Lilac Bush: Plant Care & Growing Guide

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How to Grow Lilac Bushes

Common lilac bushes (Syringa vulgaris) are deciduous shrubs that bloom in late spring. They are part of the olive family, along with other ornamental plants such as ash, forsythia, and lavender bushes.

The remarkable quality of many varieties of lilac is the sweet fragrances of its flowers. The flowers appear in mid to late spring in clusters or branched panicles. Each flower is about 1/3 inch in diameter.

The leaves are gray-green to blue-green in color and are about 5 to 5 inches long; they do not change color in autumn. And the bark of this shrub ranges from gray to grayish-brown. The best time to plant lilac bushes is in early fall, before the ground freezes. They have a moderate growth rate of 1 to 2 feet per year.

Botanical NameSyringa vulgaris
Common NamesLilac bush, common lilac
Plant TypeShrub
Mature Size8–15 ft. tall, 6–12 ft. wide
Sun ExposureFull
Soil TypeLoamy, well-drained
Soil pHNeutral
Bloom TimeSpring
Flower ColorsLavender-blue, white, burgundy, deep purple, lilac
Hardiness Zones3–7 (USDA)
Native AreaEurope

Lilac Care

Common lilac bushes are attractive enough to be treated as plant specimens, grown as focal points in the landscape. They are also typically planted in rows along property lines and pruned in loose hedges. The cultivar "Miss Kim" is small enough to be used in staple crops, as is the even more compact lilac "Bloomerang" which is a dwarf shrub.

Once established, lilacs don't require a lot of maintenance. They generally only need to be watered during prolonged dry spells and prefer annual fertilization. Pruning is also generally an annual activity.


Grow lilac bushes in full sun, which means at least six hours of direct sunlight on most days. Lilacs tolerate some shade, but little light can limit their flowering. They do not do well in full shade.


Lilac bushes prefer rich clay soils with marked drainage and neutral pH soil. They can tolerate clay soils, although they can hinder their growth.


Lilacs prefer a moderate amount of soil moisture. But soggy soil can lead to the rotting of bad roots and flowers. Water young lilacs regularly to keep the soil slightly moist. Mature plants normally only need to be watered during dry periods.

Temperature and Humidity

Lilac bushes prefer climates with very cold summers. They are not recommended for hot and humid areas, such as the southern United States. High humidity can cause fungal diseases in the plant.

Additionally, lilacs can tolerate temperatures well below freezing, although they prefer to shelter from very cold winds, which can damage flower buds and break stems.


Lilac bushes can benefit from spring feeding, especially if the soil is poor. However, do not use a fertilizer with a high nitrogen content, which can lead to poor flowering. Instead, use a balanced fertilizer.

Lilac Varieties

There are several types of lilac bushes that vary slightly in appearance, including:

  • 'Wedgewood Blue': This compact lilac variety reaches a height at maturity of only 6 feet with a spread equal to that. The flowers are contained in thick, lavender-blue clusters. Lives in zones 3 through 8.
  • 'Yankee Doodle': A small lilac shrub with fragrant deep purple flowers, Yankee Doodle is slightly more cold hardy than the main species, suitable for zones 2 to 8. Grows 2 to 3 meters tall and 5 6 meters wide.
  • 'Belle de Nancy': This variety has double rose flowers (several layers of petals) and grows 2.5 to 3 meters high and 2 to 2.5 meters wide. It blooms from late spring to early summer and is suitable for zones 3 through 9.
  • 'Madame Lemoine': Flowered with bright white double flowers, this variety of lilac is around 4.5 meters tall and 3.6 meters wide. It is suitable for zones 3 to 8.
  • 'Primrose': Primrose is a standard size lilac that grows 3 to 4.5 meters tall and 2 to 3 meters wide. It stands out for its yellow flowers that still convey the beloved and sweet scent of lilacs. It is suitable for zones 3 to 7.


Pruning is essential for lilacs, both to stimulate flowering and to ensure air circulation to prevent powdery mildew and other problems. The right time to prune is right after flowering, as lilacs bloom on old wood.

You can prune branches to slow growth (for better air circulation) and to keep shrub height under control. Also, cut off all dead flowers when they have finished blooming. This will prevent seed formation and thus promote a more abundant bloom next spring.

Propagating Lilacs

Anyone who has grown lilacs knows how they spread and spread easily. Most lilacs are clump-forming plants that spread through shoots that extend from the trunk.

To propagate lilacs, simply dig around one of the buds and cut it from the main plant, keeping the roots intact. Then re-plant the sprout in rich soil wherever you like and keep the soil slightly moist (but not soggy) at all times until it settles.

Common Pests/Diseases

Lilacs are very hardy shrubs and can survive most pest and disease problems. However, they are susceptible to several. Powdery mildew is commonly seen on lilacs, especially during wet summers.

Creates dusty off-white spots on foliage. There are chemical fungicides and natural methods to combat powdery mildew. The disease is generally not fatal, but you should still treat lilac as soon as possible to limit its spread.

Common pests that can reach lilacs and damage their foliage include scales and borers. If you notice these little insects on the stems and undersides of the leaves, treat your plant with neem oil or another insecticide.

Enjoy This Video Tutorial About Easiest Way to Start Lilacs

Source: Flower Patch Farmhouse

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