.
Also known as Himalayan lilac, it is a beautiful deciduous shrub, that produces pale purple to white flowers in early summer. The flowers of this lilac shrub is known to possess an unpleasant fragrance. The leaves are usually dark green in color and oblong to elliptic in shape. One popular variety or cultivar is syringa emodi ‘Elegantissima’, which is a vigorous deciduous shrub, with yellow and green variegated leaves and a sturdy stem.
Syringa komarowii or nodding lilac is native to central China, and is known for its fragrant and exquisitely beautiful blossoms, the color of which can range from pink to mauve. They usually bloom in early summer, and attract a lot of butterflies, birds, and bees. The limply hung flower panicles can be 4 to 25 cm long, while the oval-oblong shaped leaves can be about 5 to 19 cm long and 2 to 7 cm broad. The shrub itself can reach a height of about 3 to 6 m, with erect, multiple branches.
Syringa villosa is a deciduous shrub, native to China. This shrub can attain a height of 6 to 8 feet, with ovate to oblong, simple green leaves. The flowers bloom in late spring, which is why this lilac shrub is also known by the name of late lilac. A group of hybrid, known as preston hybrids are obtained from late lilac. Late lilac is cherished for its rose-lilac to white-colored attractive and fragrant blossoms, that appear in pyramidal panicles.
The botanical name of littleleaf lilac is Syringa Microphylla. It is a medium-sized deciduous shrub, with dark green-colored small, but broad foliage. The shrub can grow to a height of about 6 to 12 feet and can be upright or spreading. This lilac shrub produces long-tubed pink or purple blossoms in loose panicles, in late spring or early summer.
It is a deciduous lilac shrub, native to China, and can grow to a height of about 3 m, with simple, ovate leaves, arranged alternately along the stems. The flowers are pale purple in color and are arranged in panicles. They usually bloom from May to July.
Also known as pinnate lilac, it is a rare species of lilac shrub. Pinnate lilac is an open and upright deciduous shrub, with dark green, pinnate leaves. The leaves can be lance-shaped or ovate. The shrub displays lilac- to pink-flushed, white or ivory-colored fragrant blossoms in spring.
Another species of unusual lilac is Syringa protolaciniata, which can be distinguished by its dark green-colored imparipinnate leaves (pinnate leaves with a single leaflet at the apex). This deciduous shrub can reach a height of about 1.5 to 3 meters and produce purple to lavender-blue flowers in panicles, from April to May. This lilac shrub is native to west China.
Syringa pubescens is known to produce highly fragrant, pale purple flowers, that eventually become white, as they open up. There are two common subspecies of Syringa pubescens, which are known as, Syringa pubescens subsp. Patula and Syringa pubescens subsp. Microphylla. Syringa pubescens subsp. Patula ‘Miss Kim‘ is a popular cultivar, which is also known as Manchurian lilac, and is characterized by soft lavender or lavender-blue flowers and dark green velvety foliage in spring. In Autumn, the foliage color changes to burgundy. On the other hand, Syringa pubescens subsp. microphylla ‘Superba’, is a common cultivar of the subspecies Microphylla. The shrub bears single flowers of rose-pink color in spring and then again in late summer or autumn.
Also known as Chengtu lilac, this deciduous shrub or tree is native to China and is known to be one of the most beautiful lilac species. This lilac shrub is characterized by slender, arching branches and deep green, ovate leaves. The rosy-pink to mauve-colored flowers are arranged in upright panicles. The flowers have a spicy fragrance.
It is a small deciduous lilac tree, which can grow to a height of approximately 4 meters, with simple, elliptic green leaves. The white flowers are arranged in panicles and they bloom in June.
This small lilac tree is known for its remarkable sweetly-scented flowers. The tree is native to China and can attain a height of about 4 meters. The flowers can be white or deep lilac-pink in color.
This is a large lilac shrub, native to Manchuria and Korea. It has been cultivated in the gardens of western countries for a long time. This shrub can grow to a height of about 5 meters and produce large panicles of lilac-pink or mauve-colored flowers. The flowers are fragrant and they usually bloom in the second-half of spring. Another interesting characteristic of this lilac shrub is that its leaves turn yellow in fall.
Yunnan lilac or Syringa yunnanensis is an upright deciduous shrub, native to western China. The shrub produces tubular flowers, which can be dark or pale pink to nearly white in color, and are arranged in long panicles. The flowers are fragrant and they usually bloom in early summer. The leaves are green and ovate.
Common Cultivars and Hybrids
Chinese lilac or Syringa x chinensis is a lovely and attractive lilac bush to have in a flower garden or landscape. It is a medium-sized shrub, which displays flowers of lilac-pink or purple color in the spring, usually early in the month of May. Like many other lilac bushes, the blossoms of Chinese lilac are also loved for their fragrance. It is a hybrid between S. Persica and S. Vulgaris.
Persian lilac is a hybrid variety of the Syringa laciniata and Syringa afghanica species, and is native to some Asian countries. Persian lilac plant is much shorter, as compared to other lilac bushes. It usually reaches a height of 5 to 8 feet. The Persian lilac blossoms can be dark or pale lavender, to white in color. The white Persian lilac can look really amazing with its creamy white flowers, against a background of dark-green foliage.
Beauty of Moscow
Beauty of Moscow is considered one of the most beautiful varieties of lilac. The plant usually grows to a height of 10 to 12 feet. ‘Beauty of Moscow’ is a favorite lilac among gardeners, basically for its beautiful delicate blossoms of pale pink or white color. The pearl-like pink-colored buds gradually become snowy white, as they open up. The flowers are also known for their sweet fragrance.
Dwarf Korean Lilac
This lilac cultivar is very popular among gardeners, for its delightfully scented, lavender-pink blossoms. This shrub can bloom profusely at quite an early age. The shrub usually blooms in April to May, and is known to be quite tolerant to pollution.
Charles Joly Lilac
Charles Joly is an extremely popular hybrid of French lilac, which produces highly fragrant, deep purple or magenta flowers. Charles Joly is a strong and upright shrub, that can grow to 10 to 12 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide.
Agincourt Beauty Lilac
Agincourt Beauty is cherished for its highly fragrant and gorgeous purple-colored blossoms, that bloom in spring. Agincourt Beauty is a dense shrub with an upright stem, and heart-shaped foliage of bluish-green color. The flowers are single and borne in clusters, and each floret is quite large. The unparalleled beauty of this lilac has made it one of the favorite lilacs for landscaping.
Evangeline lilac or Syringa x hyacinthiflora ‘Evangeline’ is a tall deciduous shrub, which displays double flowers of lavender-purple color, produced in conical clusters. The leaves are heart-shaped and bluish-green in color. Evangeline is an early and profuse bloomer. It usually blooms a week or more before the common lilac.
No matter what kind of lilac you choose to grow, just keep in mind that almost all lilac plants need full sun to bloom profusely. Lilac plants prefer alkaline, lighter, and well-drained soil. As far as pruning is concerned, this can be done at the end of the blooming season. With proper care, lilac bushes can bloom prolifically to add beauty and warmth to your garden.