Common Lilac Guide: How to Grow & Care for “Syringa Vulgaris”

Our Guide to Common Lilac Flower - Everything you will ever need to know! Tips for growing and caring for “Syringa Vulgaris”
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We cannot stop but think: do these stunning flowers really need extra presentations? Their delicate and pleasant fragrance is one of a kind. And that’s not all, the overall bushy appearance brings a nice touch to any garden. Lilacs are popular ornamental plants appreciated by gardeners around the world. Therefore, everyone must have the chance to smell their mesmerizing perfume and to admire their beautiful flowers!

Syringa vulgaris plants, usually known as common lilacs or simply lilacs, are a species of flowering plants in the Oleaceae family. They thrive in the rocky hills of the Balkan Peninsula, mostly in the vicinity of human habitation. As mentioned above, lilacs produce strong-scented flowers that bloom in spring. Also, these plants have been widely cultivated and naturalized in many regions of Europe and North America.

To meet the preferences of all gardeners worldwide, common lilacs come along with 2000 cultivars, varieties, and hybrids. They are versatile flowering plants. So they make for excellent companions in screens, hedges, small gardens, and even potted in cute containers.

About Common Lilac

  • Common lilacs are the most abundant flowering species within their genus. They produce bloomings for about three to four weeks.
  • The flowers of common lilacs can last for at least six weeks, especially if you care for them properly.
  • In the language of flowers, these plants symbolize love. They are the state flower of New Hampshire because they represent the “hardy character of the men and women of the Granite State”.
  • People from several regions of North America hold annual festivals in the name of lilacs. Some of these gatherings include “Lilac Sunday” in Boston, “Lilac Village” in Illinois, and “Lilac City” in Washington.
  • In countries like Cyprus, Greece, and Lebanon, people associate them with Easter time because they bloom around that period. They are also called Paschalia.
  • Their showy and fragrant flowers are highly attractive to several species of pollinators. Butterflies, hummingbirds, bees, and other pollinators visit them often.
  • Common lilacs prefer lots of sunlight and mid-cool temperatures all-year-round. They are frost-tolerant plants and suitable for almost any region and climate.
  • These shrubs do well if you plant them in well-draining soil rich in humus and require fertilizer only before their blooming period.
  • You can grow common lilacs among other species of plants including Clematis, Flowering Cherry, Magnolia ‘Royal Star’, Daylilies, or Peonies.
Common Lilac Flower
Common Lilac Flower

Common Lilac Features: An Overview

  • Common lilacs belong to the Syringa genus that contains exactly 12 recognized species of lovely-scented and woody flowering plants.
  • They are multi-stemmed small trees or large deciduous shrubs that can reach between 20 and 23 feet (6-7 meters) in height. Most garden plants are cultivars that do not exceed 13-16 feet (4-5 meters).
  • These plants produce secondary shoots called suckers from the roots or base. The bark is smooth on young stems, flaking on the mature ones, and comes in beautiful tints of grey to greyish-brown.
  • The foliage consists of simple, oval to cordate, and dark to blue-green leaves that present a pinnate leaf venation. They measure from 2 to 5 inches (5-13 cm) in length and 1 to 3 inches (3-8 cm) in width.
  • Their leaves grow in pairs that are oppositely arranged on thick stems of about 8 inches (20 cm) in diameter. Occasionally, the leaves grow in whorls of three.
  • During their blooming period, in spring, common lilacs exhibit dense and terminal inflorescences. Lilac blooms are known as panicles that contain many branches full of flowers.
  • Their tiny blossoms have a tubular base to the corolla and usually four or five petals.
  • Lilac blooms are very fragrant and appear in various shades of mauve, pinkish-purple, lilac, white, cream, rose, or interesting color mixes.
  • Once the flowering period has ended, the blooms are followed by small fruits. They are dry, smooth, and brownish capsules that split in two at maturity to release two-winged seeds.

Growing Common Lilac

Common lilacs are lovers of full sunlight and they have the ability to bloom sporadically if the gardener exposes them to proper light conditions. They can tolerate light shade, but will not show the same flower production as usual.

If you want your plants to have the time of their life, grow them in a location where they can receive at least six hours of bright and direct light daily. In hot and dry areas, you must find a spot for your plants where they won’t suffer damage due to the harsh afternoon sunlight.

Syringa vulgaris
Syringa vulgaris

In terms of temperatures, these shrubby friends are not as delicate as they seem. Common lilacs are among the hardiest ornamental plants out there, with some varieties that can withstand winter temperatures down to -60 °F (-51 °C). However, they grow at their best in regions with cool-summer climates and are not recommended for very hot or humid areas.

Common lilacs are prone to several diseases and pest infestation, such as leaf spots and blights, scale insects, borers, or bacterial blight. In case of infection, you can treat your plants with suitable fungicides or insecticides. Still, the most common problem with these plants is powdery mildew, but you can select cultivars that are resistant to it.

Planting Common Lilac

It’s recommended to plant common lilacs in autumn before the ground freezes or in early spring after the last sign of frost. To achieve healthy and vigorous shrubs, plant them in a location with good air circulation and lots of light. Make sure you avoid planting your lilacs in areas with grass because regular watering can be bad for them.

As a general rule, Common lilacs require well-draining soil to show the best growth and avoid root rot. We recommend planting your lilacs in a fertile, alkaline to neutral soil that is rich in humus. If the soil is in poor condition, you can add compost to enrich it.

Fertilizing these plants is not mandatory. But they will benefit from a little extra attention before their blooming period. Want to boost your common lilacs and encourage them to produce more flowers? You can feed them with a small amount of all-purpose fertilizer in late winter or early spring. However, lilacs will not bloom well if over-fertilized and are very sensitive to nitrogen.

Common lilacs bloom on old wood, so they require a nice pruning session right after their flowering period. You need to prune these plants not only for their overall health but also to give them an alluring shape and keep them of a certain size. To ensure new growth and blooming, remove all the spent flowers and the damaged, diseased, or dead branches.

Syringa Vulgaris Seeds, From Amazon

Watering Common Lilac

Although common lilacs are very easy to grow and care for, they require more attention until settled in their new growing environment. But do not worry! This period will not last more than several months and it is more enjoyable than you might think. Once a deep root system is established, these bushy companions are pretty tolerant of drought for short periods.

To avoid soggy conditions or over-watering, make sure you always check the soil in-between waterings. When the soil is completely dry, you can provide your thirsty lilacs with a nice watering without touching their foliage in the process.

If you live in a region with dry summer months, common lilacs may require watering once every week and more often in extreme heat. Keep in mind that under-watering can also be an issue with these plants, resulting in wilting or distorted leaves.

Propagating Common Lilac

The lovely and fragrant flowers of common lilacs are not to be missed! These plants can be a wonderful gift for your family members or friends during the warmer season. Why waste the cut branches full of flowers when you can use them in propagation? And you can always keep some extra lilac babies just for yourself!

Although propagating common lilacs through cuttings can be tricky, this should not refrain you from trying your luck! The cuttings will respond well to propagation if you take them early in the morning when the weather is cooler and the mother plants are well-hydrated. Also, you should use tender new growth and begin this process in late spring or early summer.

Common Lilac
Common Lilac

The cuttings should not be longer than 4 to 6 inches (10-15 cm). Remove all the bottom leaves from the cuttings to allow the roots to emerge from the nodes, but let two or three leaves at the top. For optimal growth, dip the bottom of the cuttings in rooting hormone before planting them.

Fill a bed or pot with a mixture of equal parts of potting soil, perlite, and sand. Water the substrate lightly until damp and use a stick to make planting holes in it. Take your cuttings and plant them in the holes and pat the potting mix gently around their base to provide nice support. When planting the cuttings, make sure their leaves do not touch themselves.

Place the container in a warm location and water the cuttings regularly to maintain the soil slightly moist. With proper care, the cuttings will develop a healthy root system in six to eight weeks after planting. After this period, you can move the container to a place with bright and indirect light. When the roots are well established, you can transplant the baby lilacs in the garden or their individual pots.

In Conclusion

With spring just around the corner, you cannot miss the opportunity to add common lilacs to your plant family! These shrubbies look absolutely gorgeous and are also very easy to grow, care for, and propagate. In fewer words, lilacs are the ideal garden shrubs!


Miruna is an experienced content writer with a passion for gardening. She is the proud owner of an outdoor rose garden and an indoor collection of tiny succulents. She bought her first succulent 10 years ago - an adorable Echeveria Setosa. Now she owns more than 100 succulents and cacti of different colors, shapes, and sizes. Miruna is a versatile writer and, as you might have guessed, her favorite topic is gardening. Contact

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