Lilacs – fragrant, beautiful, harbinger that spring is really here! And they symbolize love – what better time to think of love than in spring? Lilacs come in seven colors but most are familiar with the common lilac, Syringa vulgaris,. In our Puget Sound area, lilacs bloom for 2-3 weeks in late April through early May. In 2016, some are already in full bloom in mid-April! There are early-, mid-, and late-season lilacs, which, when grown together, ensure a steady bloom for at least 6 weeks. To get a look in person at a large number of varieties, take a trip to the Hulda Klager Lilac gardens in Woodland, WA.
Lilacs are hardy, easy to grow, and low maintenance. In the olive family ( Oleaceae), they are considered shrubs to small trees as they can grow from 5 to 15 feet tall, depending on the variety. The roots need a lot of room to spread out so don’t plant right by a wall or walkway. They need full sun – at least 6 hours of good sun a day. They also need good drainage – if you don’t have soil that drains well, make a large mound and plant them in that. They like slightly acid to neutral soil – pH 5 to 7. If you have acid soil, add some lime according to the manufacturer’s instructions when you plant and every 3-5 years. Some varieties have flowers that are more fragrant than others. The flowers are good for cutting and attractive to butterflies. Walk through the lilacs if you can and enjoy!