8 Things You Didn’t Know About Lilac (Syringa)

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Lilac (Syringa) does more than create a spectacle of fragrant flowers come spring!

Lilac (Syringa) is a glorious, fragrant shrub with large flower panicles that is probably one of the most nostalgic garden plants. Their striking color and pollinator-attracting power have made lilac shrubs a staple in cottage gardens, hedges, pathways, and more. While lilac may be popular, there are quite a few unique traits that gardeners may not know, adding to its likeability and versatility. Here, we’ll discuss eight things you may not know about growing lilac, and by the end, you’ll love this popular shrub even more!

Close up of Purpink lilac shrub in spring
Woman pruning Syringa lilac shrub.

Lilac Shrubs Are Shockingly Easy To Care For

The large, colorful blooms and powerful fragrance from lilac shrubs may make you think they are a bit high maintenance, but this couldn’t be further from the truth! Lilac is a tough shrub that requires minimal pruning, is incredibly low maintenance, and is great for beginner gardeners. 

As long as lilac is planted in an area with plenty of sun and well-drained soil, this shrub should wow in the landscape for many years, with some lilac shrubs lasting up to 100 years. Some light pruning can be done in spring after it’s finished blooming; otherwise, it’s good to grow.

Lilacs Are In The Same Family As Olive Trees

You’d never guess it, but lilac (Syringa) is in the same botanical family as Oleaceae, native to Southeast Asia and Australia, and the genus Olea, also known as the olive tree! While you may not find salty fruits throughout the shrub, lilacs and olive trees share similar traits, including fragrant spring-blooming tubular flowers with four petals and exceptional cold tolerance (with deciduous varieties).

There are over 600 species in the Oleaceae family, including some popular landscape shrubs like jasmine, forsythia, and privet.

Syringa lilac shrub in the landscape in summer.
A bouquet of purple pink Syringa lilac flowers in vase.

Lilac Cuttings Bring The Intoxicating Scent Indoors

Lilac blooms are so lovely and intoxicating that you’ll want to bring them indoors all spring, and you can! Grab a pair of pruners and cut at a clean 45-degree angle; just be sure you’re leaving enough outdoors for the pollinators to enjoy. Consider trimming in the morning, when lilac blooms are the most hydrated. The pink and purple flower panicles will last in a vase with water between 4-7 days. 

Change the water frequently or daily to make your lilac cuttings last longer indoors. Unlike other flower cuttings, lilac cuttings do better in indirect sunlight, as the heat from direct sunlight may cause them to wilt faster.

Lilac Is A Host Plant For Butterflies & Moths

With about 35 percent of the world’s food crops depending on animal and insect pollinators to reproduce, it’s essential to support our pollinators now more than ever. Luckily, a variety of beautiful outdoor plants serve a purpose for our pollinators, including lilac! Common lilacs are a host plant for Eastern tiger swallowtails, which is why butterflies may visit your shrub frequently—the caterpillars of several moth species like clearwing and leaf-miner.

Aside from being a host plant to butterflies and moths, the sweet and abundant nectar is also a magnet attracting bees and hummingbirds. Pictured is NOT a swallowtail, but a Monarch butterfly, whose sole host plant is milkweed.

Close up of Syringa lilac bloom with monarch butterfly
Close up of pink purple lilac flowers in summer.

Lilacs Come In An Array Of Pink & Purple Hues

When gardeners picture lilacs, they may imagine purple tubular-shaped blooms covering a shrub, when in reality, lilacs come in a variety of hues. Some lilac shrubs are magenta purple and feature more dense panicles, while some may appear blue flowers that are spread out, and some even have a mix of both! Other varieties may even feature a blend of hot pink and blush pink blooms.

The ability to choose from various lilac colors without sacrificing fragrance or blooming power means any gardener can find a lilac to match their gardening aesthetic.

There Are Lilac Varieties For Small Gardens

While lilacs may be traditionally used as larger landscape shrubs, several varieties were cultivated for small gardens and containers! These dwarf lilacs are still smothered in blooms, just in a more compact habit. Some even rebloom when you trim after the first flush, keeping the lilac looking fresh. Like large lilac varieties, these dwarf varieties include the same disease and deer resistance.

Place in a patio container, tuck between larger shrubs, or add along a small hedge, and fall in love with gorgeous blooms all spring. Pictured is dwarf lily variety Baby Kim® Lilac from Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs.

Syringa lilac shrub with blooms in summer.
Lilac with dog sitting next to it.

Lilac Is Pet-Friendly

Many gardeners worry that their curious pets may accidentally ingest the plants they choose and search diligently to ensure what they choose is pet-friendly. Luckily, you don’t need to worry about these gorgeous shrubs being dangerous to your furry friends! Lilac is considered non-toxic by the ASPCA to both dogs and cats and can be ingested in small doses. At a large dose, lilac can cause some discomfort and digestive issues.

Great Garden Plants advises that pets, children, or adults DO NOT consume any flowers, weeds, trees, or bushes. Ornamental plants are intended to be just that – ornamental. They should not be consumed by people or pets. View other pet-friendly plants in our collection HERE

Some Lilacs Bloom In Multiple Seasons

For some lilac varieties, their beauty isn’t just limited to springtime. The Bloomerang® lilac series from Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs blooms mid-spring, then takes time to rest and create new growth that arrives again in summer! This essentially makes the season of interest spring through frost, with silvery foliage taking center stage between blooms.

Like other lilac varieties, Bloomerang® requires some periods of cold temperatures to bloom well and can be easily grow in containers or the landscape as long as they get plenty of sun and have well-drained soil.

BLOOMERANG Dwarf Purple lilac in the garden

Lilacs For Sale From Great Garden Plants

We hope you learned something new! Lilac is a garden staple for a reason; they feature striking colors, are versatile in the landscape, are easy to care for, and are adored by pollinators. What’s not to love? Shop the collection of lilac shrubs for sale from Great Garden Plants today. 

Close up of the dark purple blooms of Baby Kim Lilac.
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Baby Kim® Lilac

DESCRIPTION

  • Purple blooms explode with fragrance!
  • Improved version of Miss Kim® lilac.
  • Compact habit saves space.
  • Low maintenance and resistant to deer and disease.
  • Zones 3-8, sun, 3′ tall x 3′ wide at maturity.

Bloomerang® Dark Purple Reblooming Lilac

DESCRIPTION

  • Enjoy flowers in spring and summer.
  • Stunning dark purple blooms from Proven Winners.
  • Very easy to grow- great for beginners.
  • Zones 3-7, sun, 6′ tall x 6′ wide at maturity.

Scentara Pura® Lilac

DESCRIPTION

  • Large blooms have a powerful fragrance!
  • Add fragrance anywhere with cut flowers.
  • Hardy to cold climates and tolerant of heat.
  • Resistant to deer and disease.
  • Zones 2-8, sun, 6′ tall x 6′ wide at maturity.

Scentara® Double Blue Lilac

DESCRIPTION

  • Enjoy super fragrant flowers in spring!
  • More fragrant than other lilacs.
  • Vigorous and disease-resistant.
  • Zones 2-8, sun, 8′ tall x 8′ wide at maturity.

Bloomerang Ballet™ Lilac

DESCRIPTION

  • Highly fragrant pink/purple lilac flowers.
  • A deer-resistant shrub that looks amazing spring through frost.
  • One of the strongest reblooming lilacs on the market.
  • Zones 3-7, sun, up to 3-4′ tall x 3-4′ wide at maturity.

Bloomerang® Purpink™ Lilac

DESCRIPTION

  • Are the flowers purple, pink, or purpink?
  • Hundreds of flowers bloom from spring to fall.
  • Low maintenance and deer-resistant plant from Proven Winners.
  • Zones 3-7, sun, 5′ tall x 3′ wide at maturity.

Questions, comments, or concerns? Let us know! We have an experienced, knowledgeable staff ready to make sure your garden turns out perfect. Or check out our other blogs, here.