Syringa vulgaris, commonly known as common lilac, is an upright, multi-stemmed, suckering, deciduous shrub or a small tree in the olive family that typically matures to 12-16’ (20’) tall with a spread to 8-12’ (15’) wide. It is native to open woodlands, rocky hills and scrubby areas in southeastern Europe, but has been widely cultivated throughout Europe (beginning in the late 1500s) and North America (brought over by colonists in the early 1600s). It is particularly noted for its mid to late spring (May) bloom of very fragrant, tubular, 4-lobed, lilac to purple flowers (each to 1/3” long) which bloom in large conical to narrow-pyramidal panicles (to 6-8” long). Flowers give way to clusters of smooth, brown, flattened, dehiscent seed capsules (each to 3/ 4” long) which persist into winter if not removed. Glaucous, opposite, pointed-ovate to heart-shaped leaves (2-5” long) are dark gray-green to blue green. Bark is gray to gray-brown. Easily grown in average, medium moisture, well-drained soil in full sun. Tolerates light shade, but best bloom is in full sun. Prefers moist, fertile, organically rich, slightly acidic to slightly alkaline soils with good drainage. Hardy in zones 3-7.
Growing Instructions for the Lilac
The seeds have a period of dormancy. They can be planted outdoors in the fall for spring germination or they can be cold stratified to simulate winter conditions and to break their dormancy. 1. Place the seeds in a plastic bag and seal it. Store the bag in a refrigerator for 2 months. 2. The seeds like moist, fertile soil. Use a sterile seed starter mix, if available. It prevents soil pathogens from damaging the seeds and the seedlings. If not available, then use some potting soil. 3. Put the soil in a pot. 3. Sow the seeds on the soil. 4. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil. 5. Water the seeds. Keep the soil moist but not wet. 6. Place the pots in an area in full sun or part shade. The seeds start to germinate in 1 month. 7. When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.