Calendar

November 2017
S M T W T F S
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930EC

Lilac trees extend the fragrant season

Lilac tree flowers are as fragrant as their shrub cousins. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Lilac tree flowers are as fragrant as their shrub cousins. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

At garden centers, on garden tours, over dinner and in emails, people are asking about a tree with fragrant white flowers.

It’s a Japanese lilac tree (Syringa reticulata), a gorgeous beauty that blooms later than lilac shrubs. The ornamental tree has a rounded to pyramid form and reaches 30 feet or more tall and 20 feet wide. It is considered one of the easiest lilacs to grow.

The 12-inch long, creamy white flowers bloom in June, attracting butterflies, hummingbirds, pollinating insects and human attention. Cardinals, chickadees and finches like the seeds. The tree tolerates clay soil, deer browsing and salt spray.

Japanese lilac tree does best in full sun but tolerates light shade, which may reduce blooms. It needs decent drainage and is considered a good urban tree. You’ll see it planted as a street tree in several Indianapolis neighborhoods, along the Indiana Central Canal, the city of Carmel and other communities. It also makes a lovely hedge, windbreak or seasonal screen.

Good air circulation is recommended, even though the tree is considered resistant to powdery mildew, the plague of many shrub lilacs. It also is resistant to scale and borers, other pests of lilacs. If the lilac tree needs to be pruned, do so within a month after it is done blooming.

There are a couple of cultivars, but ‘Ivory Silk’ is the most widely available. More compact, ‘Ivory Snow’ gets up to 25 feet tall and is a profuse bloomer, usually a little earlier than the straight species of Syringa reticulata.

The seed capsules dry and are abundant enough to provide a bit of fall interest. The smooth, attractive, reddish-brown bark resembles a cherry tree.

For more information about the lilac trees and shrubs, download Lilacs for Cold Climates, a very helpful, free publication by Laura Jull, a horticulture professor at the University of Wisconsin.

Comments are closed.