If I say “lilac,” you will think of herbaceous shrubs in gardens with long, thick, and fragrant inflorescences. Lilac inflorescences, in fact – I mean the color. But no!
In fact, the clusters of single or double flowers on lilacs come in an incredible variety of colors, ranging from pure white to light blue-mauve, and even including light pink and purple with white edges.
It’s true! These alluring fragrant blooms may define a single color, but their true charm lies in the dazzling array of hues they can showcase. With so many colors to choose from, you’re free to mix and match, finding the perfect types of lilac bushes to create a stunning palette, evoke a particular mood, or simply satisfy your personal taste.
Native to Eastern Europe and temperate Asia, lilacs are part of the Syringa genus, which belongs to the olive family (Oleaceae). The diverse Syringa genus comprises 25 species of large deciduous shrubs or multi-stemmed small trees, known for their fragrant spring flowers. Within this genus, there are over 2,000 captivating lilac varieties, including hybrids and cultivars.
While all lilac varieties share common traits, they also exhibit unique differences that set them apart. The most prominent way to distinguish them is by the flower form, and blooming season of their flowers. However, size and growing requirements also vary, as each type of lilac bush has its own distinct habits, needs, and and “presence” in your garden.
Ready for a trip into a rainbow of colors, then? You will get to know some of the most beautiful varieties of lilacs, and, trust me, you will love the spectrum of shades they have to offer.
Things To Know About Lilac Bushes
Lilac is a genus of woody shrubs of the Oleaceae family with profuse and fragrant blooms. It originates from Europe and Asia and is very at ease in temperate regions.
For this reason, they have been members of gardens and parks for centuries now. They adapt well to conditions e find in big cities and industrialized countries like the USA, the UK, Canada, and most of Europe. Most plants are, in fact, cold hardy to USDA zone 3.
However, not all lilac varieties are shrubs; a few species actually form small trees.
The plants can vary in size, ranging from 6 or 7 feet tall (1.8 to 2.1 meters) to 32 feet tall (10 meters). The leaves are usually opposite on the stem and heart-shaped. But there are species with pinnate leaves.
The foliage is most often green, but it can also be blue or silver. Lilac is a deciduous shrub, so that it will shed its leaves in winter.
The flowers come in large and often very thick panicles, and they can be of a series of colors, though pink and purple lilacs are the most famous. Their shape is that of a dour loved corolla with a tubular base.
Lilacs in Our Gardens
We have grown lilacs in parks and gardens for centuries, and it is one of the most traditional plants in European gardens. This is because lilacs have massive blooms and a sweet scent, but also because they are sturdy and cold-hardy plants that need little care and like cold winters.
It is particularly suitable for natural-looking gardens and parks. With the advent of the English country garden and then urban parks, the fortune of lilacs has only increased.
When plants become sought after by gardeners, new hybrids and cultivars crop up all the time. A famous lilac breeder was Victor Lemoine (1823 – 1911), a French gardener who “created” most modern varieties we have today. We owe him most of the types of lilacs we will see in this article.
First, however, a few tips on caring for lilac plants.
How To Plant And Care For Lilacs
Lilacs are low maintenance plants. This makes them ideal for urban parks as well as low maintenance gardens.
But let’s see how to make these lovely plants happy.
That’s it! As you can see, lilac plants will not ask much but give a lot.
20 Types of Lilac bushes For glorious And fragrant Spring Garden
The unpretentious spring bloom of lilacs embodies the simple charm and freshness of old gardens. However, with over thousands of varieties to choose from there’s a whole wide world of lilac bushes to fill your spring landscape with color and fragrance.
I’ve helped simplify the selection process by organizing the different lilac types, whether you’re looking for single-flowered and double-flowered lilacs, small-leaved lilacs, or late-flowering or ever-growing lilacs. Additionally, there are dwarf lilacs that are well suited to small gardens and containers, as well as hybrids that are exceptional in their fragrance.
Here are different types of lilacs you can grow as privacy hedges, single shrubs mixed into your current landscape design, or in patio containers.
1: Common Lilac (Syringa vulgaris)
Let’s start with a “mother species”, common lilac. This is a natural variety, with many cultivars, in fact there are a whopping 2000 varieties of this species! It is the classical wild lilac that you will find on the edges of woods on highlands in Europe.
Strong and very beautiful, it can have flowers of many colors, most classically, well, lilac of course!
2: Lilac ‘Avalanche’ (Syringa vulgaris ‘Avalanche’)
Snow white, large and showy flowers fill the upright panicles of ‘Avalanche’ lilac once a year. They last, like with most lilacs, only about three weeks.
But in those three weeks it will look like your garden has become a ski resort high in the Alps!
This is an excellent flower for the candid look, and for white gardens
3: Lilac ‘Charles Joy’ (Syringa vulgaris ‘Charles Joy’)
Lilac ‘Charles Joy’ is a winner of the Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society. It has elegant panicles of the most intense magenta flowers!
They are fragrant but also double flowers, which makes it interesting. The depth and vibrancy of the flower color is what make this plant unique.
Use it for a bold and energetic statement in your garden.
4: Lilac ‘President Lincoln’ (Syringa vulgaris ‘President Lincoln’)
‘President Lincoln’ lilac has rich panicles of the most beautiful lavender color. This shade on the fleshy and glossy texture of the flowers creates a striking effect. It gives a sense of plasticity and at the same time of delicacy.
Plant ‘President Lincoln’ in your garden to bring a sense of calm and peace every spring, when its lavender blooms fill the shrub.
5: Lilac ‘Primrose’ (Syringa vulgaris ‘Primrose’)
Lilac ‘Primrose’ has flowers of a very original color. They are in fact of a unique cream to yellow shade, which looks great against the light green foliage of this variety.
The effect is very bright but refreshing at the same time when the upright panicles appear like candlesticks among the foliage.
Go for ‘Primrose’ for a breath of fresh air in your garden; the color combination gives a sense of youth and freshness.
6: Lilac ‘Sensation’ (Syringa vulgaris ‘Sensation’)
Lilac ‘Sensation’ is a very popular variegated variety of this genus. The panicles are full of dark magenta purplish flowers with white edges!
They are really striking, both individually and as an overall effect of the inflorescence. This unique beauty has gained ‘Sensation’ the Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society.
‘Sensation’ is an excellent choice for a garden spot filled with elegance but also with a showy intent; it is more of a “front garden” plant than a “background shrub”.
7: Lilac ‘Palibin’ (Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’)
Lilac ‘Palibin’ has huge panicles of pink flowers, which makes it so romantic! The flowers are small, but the inflorescences contain so many that you won’t believe it!
The color, of course, is its main attraction, but this species (Syringa meyeri) also has longer blooms than Syringa vulgaris and it is urban tolerant.
If you live in a city and you want a romantic lilac shrub, ‘Palibin’ is just right for you. But also if you live in the countryside you don’t need to renounce this beautiful shrub.
8: Littleleaf Lilac ‘Superba’ (Syringa pubescens microphylla ‘Superba’)
Littleleaf lilac ‘Superba’ has loose panicles with rosy pink flowers. It has a a very “natural looking” appearance, and it also has a very special quality…
It can bloom in spring, but it also can repeat this show in in late summer or even early fall. All accompanied with an amazing sweet scent!
This is an excellent plant for a natural looking garden, and it is deer resistant. It also has a very vibrant presence in any garden.
9: Manchurian Lilac ‘Miss Kim’ (Syringa pubescens subsp. patula ‘Miss Kim’)
Manchurian lilac ‘Miss Kim’ has colorful flowers and foliage as well. The panicles are thick with ice lavender flowers, and this gives it a unique effect.
It is elegant and cool at the same time. When in bud, though, the many flowers are purple in shade. But the color show does not end here. The leaves, which are dark green, turn burgundy in the fall!
This winner of the Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society is plant of many moods, one that changes during the year. This makes it perfect for a dynamic garden.
10: Lilac ‘Madame Lemoine’ (Syringa vulgaris ‘Madame Lemoine’)
Lilac ‘Madame Lemoine’ is one of the best white lilacs ever. The flowers are so candid and fragrant that they can enchant visitors.
What’s more, this variety has double flowers, so the panicles look particularly full and plastic. Its blooms can last up to 4 weeks, and it has won the Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society.
‘Madame Lemoine’ is perfect for elegant gardens; in fact it is one of the few lilac varieties that could even suit a formal garden design.
11: Cutleaf Lilac (Syringa x laxinata)
The lavender violet flowers of cutleaf lilac come in loose panicles with many gaps in them. This is accompanied by the deeply cut and lacy bright green foliage.
For this reason, it looks very different from most other lilac varieties. The shrub also has a very round habit, another original feature.
This is a lilac variety you will choose if you want to add a fine texture and lacy elegance to an area of your garden, especially in large borders.
12: Persian Lilac (Syringa x persica)
Persian lilac is very showy and fragrant. The flowers only have 4 petals, they are trumpet shaped and they are pale lilac.
This shrub has very thick branching and leaves too. The foliage is actually on the blue side. It gives a very “full” and decorative effect. It is a winner if the Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society.
It is a striking plant you will want in full view in your garden and it is suitable to informal and formal gardens as well.
13: Reblooming Lilac (Syringa bloomerang®)
Reblooming lilac is a small cultivar, which makes it ideal for modest spaces. The panicles are very thick with many little flowers and this variety is available in lilac, purple and dark pink shades.
The blossoms of this variety are massive! They will literally cover the whole plant. And they bloom twice, once in spring and once again late in summer or in fall. The second bloom is a bit less vigorous than the first.
It is an excellent choice for small gardens or for containers and patios. But even in a big border it does put on a great show twice a year!
14: Pekin Lilac ‘China Show’ (Syringa reticulata subsp.pekinensis ‘China Show’)
Pekin lilac is actually a fairly large deciduous tree and not a shrub! It is very elegant, with an upright habit and round canopy. The bark too is beautiful; it is reddish brown in color and it exfoliates, like birches.
The flowers are cream in color and they come in spring. Then, they are followed by fruits that turn from green to tan in shade. The leaves too are a beautiful glossy green as well.
It is a small tree you want in a visible place in your garden because it is very elegant and decorative, maybe in the middle of a front lawn…
Being salt tolerant and drought resistant, it also adapts well to coastal gardens.
15: Preston Lilac (Syringa x prestoniae ‘Miss Canada’)
Preston lilac has beautiful long and thick rosy pink flowers, tubular in shape and with a star opening. But this variety also has some qualities that make it very distinct from others.
To start with, it is a late bloomer, in summer. Secondly, it is super cold hardy, so you can even grow it in most areas of Canada. The leaves too are original, they are in fact lance shaped.
This is a very sturdy variety, excellent for gardens in very cold climates. It fits better into an informal garden.
16: Japanese Tree Lilac ‘Ivory Silk’ (Syrunga reticulata ‘Ivory Silk’)
Japanese tree lilac ‘Ivory Silk’ is one of those “in between” plants. It can be a small tree or a shrub, according to how you train it.
If grown as a tree, it can be very elegant and upright indeed, with a round crown. The flowers will appear late for a lilac, in summer, and they are of a cream color, quite bright. The exfoliating bark offers an extra point of interest.
It is an plant that suits an elegant garden, maybe a front lawn or even a formal garden. In public parks too, it can be of great interest.
17: Pekin Lilac ‘Beijing Gold’ (Syringa reticulata subsp. pekinensis ‘Beijing Gold’)
Peking lilac ‘Beijing Gold’ puts on a massive show, not just when it’s in bloom. The flowers come to this tree lilac in early summer and they are of an unusual color: primrose yellow.
The leaves are green but they turn golden late in fall. And finally, the cinnamon colored bark exfoliates, which adds a further dimension to this wonder.
This is a tree that wants to be admired; grow it in a focal, position, maybe in the middle of a lawn, whether your garden is formal or informal.
18: Hyacinth Lilac ‘Maiden’s Blush’ (Syringa x hyacinthiflora ‘Maiden’s Blush’)
Hyacinth lilac ‘Maiden Blush’ is an early flowering variety. The panicles have a very striking effect because the buds are reddish purple, but the flowers are pale pink.
The overall effect is that of a “blush” then. The leaves too “blush” in the fall, when they turn bronze in color.
It is a striking plant that changes throughout the year, so I would suggest you plant it where you and your guests can admire it in different seasons. It is more suitable for an informal garden.
19: Lilac ‘Andenken an Ludwig Spath’ (Syringa vulgaris ‘Andenken an Ludwig Spath’)
Lilac ‘Andenken an Ludwig Spath’ is a striking purple variety. The panicles are quite long (up to one foot, or 30 cm) and conical.
The color is very intense and bright indeed and this is what makes it a favorite with gardeners all over the world. So much so that it is a winner of the Award of Garden Merit by the Royal Horticultural Society.
Purple is a very intense color, and this plant really gives it to you at its highest expression. Grow it where you know it will steal the show for all the time it is in bloom.
20: Lilac ‘Beauty of Moscow’ (Syringa vulgaris ‘Beauty of Moscow’)
Lilac ‘Beauty of Moscow’ has a very delicate play with colors. Yes, because the flowers are white when they are open, but they are pink when in bud.
So, the panicles start off as pink and slowly turn white, mixing and shading all the gradients in between in the three weeks they are in bloom!
It is an old cultivar, introduced in 1943 and it is perfect for a natural looking and delicate garden. An English country garden would be ideal for ‘Beauty of Moscow’.
There’s More to Lilac than a Color!
Lilac is a color, but lilacs are of so many different colors and shades, that maybe we should rename this plant “rainbow”? In fact it is actually the precision and detail of the different shades of lilac flowers that makes the bug difference among them. We said it in the introduction…
But now you have met lilacs of so many different types, you know that there are other differences too. Some are shrubs, some are actually trees. And some can even be both!
Some blossom in spring, some in early summer, and some even blossom twice! There are also double and variegated flower varieties too.
All have become popular in gardens, especially in temperate regions; these plants are cold hardy and they actually enjoy cold winters.
If that’s where you live, them what are you waiting for? Just read our selection again and find one you can grow in your garden! I assure you, it will pay you back a thousand fold!
Amber Noyes was born and raised in a suburban California town, San Mateo. She holds a master’s degree in horticulture from the University of California as well as a BS in Biology from the University of San Francisco. With experience working on an organic farm, water conservation research, farmers’ markets, and plant nursery, she understands what makes plants thrive and how we can better understand the connection between microclimate and plant health. When she’s not on the land, Amber loves informing people of new ideas/things related to gardening, especially organic gardening, houseplants, and growing plants in a small space.