15 Beautiful Varieties of Lilac

These fragrant blooms are the star of springtime.

Close up of lilacs in vase
Hero Images / Getty Images

After a long winter, lilacs give us so much to be thankful for. The perfect way to welcome spring, they attract pollinators in droves and they have a wonderful fragrance. The Syringa genus that comprises garden lilacs includes several species, each with multiple cultivars. Nearly all lilac varieties are exceptionally hardy and long-lived, requiring very little maintenance. Thanks to centuries of breeding efforts by professionals and hobbyists alike, there are lilac types suitable for virtually every garden.

Most lilacs will spread through suckering shoots. This can be an advantage if you want the shrub to spread into a screening thicket, but you'll need to regularly remove the suckers if you want the shrub to remain confined. Lilacs typically bloom in mid- to late spring, though the bloom time varies slightly, depending on species and variety.

Here are 15 gorgeous lilac varieties to consider for your landscape.

  • 01 of 14

    Andenken an Louis Spaeth Lilac (Syringa vulgaris 'Andeken an Louis Spaeth')

    Lilac Souvenir de Louis Spaeth
    Neil Holmes / Getty Images

    This cultivar of the common lilac, sometimes sold by its translated name 'Souvenir of Louis Spaeth', is a beautiful shrub with purple-red flowers that appear in May. It tends to grow smaller than the native S. vulgaris species, which can soar to 16 feet.

    This cultivar has a great capacity for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds when in bloom but is not very appealing to deer and rabbits. It is best in cool-summer areas where powdery mildew is less likely to turn the foliage into an eyesore. Even more than other lilacs, this cultivar does not like warm, humid climates.

    • Native Area: Europe and Eastern Asia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–7
    • Height: 9–12 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 02 of 14

    Sensation Lilac (Syringa vulgaris 'Sensation')

    Sensation Lilac
    Maria Mosolova/Getty Images

    'Sensation' is another popular cultivar of the common lilac. The bicolor flowers of this variety live up to the name, providing gardeners with a stop-and-stare (and smell) 15-foot specimen for the back of the spring border. If your shrub produces any branches with non-variegated flowers, prune those out so the plant doesn't revert to a solid purple bush. 

    • Native Area: Europe and Eastern Asia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–7
    • Height: 8–15 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 03 of 14

    Wedgwood Blue Lilac (Syringa vulgaris 'Wedgewood Blue')

    Wedgwood Blue Lilac
    Maria Mosolova

    While many varieties of common lilac are rather large shrubs, Wedgewood Blue is a much smaller variety that makes it a good choice for smaller landscapes. Unusual pink buds give way to pale lavender flowers in April and May. The ethereal blooms of Wedgwood Blue manage to be energizing and soothing at the same time. Repeat the wonderful lavender-blue tones in your landscape with companion plantings of wisteria, forget-me-nots, Dutch iris, and grape hyacinth to capitalize on the tranquility of this hue.

    • Native Area: Europe and Eastern Asia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–7
    • Height: 4–6 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 04 of 14

    Charles Joly Lilac (Syringa vulgaris 'Charles Joly')

    Charles Joly Lilac
    Francois de Heel/Getty Images

    A Charles Joly lilac is a strong tonic against the dreary rainy days of spring, especially when planted beside a stand of cheerful yellow daffodils. Charles Joly is one of the larger common lilac cultivars at 15 feet, which is great for gardeners who love to harvest armloads of cut flowers without sacrificing the beauty of the outdoor bloom show. 

    • Native Area: Europe and Eastern Asia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–7
    • Height: 8–15 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
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  • 05 of 14

    Mrs. Edward Harding Lilac (Syringa vulgaris 'Mrs. Edward Harding')

    Small Syringa vulgaris 'Mrs Edward Harding' (Lilac) tree
    Eric Crichton / Getty Images

    It doesn't take much effort to train a common lilac cultivar like 'Mrs. Edward Harding' into tree form. Prune off all side shoots on a young shrub to a strong central leader, and maintain with annual pruning after flowering. It is a fairly slow-growing variety, requiring 10 to 20 years to achieve its full size.

    This cultivar has a fairly typical purple color when the flowers first bloom, but as they fade they take on a deep pink hue.

    • Native Area: Europe and Eastern Asia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–7
    • Height: 8–12 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 06 of 14

    Katherine Havemeyer Lilac (Syringa vulgaris 'Katherine Havemeyer')

    Lilac Katherine Havemeyer
    Neil Holmes / Getty Images

    If you've been looking for a reason to purchase a garden bench, plant a Katherine Havemeyer lilac. The lush, bright pink flower panicles are as appealing to touch as they are to smell. Sitting beneath its May blossoms while you sip a cup of tea feels positively decadent. This is another common lilac cultivar, but one with a particularly long bloom period. This plant pairs well with clematis vines growing up through its branches.

    • Native Area: Europe and Eastern Asia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4–7
    • Height: 8–10 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 07 of 14

    Paul Thirion Lilac (Syringa vulgaris 'Paul Thirion')

    Paul Thirion Lilac
    James Young / Getty Images

    Fully double flowers of reddish-pink on the common lilac cultivar' Paul Thirion' will give your spring floral arrangements extra petal power. This compact variety looks right at home by the front porch or the patio, where its compact growth habit won't interfere with foot traffic. It has very dense foliage, but is somewhat leggy, with the foliage typically starting about 2 feet off the ground.

    • Native Area: Europe and Eastern Asia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–7
    • Height: 8–10 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 08 of 14

    Madame Florent Stepman Lilac (Syringa vulgaris 'Madame Florent Stepman')

    Madame Florent Stepman White Lilac
    Eric Crichton / Getty Images

    Because a lilac shrub can live for decades, it's important to choose a cultivar with a timeless appearance. A white-blooming shrub-like Madame Florent Stepman lilac can give the spring garden a traditional look, while complementing any house color. 

    Madame Florent Stepman is a typical common lilac in every way but one. Rather than the typical range of pink to deep purple flowers, this cultivar produces dense panicles of creamy white flowers.

    • Native Area: Europe and Eastern Asia
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–7
    • Height: 8–15 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    Continue to 9 of 14 below.
  • 09 of 14

    Maiden's Blush Early-Flowering Lilac (Syringa × hyacinthiflora 'Maidens Blush')

    Syringa hyacinthiflora Maiden's Blush
    Maria Mosolova / Getty Images

    Maiden's Blush is a hybrid cross introduced in 1966. It blooms seven to 10 days earlier than other lilacs, with reddish-purple buds giving way to pale pink flowers. The upright form of Maiden's Blush makes it perfect to add to your landscape as a single specimen, as part of a border, or as a group planting. The variation in tone between buds and open blossoms gives the appearance of layers of pigment, as in a Monet painting. Prune after flowering to keep the height at a manageable height. 

    • Native Area: Nursery hybrid
    • USDA Growing Zones: 2–7
    • Height: 6–12 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 10 of 14

    Declaration Early-Flowering Lilac (Syringa x hyacinthiflora 'Declaration')

    Declaration Lilac
    Maria Mosolova / Getty Images

    'Declaration' is another early-flowering lilac that blooms seven to 10 days earlier than most varieties. You can coax even earlier blooms with the practice of forcing, which is cutting branches in bud to be brought into bloom indoors.

    Declaration has deep reddish-purple flowers with single petals. It has an open, upright growth habit that remains quite attractive in the landscape even after the flowers fade.

    • Native Area: Nursery hybrid
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–7
    • Height: 6–8 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 11 of 14

    Palibin Korean Lilac (Syringa meyeri 'Palibin')

    Dwarf Korean Lilac, Syringa Meyeri Palabin
    Neil Holmes / Getty Images

    Korean lilac is not known to exist in the wild; it was discovered in a Peking garden in 1909. Unlike common lilac (Syringa vulgaris), which can be a chore to keep pruned, the species form of Korean lilac is a smallish shrub that grows no more than 8 feet tall.

    The 'Palibin' cultivar is an even shorter plant at 5 feet, but its 7-foot spread creates enough heft to allow its use in a spring border without overwhelming the average suburban lot. The flowers are violet-purple, blooming in April and May. The dense growth habit of Palibin also makes it a good candidate for a hedge. As a bonus, the shrubs are resistant to mildew.

    • Native Area: Unknown
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–7
    • Height: 4–5 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 12 of 14

    Miss Kim Lilac (Syringa pubescens subsp. patula 'Miss Kim' )

    Miss Kim Lilac
    Sunniva Harte / Getty Images

    'Miss Kim' is a cultivar of the S.pubescens species of lilac, a species sometimes known as Manchurian lilac. The icy lavender flower panicles of Miss Kim will announce that spring has arrived every May. The cold and heat tolerance of this variety has given it a wide following from Minnesota to Georgia. These are shorter plants than most lilacs, making them a good choice for foundation plantings.  

    • Native Area: China and Korea
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–8
    • Height: 4–9 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
    Continue to 13 of 14 below.
  • 13 of 14

    Superba Littleleaf Lilac (Syringa pubescens subsp. microphylla 'Superba')

    Littleleaf Lilac Syringa pubescens ssp. Microphylla 'Superba'
    Juliette Wade / Getty Images

    Littleleaf lilacs belong to another subspecies of the S. pubescens species that includes 'Miss Kim'. Littleleaf lilacs are shorter, wider shrubs than the common lilac, and the 'Superba' cultivar is even broader, growing to 14 feet wide while remaining only about 7 feet tall. 'Superba' has a number of additional advantages, including more petite leaves, lush, rosy-pink flowers, a small rebloom in summer and fall, and better resistance to powdery mildew. This is the rare lilac that offers full season appeal.

    • Native Area: China, Korea
    • USDA Growing Zones: 4–6
    • Height: 5–7 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun
  • 14 of 14

    Tinkerbelle Lilac (Syringa 'Bailbelle' TINKERBELLE)

    Tinkerbelle Lilac
    Maria Mosolova / Getty Images

    The cheerful bubblegum pink blooms of Syringa 'Bailbelle' give gardeners with smaller landscapes an opportunity to experience the fragrance of a late-blooming lilac, as the plants won't exceed 6 feet in height with a nicely compact shape. The slow-growing, compact plants require very little maintenance and resist mildew as well. It is often sold by a registered trademark name, Tinkerbelle.

    This plant is a hybrid cross between between Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’ and S. pubescens subsp. microphylla ‘Superba’. 

    • Native Area: Parent species are native to China and Korea
    • USDA Growing Zones: 3–7
    • Height: 4–6 feet
    • Sun Exposure: Full sun