Common Lilac Varieties: What Are Different Types Of Lilac Bushes

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By Jackie Carroll

When you think about lilacs, the first thing that comes to mind is their sweet fragrance. As beautiful as its flowers are, the fragrance is the most cherished attribute. Read on to find out about the characteristics of the different types of lilac bushes.

Common Lilac Varieties

Horticulturists have cross bred the 28 species of lilac so extensively that even the experts sometimes have trouble telling lilac plant types apart. Even so, some species have attributes that might make them better suited to your garden and landscape. Here are some different types of lilacs that you might want to consider for your garden:

  • Common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) – For most people, this lilac is the most familiar. The flowers are lilac-colored and have a strong fragrance. Common lilac grows to a height of about 20 feet.
  • Persian lilac (S. persica) – This variety grows 10 feet tall. The flowers are pale lilac in color, and about half the diameter of common lilacs. Persian lilac is a good choice for an informal hedge.
  • Dwarf Korean lilac (S. palebinina) – These lilacs grow only 4 feet tall and make a good informal hedge plant. The flowers resemble those of common lilac.
  • Tree lilacs (S. amurensis) – This variety grows into a 30-foot tree with off-white flowers. Japanese tree lilac (S. amurensis ‘Japonica’) is a type of tree lilac with unusual, very pale yellow flowers.
  • Chinese lilac (S. chinensis) – This is one of the best varieties to use as a summer screen or hedge. It grows quickly to reach a height of 8 to 12 feet. Chinese lilac is a cross between common lilacs and Persian lilacs. It is sometimes called Rouen lilac.
  • Himalayan lilac (S. villosa) – Also called late lilac, this type has rose-like blossoms. It grows as tall as 10 feet. Hungarian lilac (S. josikaea) is a similar species with darker flowers.

These common lilac varieties are only grown in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 or 4 through 7 because they need freezing winter temperatures to break dormancy and produce flowers.

Beset by lilac envy, a Southern California horticulturist developed varieties of lilac called Descanso hybrids. These hybrids grow and bloom reliably despite the warm winters of Southern California. Among the best of the Descanso hybrids are:

  • ‘Lavender Lady’
  • ‘California Rose’
  • ‘Blue Boy’
  • ‘Angel White’

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