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. 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.
Here are 15 gorgeous lilac varieties.
01 of 15
Not just for small spaces, the dwarf Korean lilac (Syringa meyeri "Palibin") is large enough at 5 feet tall and 7 feet wide to add heft to a spring border without overwhelming the average suburban lot. The dense growth habit of the "Palabin" lilac makes it a good candidate for a hedge. As a bonus, the shrubs are resistant to mildew.
02 of 15
Souvenir de Louis Spaeth
The cerise blooms of "Souvenir de Louis Spaeth" attract butterflies and hummingbirds like mad in May, while shrugging off nibbling deer and rabbits. Although the 12-foot shrub has a vigorous growth habit, this cultivar is at its best in cool summer areas where powdery mildew is less likely to turn the foliage into an eyesore.
03 of 15
The icy lavender flower panicles of "Miss Kim" lilac will announce that spring has arrived every May in your full sun garden. The cold and heat tolerance of this variety has given it a wide following from Minnesota to Georgia. Try "Miss Kim" as a south-facing foundation planting, as the shrubs average 5 to 6 feet in height.
04 of 15
The bicolor flowers of the "Sensation" lilac variety live up to its 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.Continue to 5 of 15 below.
05 of 15
Syringa microphylla "Superba" strikes the perfect balance of lush rosy-pink flower clusters and petite leaves on a 6-foot lilac shrub. Although lilacs are known for being somewhat unremarkable in the landscape after flowering is finished, "Superba" may surprise with late summer rebloom in ideal growing conditions of strong sun, mild summers, and regular irrigation.
06 of 15
The cheerful bubblegum pink blooms of Syringa baibelle "Tinkerbelle" 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. The slow-growing, compact plants require very little maintenance and resist mildew as well.
07 of 15
The ethereal blooms of "Wedgwood Blue" lilac 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.
08 of 15
The upright form of "Maiden's Blush" lilac 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 8 to 10 feet.Continue to 9 of 15 below.
09 of 15
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 lilac varieties 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.
10 of 15
Madame Florent Stepman
As a shrub that can live for decades, it's important to choose a lilac 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.
11 of 15
Mrs. Edward Harding
It doesn't take much effort to train a French lilac 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.
12 of 15
If you've been looking for a reason to purchase a garden bench, plant a "Katherine Havemeyer" lilac. The lush, bright pink 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.Continue to 13 of 15 below.
13 of 15
Fully double flowers on the "Paul Thirion" lilac 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.
14 of 15
15 of 15
The heavy spicy scent of "Mechta" is just what you'd expect from a lilac. The silvery lavender blossoms look very feminine in a cottage garden, planted beside a white picket fence.
Syringa Meyeri 'Palibin'. Missouri Botanical Garden
Syringa Vulgaris 'Andenken an Ludwig Spath'. Missouri Botanical Garden
Syringa 'Bailbelle' Tinkerbelle. Missouri Botanical Garden
Jędrzejuk, Agata, et al. Flowering Conditions Affect Flower Longevity in Syringa Vulgaris and Cause Changes in Protein Content, Protease Activity and Expression of a KDEL-CysEP Gene. Acta Physiologiae Plantarum, vol. 38, no. 2, 2016, doi:10.1007/s11738-015-2044-z