Lilac Shrubs
Plant Type
Sunlight Amount
Lilac Shrubs
Credit: Bill Stites
Lilac Shrubs

Lilac Shrubs

With sweetly scented, pastel blooms and heart-shape leaves, lilacs stand out in the landscape as welcome harbingers of spring. These plants come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including dwarf and midsize shrubs, and small trees with showy bark. Consider planting multiple types of lilacs with a range of bloom times and colors to enjoy several weeks of attractive flowers and fragrances.

genus name
  • Syringa
  • Part Sun
  • Sun
plant type
  • Shrub
  • 3 to 8 feet
  • 8 to 20 feet
  • 20 feet or more
  • To 20 feet wide
flower color
foliage color
season features
problem solvers
special features
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7

Colorful Combinations

The common lilac (with which most people associate the fragrance) is the species Syringa vulgaris. Native to Europe, this deciduous shrub was brought to the United States by colonists who could not imagine living without the plant's pleasing scent. The common lilac reaches 8 to 12 feet high and 6 to 10 feet wide, with dark green leaves, purple flowers, and brownish-gray to gray bark. This type of lilac works well as a single specimen planting or in groups as screens, hedges, or shrub borders. Hundreds of cultivars boast a range of floral colors that include purple, blue-purple, lavender, magenta, reddish purple, pink, and white.

Dwarf lilac varieties are smaller in scale than the common lilac but offer similar flower colors and scents. These shrubs reach 4 to 6 feet in height, which makes them suitable plants for small gardens and even containers. With their compact branching, the dwarf plants can be trained as hedges and topiaries. Their tighter growth habit requires less time and maintenance than the common lilac. The Meyer lilac, or dwarf Korean lilac, is one of the better known varieties. Four feet high and 5 feet wide, this little shrub produces dark violet flowers. Some varieties boast spectacular fall foliage in shades of orange, yellow, and burgundy.

Japanese tree lilac reaches 20 to 30 feet tall and 15 to 20 feet wide, proportions that make it a good choice for street plantings and hedges, or as a screen along property lines. This lilac produces fragrant creamy-white flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds in late spring to early summer, a little later than the shrub lilacs. It also boasts dark green leaves and showy reddish-brown bark that peels as the tree ages, making an interesting visual to enjoy in winter.

Lilac Care Must-Knows

For best results, grow common, dwarf, or tree lilacs in full sun with well-drained, evenly moist soil. These plants withstand droughts well once they have been established. Common lilacs can adapt to part shade, but doing so will see fewer flowers produced in spring. Part shade also encourages powdery mildew, a frequent disease in lilacs. Counteract mildew by planting lilacs in full sun and pruning them regularly to increase airflow around the plants. Lilacs bloom on old wood, so prune them in the spring after the flower show is over for the season.

More Varieties of Lilac

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Syringa 'Angel White' lilac blooms in vase
Credit: Andre Baranowski

'Angel White' Lilac

Syringa vulgaris 'Angel White' bears large trusses of strongly fragrant white flowers. This selection tolerates heat better than most. It grows 12 feet tall and 10 feet wide. Zones 3-9

purple bloomerang lilac

Bloomerang Lilac

Syringa 'Penda' is a recent selection that offers clusters of fragrant purple flowers in spring, then again from summer to fall. It grows 5 feet tall and 6 feet wide. Zones 3-7

Lilac shrubs
Credit: Jerry Pavia

Dwarf Korean Lilac

Syring meyeri 'Palibin' is a compact variety that grows 4-6 feet tall and wide, with small, dark green foliage. It blooms early, bearing fragrant panicles of light lavender-pink flowers. Zones 4-7

Edith Cavell lilac
Credit: Peter Krumhardt

'Edith Cavell' Lilac

Syringa vulargaris 'Edith Cavell' bears large clusters of double, creamy-white flowers in spring. It grows 25 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-8

Frederick Law Olmstead lilac
Credit: Alise O'Brien

'Frederick Law Olmstead' Lilac

Syringa vulgaris 'Frederick Law Olmstead' bears dense panicles of single white flowers on a shrub growing 22 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-8

george eastman lilac growing in garden
Credit: Todd Dacquisto

'George Eastman' Lilac

Syringa julianae 'George Eastman' is a dwarf type that grows 6 feet tall and wide and produces loose clusters of long, tubular deep pink florets from wine-red buds. Zones 2-7

Miss Kim lilac
Credit: Bill Stites

'Miss Kim' Lilac

Syringa pubescens subsp. patula 'Miss Kim') is a dwarf, late-blooming lilac, to 8 feet tall and 10 feet wide that produces erect clusters of pale lilac-blue flowers. Zones 5-8.

white Mount Baker lilac flowers
Credit: Jerry Pavia

'Mount Baker' Lilac

Syringa hyacinthiflora 'Mount Baker' is an early flowering variety with broad leaves that deepen to purple in fall and large, single white flowers. It grows 15 feet tall and wide. Zones 3-7

pink perfume lilac
Credit: Justin Hancock

'Pink Perfume' Bloomerang Lilac

Syringa x 'Pink Perfume' is an addition to the Bloomerang series. This compact lilac bears fragrant pink flowers in spring, then reblooms from mid-summer through fall. Zones 3-7

Pocahontas lilac
Credit: Peter Krumhardt

'Pocahontas' Lilac

Syringa hyacinthiflora 'Pocahontas' is an early flowering type with broad leaves and large flower spikes composed of richly scented, deep purple florets. It grows 15 feet tall and wide. Zones 3-7

president lincoln lilac
Credit: Jerry Pavia

'President Lincoln' Lilac

Syringa vulgaris 'President Lincoln' bears single, deep purple flowers that are very fragrant on a shrub that grows 22 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-8

Saugeana lilac
Credit: Jerry Pavia

'Saugeana' Lilac

Syringa x chinensis 'Saugeana' bears slightly nodding clusters of fragrant reddish purple flowers in late spring. It grows 15 feet tall and wide. Zones 5-8

Sensation lilac
Credit: Peter Krumhardt

'Sensation' Lilac

Syringa vulgaris 'Sensation' is a fast-growing shrub that bears spikes of single lavender flowers edged in white that shine from a distance. It grows 22 feet tall and wide. Zones 4-8


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