Growing Delicately Blooming Lilacs

Lilacs provide floral abundance from trouble-free shrubs. Their moderate size and orderly growth make the flowering shrubs very versatile, valuable landscape bushes.

A blooming lilac bush full of pink flowers.

Small lilacs have the same floral bounty and fragrance for which makes the species popular, but these versions are finer textured and more graceful than their larger siblings.

Because of their fragrant spring display, these smaller versions may be planted close to the house, beside a veranda or as a feature in a lawn. They also work great as hedges or focal points in the “stuffed to the gills” cottage style.

The tallest of these shrubs is only 2 meters. The pink to pale purple blooms appear a bit later in spring than those of common varieties.

Nothing says summer like the sweet smell of lilacs. Find out what you need to know to grow the over 300 different varities with our guide now!

The small, oval leaves are not bothered by powdery mildew, making small lilacs an attractive option in areas where powdery mildew disfigures common lilacs each summer.

Cultivars

‘Little leaf’ lilac grows 2 meters tall and twice as wide, offering a spreading habit unusual in other cultivars. In late spring, the densely foliaged plant bursts forth with short, upright spikes of red-budded, light pink flowers.

Growing Delicately Blooming Lilacs

After resting for six to eight weeks, it may stage another smaller display.

The name ‘Korean Lilac’ covers several shrubs with profuse blooms whose names may appear on labels as S. patula, S. palibiniana or S. velutina. These are slow-growing, dense plants, about 1.5 meters tall and wide.

Their purple buds produce pale lavender blooms in 12 cm spikes. Unlike all other lilacs, the foliage of the Korean variety turns a showy, dark red in autumn.

Korean Lilac | Gardener's Path
Nothing smells better that a Korean Lilac in early spring!

For a lavishly flowering hedge, set Korean lilacs in a row. A bit of trimming will keep the hedge uniform, but not give it a sheared look. You can also use it as a flowering accent among other flowering shrubs and perennials.

You can find it at Nature Hills Nursery.

Of similar height and spread is Syringa x meyeri ‘Josee’. It has a profusion of lavender pink blooms on 10cm spikes in late spring, re-blooming in late summer to early autumn.

Syringa x meyeri 'Josee' Lilac | Gardener's Path

Plant S. meyeri on both sides of a doorway or garden gate to create a symmetrical accent and a delightful fragrant greeting for visitors.

You can find it at Nature Hills Nursery.

Design Ideas

Planted with smaller flowering plants, small lilacs provide a colorful focal point. Surround with frothy white baby’s breath, creamy yellow ‘Hyperion’ daylilies, and lavender-blue catmint for a late spring bed full of color.

Full of beauty and wonderful smells, lilacs are super easy to grow. Check our our guide to find out more!

Create garden tapestries by combining with other flowering shrubs and trees, or by highlighting them in flower beds.

The pale lavender blooms of Cut-leaf Lilacs make lovely companions to the white-flowered Fragrant Snowball (Viburnum carlecephalum) or a Kousa Dogwood. For contrast, plant ‘Black Knight’ Butterfly Bush where its purple blooms arch strikingly over the blooms of the small lilacs.

Highlight the deep pink blooms by planting them in front of a Dwarf Red-leaf Plum. The Plum’s burgundy foliage provides a striking backdrop.

Planting

1. Dig a hole just as deep as the plants’s rootball and twice the width. Mix a shovelful of compost into the soil from the hole.

2. Remove the bush from its container. With your fingers, loosen the soil on the sides of the rootball and uncoil any circling roots.

3. Place the plant in the planting hole, making sure the top of its rootball is level with the surface of the surrounding soil.

4. Fill in around the root ball with compost enriched soil from the hole, firming it with you finger to prevent settling later.

5. Form a rim of soil around the hole to create a watering basin. Water in well to establish good root-soil contact.

Purchasing tips

Buy bushes in containers in winter or early spring, before plants have started to grow leaves. Avoid buying large, twiggy plants. Do not buy plants in summer that has already developed leaves; they may not establish well.

Growing conditions

Full sun is vital. Small lilacs planted in sunny locations produce more blooms and more compact plants. Well-drained, good soil is also necessary. They prefer a neutral to somewhat alkaline soil and look their best when watered during dry periods.

Other tips

Cut flowering stems for lovely and fragrant bouquets. This is a good way to do light pruning to shape plants. Cut off spent flower clusters right after blooms fade. This prevents seeds from forming, saving plant energy for new growth. To make a hedge planting of Korean lilacs, set out plants in a row, spacing them 2 meters apart.

Seasonal tips

Early spring: Planting

Set out young plants as soon as the soil is warm and before the buds on the plants begin to open and develop leaves.

Summer: Pruning

Cut off any spent flowers and prune to shape the plants immediately after flowering, to keep the flowers from forming seeds. New plant growth during the summer will bear the next spring’s blooms.

Winter: Planting

In warmer climates, set out leafless, young plants whenever soil can be worked for optimum growing conditions. Plant will begin root growth during the winter months.

Plant ailments

Flattened, grey to grown bumps on stems are scale insects that suck plant juices from beneath their scaly protection. Heavy infestations of scale weaken plants and cause defoliation.

Spray dormant plants with pest oil in winter or early spring while they are still leafless.

Photo credit: Shutterstock. First published January 4th, 2015. Updated May 24th, 2017.

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Laurie
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Laurie

Do lilacs grow in Georgia? I am near Macon, GA!

Allison Sidhu
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Allison Sidhu

Thanks for reading, Laurie! Looks like you’re right on the edge of Zone 8a down in Macon – you shouldn’t have any trouble finding cultivars that are bred for warmer regions. Wishing you the best of luck growing these beautifully scented blooms! Let us know how it goes.

Sanndra
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Sanndra

This is a great article about planting lilacs but not how to GROW them. After they bloom and strart growing talker, pruning is critical to get a bloom. I cut old branches over two inches in diameter and they bloom like crazy. But I’m wondering if I should be fertilizing them during the summer. We are at a high elevation in Central Oregon, and have long cold winters. Still they have done well. I inherited a hedge of lilacs in this house and they are mature, so maintaining them is my interest. I’d like to know more about that.

Lorna Kring
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Lorna Kring

After the first year or two, fertilizing lilacs usually isn’t necessary Sandra, as long as your soil is healthy and without excess acidity. Personally, I like to work in a mulch of compost in early spring, about 3-4 inches deep. This provides nutrients, loosens the soil, and helps to retain moisture in dry spells. When planting, bone meal, phosphate, and limestone will all sweeten the soil. Or for poor soil, an annual application of a high phosphorous fertilizer such as 5-10-10 or 5-10-5 can be sprinkled over the root zone and watered into the soil in spring. To rejuvenate old… Read more »

Lilia
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Lilia

I live in the high desert of California and I planted my lilac in full sun but not successful in flowering it. It always look drench. I have pine trees nearby and I know the pine leaves are acidic
Is this why it is not blooming maybe?

Vanessa
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Vanessa

This was a good read! I am excited to start a lilac privacy hedge!