Lilac: Romantic Shrub with Intoxicating Scent

Lilac is a romantic shrub with an intense fragrance that grows well in zones 3-8. Reaching heights of 12-25’, Lilac will mature into a statement piece in the garden perfect for creating stunning spring bouquets.

This low-maintenance shrub needs 6-8 hours of sun and well-draining soil to thrive for years to come. Use it as a singular focal point, in groupings of various colors, or as a privacy hedge in the summer garden. Bear in mind that Lilac is a deciduous plant and will lose its leaves in the fall. You can expect Lilac to grow about 1-2’ per year in optimum conditions.

The Cottage Garden Staple

Every cottage garden should begin with roses and lilacs. Lilac begins to bloom just before the roses and their blooming periods overlap to give your garden a cheery profusion of complementary flowers. Lilac features beautiful clusters of tiny, fragrant flowers that fills both the garden and bouquets with intense scent and delicate beauty. Since Lilac has the same sun and soil needs as roses, it is a perfect planting partner for taller Grandifloras, Floribundas, and Climbing Roses. There are seven colors to choose from when selecting a Lilac, so look beyond the expected purple hues and find a shade that best coordinates with your garden palette. 

Planting and Care

Plant Lilac in the early spring when the threat of frost has passed or in late fall, several weeks before the first expected frost. While it may look good in the middle of the lawn, Lilac doesn’t love high nitrogen fertilizers like a green lawn does, nor does it like having grass under its feet since it doesn’t need as much water as a typical lawn does. So choose a location that is full sun with well-draining soil, and not in a location that will be watered excessively. When planting Lilac, dig a hole twice as wide as the nursery pot and just as deep. Loosen the roots of the plant and throw in a generous helping of compost to the prepared hole. Insert the plant and then pack in the dirt around it. Water till a large puddle forms and let it slowly soak in.

If you do plant the Lilac near a grassy area, clear about 2-3’ around the base of the plant to give it space and add a layer of mulch. Don’t let the mulch touch the base or trunk of the plant to prevent pests and disease.

Water consistently until established and then only supplement again in periods of drought or heat. Lilac will wilt when it is thirsty, so watch the blooms and foliage for clues on supplementing watering. 

Lilac blooms on old wood and should be pruned immediately after flowering. If you wait too long and prune later in the season, you run the risk of cutting off all of next year’s flowers. Dead or diseased branches can be removed at any time in the growing season.

Lilac is only temperamental when it comes to fertilization. Too much fertilizer and it won’t bloom well. Poor soil quality also results in the same outcome. Give your Lilac a dose of 10-10-10 slow-release fertilizer in late winter and add a generous top dressing of compost in the spring and it should be good to go for the season!

Propagating Lilac is best done in late spring and early summer. To propagate Lilac, remove new growth shoots from the base of the plant, digging up roots and a substantial shoot. Sprinkle rooting hormone on the exposed roots and replant in a new location. Water often, keeping the soil damp until new growth begins. New foliage growth means you have successfully propagated a new plant!

Two favorites for us this season are: Palibin and Bloomerang Dark Purple.