How to Identify Lilacs

Save

The fragrance of lilacs in May evokes memories of Grandma’s garden and nostalgia for springs gone by. Beyond their distinctive perfume, lilacs have other easy-to-identify features. Lilacs are a part of the plant family Oleaceae, the olive family, which also includes forsythia, jasmine and ash. Lilacs are native to Eastern Europe and regions of Asia from Afghanistan to Japan. They can live for hundreds of years, flourish in nearly any soil and tolerate harsh weather, blooming heartily year after year.

Observe the Lilac's Features

  • Go to an area where lilacs grow -- a garden, backyard, park, botanical garden or garden center -- in the spring. Lilacs and tree lilacs are easiest to identify during their blooming season, from May to June.

  • Touch, observe and examine all the parts of the lilac plant, from the leaves, flowers, bark and branches to the lilac's height and growth habit. It helps to have a book about lilacs or a garden plant guidebook to help identify specific lilac species and hybrids.

  • Observe the leaves. Lilacs have smooth-edged leaves that grow in pairs directly opposite each other on the branch. They are medium-to-dark green, often simple and can be heart-shaped, oval with pointed tips, lance-shaped or small. During the autumn, some lilac species become bare early since the leaves quickly yellow and drop off.

  • Feel, smell and look at the showy flower clusters. They may be fragrant with a sweet, dewy or spicy perfume. The light lilac-purple color is most common, but lilac flowers can also be pinkish, bluish, purple, violet, magenta, white or bi-color. The edible, four-petal florets can be single or double. Are the petals pointed, rounded, cup backward or forward? The mature fruit is a dry brown capsule that splits in half to reveal the seeds. Japanese tree lilacs have frothy, creamy-white flower clusters.

  • Examine the bark. Lilac bushes have mottled, medium-brown bark that easily peels off in vertical strips as it matures. Notice the spiral growth pattern on the older branches. Green lichen might be growing on the branches. Lichen have a helpful, symbiotic relationship with lilacs; it’s a sign of clean air. If the bark is ornamental, glossy red-brown and ridged with horizontal lenticles (lines), like cherry tree bark, the lilac is a Japanese tree lilac.

  • Examine the growth habit of the lilac. Is it a vase-shaped shrub or a rounded tree? Dwarf lilac bushes grow only 4-to-6 feet tall. Regular lilac shrubs grow 8-to-12 feet tall. If the lilac is a small tree about 15-to-20 feet tall with dark green leaves, it's most likely a Japanese tree lilac or other tree lilac.

Lilac Species

  • Look for a Syringa vulgaris, or common lilac, if you want the classic garden lilac. Native to southeastern Europe, the May-blooming common lilac is the base for hundreds of lilac cultivators and hybrids, including hyacinth lilacs, Preston hybrid lilacs and the Lemoine French hybrids. This lilac has a tendency to sprout out many shoots, or suckers, at its base.

  • Try Japanese tree lilacs and Pekin lilacs (Syringa reticulata and Syringa pekinensis) if you are considering a beautiful but hardy and disease-resistant, small, flowering tree. Native to northern Japan and China, respectively, these lilacs bloom in June and are ideal for landscape or street plantings. Good varieties: Ivory Silk and Chantilly Lace Japanese tree lilacs or China Snow Pekin lilac.

  • Plant the naturally dwarf Meyer lilac, Syringa meyeri Palibin, if you want a lilac that works well as a compact, dense hedge or shrub border that needs little pruning. Powdery-mildew resistant, it grows 4-to-6 feet tall with small leaves and masses of fragrant, pinkish-purple flowers that bloom in late May.

References

  • Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/Photos.com/Getty Images Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images
Promoted By Zergnet

Comments

You May Also Like

  • Lilac 'Ivory Silk' Tree Facts

    The Japanese tree lilac "Ivory Silk" (Syringa reticulata "Ivory Silk") is related to the fragrant, old-fashioned flowering shrubs of the same genus,...

  • How to Plant a Japanese Lilac Tree

    In early summer Japanese lilacs (Syringa reticulata) burst into bloom, their creamy white and fragrant flowers forming dense clusters on the treelike...

  • How to Identify Flowering Shrubs

    There are many different types of flowering shrubs, and they can easily be identified by looking at the foliage and bark. Colors...

  • How to Identify Plant Leaves

    Sometimes, when a plant is not in flower, it isn't obvious what the plant is. You can use the color, shape and...

  • How to Cut Lilac Flowers

    One of the sweetest benefits of growing lilac bushes in a home landscape may be the large bundles of lilac blossoms a...

  • How to Identify Different Types of Thyme

    Thyme is related to the mint family of herbs. It is a favorite among herb gardeners for its fragrance, flavor and ornamental...

  • What Tree Has Heart-Shaped Leaves?

    The leaves of a tree are more than dangling appendages and shade providers; they perform photosynthesis to provide food for the tree...

  • Problems With Wilting Lilacs When Growing

    Lilacs have long been a favorite of homeowners for the abundance of aromatic blooms that burst forth in the spring. With over...

  • Lilac Tree Leaf Identification

    The tree lilac (Syringa reticulata) is a Japanese cousin of the more familiar shrub lilac. It grows to be an actual tree...

Related Searches

Check It Out

How to Make a Vertical Clay Pot Garden

M
Is DIY in your DNA? Become part of our maker community.
Submit Your Work!