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Syringa Vulgaris or the Common Lilac, was a staple of British gardens in the 20th century but it fell out of fashion in the 1960s. These beautiful deciduous shrubs are rapidly making a comeback because of their stunning flowers and easy growth habit. Originally introduced as far back as the 16th century, Common Lilac is today very much a heritage plant back in fashion. The vast range of garden lilacs originated from this plant.
In spring Common Lilac sprouts fresh new light-green foliage. These oval leaves with a pointed tip measure 2-12 cms in length and remain in place until the frosts of winter, but it is during May that Common Lilac comes into its own with masses of highly-scented light purple flowers. Syringa Vulgaris blooms grow as tiny, densely packed flowers hanging down in 8-18cms panicles. Butterflies and bees love lilac as it provides nectar throughout the summer. Lilac rivals buddleja as a butterfly bush. The glorious blooms ripen into winged seeds pods measuring around 1-2 cms long, which split open in autumn and release helicopter seeds.
Height and Spread of Syringa Vulgaris
Common Lilac is a fast-growing shrub or small tree that will reach a maximum height of six metres and spread over three metres within twenty years. It can be kept smaller with regular pruning.
How Hardy is Syringa Vulgaris
Common Lilac is a very hardy shrub that will survive sub-zero UK winters if its roots are kept from waterlogged soils.
How To Use Syringa Vulgaris
Common Lilac can be grown anywhere, but it does need some space to ensure it doesn’t crowd out less vigorous plants. As a specimen shrub or tree that’s cut back each year it is stunning, particularly older specimens that develop a twisted, gnarled rugged bark. Common Lilac can also be used as a flowering hedge or partition to mark areas of the garden.
If you want to grow Lilac in a container it’s best to choose a smaller, more compact variety such as Syringa Meyeri Palibin.
How To Care For Syringa Vulgaris
Common Lilac is very easy to grow. It prefers full sun but is happy in partial shade too, and any garden soil is suitable, including chalky soils as long as it drains well.
Some people are put off lilacs because they can become bushy and leggy, but this is easily avoided with yearly pruning. In its winter dormancy cut back a third of the new branch growth. A third is enough as it flowers on last year’s wood. Annual pruning ensures a bigger, better flower display as well as containing its height.
Syringa Vulgaris is a colourful and deliciously scented garden shrub that deserves more use. It is one of the easiest to grow and puts on a stunning flower display in spring. Lots more information about Lilacs on our blog recent feature.
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