FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Lilacs evoke the sweet smell of spring. These shrubs were brought to this country in the 17-century called Blew (blue) Pipeflower, for its hollow stems, and grown in English gardens according to https://www.thetreecenter.com/the-story-of-lilacs/. In 1750 lilacs were the first shipments of plants sent to America to satisfy the memory of new settlers in their homes.
In 1852 a Frenchman called Victor Lemoine started breeding lilacs and flower petals went from 4 to 8 petals in a dense cluster. This shrub was named ‘Azurea Plena’ with a bluish-mauve color. He further crossed ‘Azurea Plena’ with other lilacs. He amassed 200 some plants which today are still popular and grown in many landscapes.
Today there are about 30 different species of lilacs. Lilacs come in a wider range of colors other than purple and all the shades of purple. Colors such as red, pink, blue, yellow, cream, or white are all available. Here are a few of the lilacs that would do well in our landscapes.
The Chinese Lilac, Syringa x chinensis and Common Lilac, Syringa vulgaris have been the most prevalent for us in zone 3. The Chinese lilac gets 8-12 feet tall and 6-10 feet wide with a rose-purple flower. The Common lilac is a bit taller at 12-16 feet and 8-12 feet wide. Today there are more than 600 cultivated varieties of these including ‘President Lincoln’ with lavender-blue flowers and ‘Sensation’ with single fragrant white edged purple flowers called picotee flowers.
Other lesser used lilacs in our area are the Manchurian or Korean Lilac, Syringa pubescens patula ‘Miss Kim’, Early Flowering Lilac, Syringa x hyacinthiflora, and Cutleaf or Feathered Persian Lilac, Syringa laciniata.
With the Korean Lilac this is a slow grower getting 6-8 feet tall and as wide. It is heat tolerant and hardy to zone 3. Its flowers bloom later in the season but are fragrant purple buds. This is a great plant for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds.
The Early Flowering Lilac grows to be 10 to 12 feet tall and as wide. This lilac grows in zone 3 and is resistant to powdery mildew. During the fall the leaves turn gold, red or purple. It also attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.
Cutleaf Lilac grows to be 6 to 8 feet tall and as wide. This grows in zone 4- and does well in partial shade. The foliage is lacy, deeply cut dark green color. The branches are willowy arched branchlets. The leaves give some fall interest with their yellow-green color.
If you wish to learn further about lilacs the National Garden Bureau has more information at the following link:
–Linda Langelo, Colorado State University Extension