Common Lilac is a very common ornamental plant in gardens and parks, because of the attractive, sweet smell of its flowers. Most garden plants are cultivars with flowers varying from white to dark lilac; some have double flowers with the stamens replaced by extra petals. The cultivar 'Aurea' has yellowish foliage. The majority of garden cultivars do not exceed 4-5 m tall. It is widely naturalised in western and northern Europe.
It is a deciduous large shrub or small tree, growing to 6–7 m high, usually multi-stemmed, producing secondary shoots from the base or roots, with stem diameters of up to 20 cm. The bark is grey to grey-brown, smooth on young stems, longitudinally furrowed and flaking on older stems. The leaves are simple, 4–12 cm long and 3–8 cm broad, light green to glaucous, oval to cordate, with pinnate leaf venation, a mucronate apex and an entire margin. They are arranged opposite pairs or occasionally in whorls of three. The flowers have a tubular base to the corolla 6–10 mm long with an open four-lobed apex 5–8 mm across, usually lilac to mauve, occasionally white. They are arranged in a dense, terminal panicle 8-18 cm long. The fruit is a dry, smooth brown capsule, 1–2 cm long, splitting in two to release the two winged seeds.
Common lilac does best in full sun, tolerating most soils except wet soil. Siting for morning sun and good air circulation can help reduce the occurrence of powdery mildews, which are a major problem for this plant in humid climates.
Numerous cultivars have been selected for size, flower color and form, and more recently for mildew resistance.
Usually grown as a specimen, but also for cut flowers.
Tolerates harsh pruning, but should only be pruned immediately after (or during) flowering to ensure the next year's bloom. The shrub produces copious suckers, which may either be pruned out or encouraged. To encourage a "tree-like form, remove all suckers as they emerge, or to keep size limited remove the oldest stems every year to keep the height under control.
Propagate via cuttings or grafting to preserve follower color and form.
Flowers hold up well in the vase if the leaves are removed.
Pests and Diseases
- Rushforth, K. (1999). Trees of Britain and Europe. Collins ISBN 0-00-220013-9.
- Med-Checklist: Syringa vulgaris
- Flora Europaea: Syringa vulgaris
- Huxley, A., ed. (1992). New RHS Dictionary of Gardening. Macmillan ISBN 0-333-47494-5.
- Blamey, M. & Grey-Wilson, C. (1989). Flora of Britain and Northern Europe. ISBN 0-340-40170-2
|Wikiversity is collecting bloom time data for Syringa vulgaris on the Bloom Clock|