Lilac is one of the most famous scented plants. Although it was considered old-fashioned for some time, many garden owners have not let themselves be irritated by it. You have held on to the different types of lilac. Today there are many modern varieties, especially the common or common lilac. They convince with their scent and great colors. There are now even two-tone varieties or those whose buds are different in color than the open flowers. Lilacs are also available for small gardens, for balconies or patios, in many colors, shapes and sizes, so that everyone is sure to find their personal favorite.


  • Belongs to the olive family
  • Technical name Syringa
  • 25 to 30 species and numerous varieties
  • Mainly distributed in Asia and Southeast Europe
  • Common lilac the most famous lilac in our gardens
  • Mostly planted as an ornamental shrub
  • Education to the tree is possible
  • Summer green
  • Depending on the region, it blooms between April and the beginning of July
  • There are now also post-flowering varieties
  • Flower colors from snow white to various shades of red to dark purple
  • Now also in yellow and two-tone
  • Height from 1.2 m to 7 to 9 m, depending on the species
  • Not to be confused with Buddleia, also known as the butterfly bush

Planting lilacs

There is not much to consider when planting lilac. It always depends on choosing the right type and variety for the available location. Lilacs can stay small, around 1.5 m high, others grow to 7 to 9 m high and correspondingly wide. The space must be available. Lilacs can be cut, but the trees no longer appear too shortened. Bare-rooted lilacs are the cheapest. They are only offered in autumn and must be planted as soon as possible.

The sunnier the lilac, the better it blooms. The less sun it reaches, the more leaf mass it develops. The lilac needs sun, the more the better. Some species do not get along well with wind, so they should be planted a little protected. Others, on the other hand, have no problems with it and are even suitable as a windbreak hedge.

Note: Lilac has plenty of roots. You have to give them space. Therefore do not plant the wood too close to walls, this would unnecessarily restrict them and hinder the growth of the entire plant.
  • Full sun location
  • If it gets too little sun, it develops leaves instead of flowers
  • Noble lilac is very windproof and can therefore be planted as a windbreak hedge.
  • Not all lilacs are so wind-tolerant
  • Do not set too close to buildings and walls, the roots need space and can also cause damage

Plant substrate
When it comes to the soil, the type of lilac is important. The popular noble lilac thrives best on nutrient-rich, rather dry clay soil with a high proportion of lime. Preston lilacs prefer lime poor and slightly more humid soils. Overall, lilac is quite adaptable.

  • Nutrient-rich, calcareous soils
  • Also copes with slightly acidic soils
  • Favorite pH value between 5 and 7
  • Moderately dry to fresh
  • No waterlogging, absolutely permeable
  • No soil compaction
  • Mulching the soil protects it from drying out

Planting time
The best time to plant lilacs is autumn. The soil is still warm and so the wood can still take root well before winter. In principle, however, it is also possible to buy and plant in spring. This has the advantage that you can see that the plant is already capable of flowering and how exactly the buds and flowers are made. There are tons of lilacs to buy on the World Wide Web, some for less than 10 euros. Of course, you cannot expect that there will be flowers in the first year. However, if you invest a little more, you will often not get a flowering lilac. It usually takes one to two years before the first flowers appear. Anyone who buys a blooming specimen has the guarantee. Tree nurseries and garden centers offer plenty of lilacs every year.

For the planting, a hole twice as large as the size of the plant ball should be dug. Loosen the soil well below and mix it with compost. Do not use peat, the pH of which is too acidic.

In bare-rooted specimens, soak the roots for about an hour in lukewarm water and then carefully loosen the strands with your fingers and pull them apart a little. When planting bare-rooted lilacs, the base trunk must be level with the ground. Lilac in the container is planted as deep as it was in the pot. Then fill up with the excavation and step on the soil well.

In the case of bare-rooted lilacs, a color difference can be seen at the bottom of the trunk, where the earth was previously. Fill in soil up to this mark. If lilacs are planted too deeply, there is a risk of suffocation. When filling the soil in very acidic soil, sprinkle some lime over the soil covering the roots. Repeat this every three to five years. Pour last. A pouring ring ensures that the water reaches the roots exactly.

Mulching protects the soil from drying out and ensures a balanced root temperature.

Tip: Plant the grafted lilac so that the grafting point is below the surface of the soil. If it is set too high, it can happen that unrefined shoots of the rootstock overgrow those of the refined lilac.
  • Twice the size of the planting hole
  • Loosen the soil well
  • Water the roots of bare-root specimens and pull them apart a little
  • Don’t plant too deep
  • Container plants as deep as in the pot
  • Planting distance for hedges at least 1.5 m, depending on the variety up to 5 m

Lilac Grooming

Once grown lilac is very easy to care for, at least if it has a good location and a suitable substrate. Then the trees are robust and resilient. If, on the other hand, they are unfavorable, they become susceptible to diseases and pests. The water supply is important and sufficient nutrients should also be ensured. A cut is tolerated, but attention must be paid to the natural growth. Lilacs can also be trained to become a standard stem, provided the plant has a straight central shoot. Standard trunks have the advantage that they can be nicely planted under. Most species of lilac are sufficiently hardy that they don’t need protection. This is a little different when it is kept in a bucket, as the container should be protected from freezing through. Otherwise there is not much to consider with the lilac.

Watering and fertilizing
In the first year after planting, the lilacs must be watered regularly. Only when it has grown does it need less water. Then you only have to pour in the event of prolonged drought or extreme heat. Lilac indicates when it lacks water. It’s easy to spot by the limp leaves. Then it is imperative to pour.

  • Water regularly in the year of planting
  • Also in case of dryness and / or great heat
  • Indicates lack of water due to limp leaves
  • A lack of water in spring affects flowering
  • It is fertilized to promote the flowers and that is phosphorus. The fertilizer is applied in early spring. When fertilizing, stick to the templates on the packaging. Compost and organic fertilizer can also be added.
  • Heavy Eater
  • Fertilize in spring, with compost or organic fertilizer
  • Second dose after flowering
  • Fertilize with an emphasis on phosphorus
  • Definitely not too much nitrogen

lilacs should be cut carefully. It depends on the type. The common lilac, which is most common in the garden, doesn’t necessarily need a pruning. It is advisable to cut off faded inflorescences at the base immediately after flowering. This prevents the trees from growing seeds. Instead, they are stimulated to form new flower buds. In general, dead shoots must be removed. Otherwise you should let the lilac grow naturally and only remove those parts that interfere or interfere with each other.

If you want to prune so that the lilacs don’t get too big, you can do this about every three years. To do this, the oldest third of all thicker branches is set back to around 30 to 40 cm. In order to prevent the flowering from failing in the following year, pruning should be carried out immediately after flowering.

In an emergency, an old lilac can be radically cut back. The best time to do this is in winter, because then the wounds close better. Since the flowering shoots for the next year always develop during the actual flowering, there will be no flowers in the following year. When pruning, shorten the main branches to 40 to 60 cm.

  • Remove dead inflorescences after flowering
  • Cut below the flower panicle, cut above the first well-developed pair of leaves
  • If you are unsure, simply cut off below the umbel
  • Without a cut, seeds form and deprive the plant of strength
  • If cutting needs to be done to contain size, then cut every three years
  • Cut after flowering
  • With radical pruning, the flowering is mostly sparse in the coming year
  • If you cut in summer or later, the flower will fail completely

Education to the standard

Standard trees have the advantage that they do not take up as much space as a lilac bush. They are great for smaller gardens. They can also be nicely planted under. Syringa vulgaris is particularly suitable for this form of education. You start with a very young shrub, which makes upbringing easier. It is important to choose a lilac with a strong and straight central shoot that will once form the trunk. This drive is tied to a stick so that it stays straight. Except for a few thin side branches that come off the later trunk, all other branches must be removed, directly on the trunk. This promotes the growth in thickness of the trunk.

  • Only works with a lilac bush with a central shoot that is as straight as possible
  • Tie it to a stick
  • Remove all branches except for a few thin side shoots, directly on the trunk
  • Guide the central drive up to the desired height.
  • He has to be strong so that he can later carry the lilac bush.
  • Continue to remove newly forming side shoots
  • Leave only a few thin ones
  • Tie the developing central shoot to the stick until the desired stem height is reached, plus 10 to 15 cm.
  • Cut the shoot tip
  • New shoots form below
  • Shorten these side shoots again and again, only leave 4 to 5 eyes
  • The shoots branch out and the crown becomes denser
  • Do not shorten too much, otherwise the crown will be too tight
  • Trunk supports until it can carry the crown on its own
  • Now cleanly cut off the side shoots on the trunk that have promoted the growth in thickness
  • Always remove all shoots that form later on the trunk as quickly as possible

The normal lilac for the home garden is extremely hardy and does not need any protection. Only lilacs in planters are an exception. The vessels should be placed in a protected place. They are also wrapped with bubble wrap, thick mats, jute, reeds or similar materials. It is best to place the vessel on some styrofoam sheets to protect it from the cold. Do not forget to water during the winter.

Propagation is easy. Lilacs form runners that can then be easily separated and planted separately. If they do not have enough roots yet, they can be put in a water glass until enough has formed. Otherwise, lilacs can be propagated by sowing, cuttings, lowering and grafting.
Cut cuttings in June after flowering. This type of propagation does not always work.

When lowering, bend a branch down to the ground and weight it down so that it does not snap back. Contact with the ground is important. Cover the area with soil. Roots form there over the course of months. Then the shoot can be cut off and planted separately.

Tip:  In order to avoid the formation of runners, which can be really annoying, you should pay attention to real-root plants. These were drawn from cuttings or by meristem propagation in the laboratory. Noble lilacs that have been grafted on ordinary lilacs have plenty of runners, while those with real roots are significantly less.

Diseases and pests

Diseases and pests are very rare, at least in lilacs, which have a good location and soil. Every now and then the lilac moth can appear. This can be recognized by the irregular brown, partially dried spots, which are caused by brown caterpillars. One disease that can occur is vertilium wilt, a fungal disease. The water pipes are affected. In both cases, only chemical agents help and, ideally, a change of location.

Frequently asked questions

Can lilacs be grown in a tub?
Not every lilac is suitable for keeping in a bucket, at least not for long periods of time. The common lilac is not really suitable, but can spend the first two to three years in a container if there is enough space for the roots to spread. Syringa josiflexa and Syringa prestoniae varieties, also known as Canadian lilacs because of their origin, are more suitable. These extremely hardy lilacs are particularly suitable for small gardens or pots. They bloom after Syringa vulgaris and thus extend the lilac bloom. These lilacs are about 2.5 m high and similar in width. The vessels should be well twice the size of the pots in which they were purchased. It must then be replanted every two years. Drainage in the planter prevents water from building up. Important is, to water the lilac in winter so that the root ball does not dry out completely. In the first few years, winter protection is also recommended so that the bucket does not freeze through.

Irrigation is very important when it is kept in a bucket. The soil must not dry out. Nutrients must also be supplied. Phosphorus fertilizers are best.

The dwarf fragrant lilac ‘Palibin’ (Syringa meyeri) is also ideal for planting in pots. This is about 1.20 cm high and wide and impresses with its strongly scented light purple flowers in May and June. These plants look particularly pretty as stems.
Also recommended:

  • Syringa microphylla – Zwergflieder ‘Josee‘
  • Syringa meyeri – Zwergflieder ‘Red Pixie‘
  • Syringa nicrophylla – Zwergflieder ‘Superba’

What other lilacs are there for home gardens besides Syringa vulgaris?
Syringa vulgaris is certainly the most commonly planted lilac in our gardens, but there are many more beautiful lilac species that can be grown in our climate. The king lilac Syringa x chinesis ‘Saugeana’ is particularly pretty. The hyacinth lilac is also an asset, Syringa hyacinthiflora. It blooms before the common lilac, the king lilac a little after it, so that the lilac blossom can be wonderfully extended. The dwarf lilacs, which can be planted out or thrive in pots, are also fragrant and good-looking.

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