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Wake up to the lilacs next spring

Updated: Aug 9, 2022

Common Name : Lilac (common)

Science-y Name : Syringa

A Few Varieties : “Miss Kim” S. pubescens (Korean lilac), S. vulgaris (common lilac), S. reticulata (Japanese tree lilac)

Native or Non : The common lilac bush itself is native to the Balkan Peninsula. While common lilac, S. vulagris, can spread over time they are not considered invasive. The Japanese tree lilac, S reticulata, is considered invasive in some areas.

Characteristics : Common lilac can perfume a whole neighborhood with their late spring blooms. Their panicles, those drooping clusters of flowers that create all of that familiar spring scent, can be shades of purple and pink, or white. For a lovely springtime arrangement the panicles can be pruned with some of the branch attached and put into a vase. Be sure no one in the house has allergies as the effects of allergies will make the arrangement far less lovely for them. A sneezing fit takes the beauty out of things.

During the summer lilac offer some green to a yard and in the fall their leaves will have a bit of early fall yellow before falling off. They are dormant more than other shrubs and enjoy a long winter nap to be ready for springtime flowering.

Their best show is in the spring, and it’s good to consider the best placement before digging. You want full enjoyment of flowers without blocking other plants that are at their best in summer. The Miss Kim, S. pubescens, is a smaller bush than the common lilac and is a great alternative for smaller yards, or a landscape where a taller, fuller bush might not look right.

Japanese tree lilacs are similar visually, but are more tree-like and the flowers do not grow in panicles. They are less prone to powdery mildew than the common, and do not get as full with flowers.

Fun Fact: The purple lilac was named the New Hampshire state flower in 1919, and it has a state commission dedicated to this purple wonder: the Governor’s Lilac and Wildflower Commission established by then Governor John Sununu in 1984. They host an annual lilac photo competition that is open for anyone to enter.

Though it is our state flower and Rochester NH has crowned itself the Lilac City, why precisely this flowering shrub is such a source of pride is a bit of an unknown. This NHPR piece from 2019 looks at some of the reasons why we might love the lilacs so much.

Care Considerations : Placement of a common lilac is important. Lilacs do best in full sun, which means 6 or more hours of sun a day, and neutral to alkaline soil. This means they are not friends with rhododendrons, which thrive in acidic soil.

Lilac can grow to over 8 feet and spread through root suckers. It’s important to keep suckers pruned back so the shrub will put its energy into the main plants leaves and flower. It also ensures plenty of air flow between its branches to help it stay healthy.

Fall is a great time to plant a new lilac bush or transplant the one in your yard that might need more sun. RAG Thyme gardeners can keep up with pruning of existing lilac and watch for signs of powdery mildew that might affect the bush’s health. Powdery mildew is mostly an aesthetic issue for lilacs, however. A good fall cleanup to remove leaves from the shrub’s growth area will also help keep most plants healthy.

And yes, it's time to start thinking about fall! Let us help you plan for what might need to be moved, or a new plant that should go in so it can set up strong roots and be ready for spring.

Contact us to get an estimate on RAG Thyme services for your yard and garden! We’ll help existing plants stay brilliant, or suggest alternatives with as much beauty and personality.

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