These hardy deciduous shrubs and small trees are grown mainly for their flowers which appear in late spring; many varieties are fragrant. They make good specimen shrubs, hedges and look well in borders.

Suitable site and soil. Sun or partial shade in a soil that is deep and fertile, preferably slightly alkaline, is best for members of this group.

Cultivation and care. Plant out in autumn. Remove flowers as they fade and also get rid of untidy growth in autumn. In summer remove suckers, especially from grafted plants. Occasional removal of the old wood stimulates vigour.

Propagation. Increase by heel cuttings in summer.

Recommended varieties. There are many varieties of S. vulgaris (common lilac), a large shrub that grows to 3.6m – 12ft high and spreads about 3m – 10ft and produces fragrant, lilac-coloured flowers in clusters in late spring. Good varieties include S.v. ‘Charles Joly’ with single mauve flowers; S.v. ‘Primrose’ with creamy-coloured flowers; and S.v. ‘Mrs Edward Harding’ with red semi-double flowers. Bushy and dense, S. meyeri ‘Palibin’ grows to 1.5m – 5ft high and wide with fragrant lilac flowers in late spring. S. x josijlexa ‘Bellicent’ is a disease-free variety that grows up to 4.5m – 15ft high and spreads 3.6m – 12ft. Its fragrant pink flowers in slim clusters are produced in late spring.

Pests and diseases. Pests include caterpillars and lilac leaf miner. Diseases include lilac blight and silver leaf.


S. x. chinensis (Rouen lilac) makes an excellent screen. Plant about 1.8m – 6ft apart and leave to get I established. It grows to 3m – 10fl, with attractive purplish flowers borne in late spring.

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