Lush, cone shaped panicles of common lilac.

Lush, cone shaped panicles of common lilac.

The common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is a spring blooming perennial born from the olive family (Oleaceae). Its shrubby characteristics are a popular hedgerow choice, as well as a landscape border. It is commonly found in cottage based landscapes, but its deciduous look and resilience to mammalian pests like rabbits and deer also makes it an eye catching accent in woodland settings. Lilac flowers range in color from whites to purples to magentas within a conical panicle, and they exude a pleasant fragrance that gardeners like to incorporate in their homes as a cut flower. Their flowers are also attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies, so lilacs work well in a pollinator/butterfly garden. The flowers come in double and single forms, but their double forms should be avoided if the home gardener intends on using S. vulgaris in a pollinator garden.

S. vulgaris thrives in mild climates of zones 3-7 and its flowers can be enjoyed in late spring to early summer. A drawback of this popular shrub is that it offers little ornamental qualities past its blooming season, and in the summer its foliage is prone to powdery mildew as well as insect pests like borers, scalers and caterpillars, so it may require the gardener to look into some IPM. The common lilac is native to Europe and was introduced to North America in the 1600s, therefore it is invasive to certain regions of the US, particularly in the northeast. Ways to prevent its invasive nature is to diligently remove root suckers and to routinely prune flowers right before they set to seed. Regardless of these negative characteristics, S. vulgaris is highly sought after and commercially propagated across the northern United States, especially due to its flowers and relative ease to care for.

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