Lilacs come in seven colors, but most are familiar with the common lilac, Syringa vulgaris, which blooms in the northern states for 2 weeks in late May. However, there are early-, mid-, and late-season lilacs, which, when grown together, ensure a steady bloom for at least 6 weeks. Here in the Twin Ports, we have a longer season.
The name “Lilac: comes from the Persian word “lilaq”, which means flower. Lilacs belong to the same family as the olive (Oleaceae).
The Finnish word for lilac is Liila; in Swedish, Lila; in Norwegian, Syrin; in Spanish, Lila; in German; Lila; in French, Lilas; in Polish, Liliowy; in Italian, Lilla.
Lilacs are native to Eastern Europe and Asia and were brought to America in the 1750s.
Thomas Jefferson loved lilacs and wrote about them in his gardening book. George Washington was also a fan of lilacs.
Prune them less often for a bigger tree. (But make sure to trim them at least once a year after they become established!)
They can be pruned to become small ornamental trees.
An older lilac that is not blooming well can be revived with a system of pruning the old wood over a 3-year period.
There are more than 1,000 varieties of lilac bushes and trees.
The Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, Ontario, Canada has a collection of more than 745 lilac plants.
Some varieties will bloom more than once a year.
Purple lilacs are sometimes called the poor man’s flower.
In addition to purple, lilacs can be pale yellow (rare), blue, pink, dark burgundy or bi-colored.
Lilacs grow in Zones 2 through 9 depending on type. Some varieties can survive -60 degree F temperatures!
Long-lived, some shrubs are over 100 year’s old.
They are the official flower for an 8th wedding anniversary.
Lilacs generally do not grow wild. If you see them in the middle of nowhere, there was probably a settlement or home there at one time.
The flowers are edible and great in cocktails! Make lilac sugar by mixing lilac petals and white sugar to use for tea or baking. Lilac petals can be candied or crystallized for use in decorating desserts. Try lilac jelly, lilac wine, lilac infused syrups, lilac honey or lilac ice cream.
Lilac fragrance is available in essential oils, lotions, soap, perfume, candles and room deodorizer.
Purple lilacs are most fragrant on a sunny, warm day. They love the sun and reward their owners with more blooms. Scent, however, can vary dependent on climate. A cool spring will yield less fragrance.
The inability to recognize lilac scent can predict Alzheimer’s disease.
When used in aromatherapy, it is said the smell helps with relaxation and feelings of depression.
Lilac wood can be used to make musical instruments, turned projects such as bowls and pens, and carved projects such as spoons.
They are the state flower of New Hampshire.
The tree lilac, Syringa reticulata, can grow to 25 feet tall.
Floriography (language of flowers) in Victorian England and America in the 19th century allowed the giver of a particular flower to express his feelings in a coded message to the recipient dependent on what type/color of flower was given. Purple lilacs represented first emotion of love and white lilacs represented purity or youthful innocence. The recipient’s placement of the flower on her person also expressed a coded message. Placing the “tussie mussie” over her heart declared her love for her suitor.
In Greek mythology, supposedly Pan, the god of forests and fields, fell in love with the nymph, Syringa. She did not return his feelings and when he pursued her, she changed herself into a lilac bush to hide. According to this version of the story, Pan used portions of the lilac bush to make a pan pipe.
Syringa vulgaris is derived from the Greek word syrinks which means pipe.