Lilac Trees

dragonfly_wings(Z8 - Central TX.)March 19, 2009

My sweet tooth must be acting up again. Ever since I saw a beautiful lilac tree blooming years ago in a friend's yard in far east Austin I've wanted one. Well today was the day.

I was just browsing the aisle of Sutherland's nursery and spotted one (Syringa vulgaris 'Ludwig Von Spaeth'). I read that they enjoy alkaline soils and I've got plenty of that.

Why don't we see more of these trees around central Texas?

Also picked up my second dwarf Pomegranate because the first one proved very hardy and has done so well on the southeast corner of my house.

Transplanted my young brug today, painted my garden bench a spring green, prepared a raised veggie bed, took a nap in the hammock, and so many other things. I LOVE Spring!

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carrie751(z7/8 TX)

My lilac bush is blooming, and is so very fragrant. I just love the smell of lilacs !!

    Bookmark   March 19, 2009 at 10:49PM
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dragonfly_wings(Z8 - Central TX.)

Blooming already? I didn't realize they bloom this early.
Yep, nothing quite so heavenly as the smell of lilac, with gardenias and magnolias a close second.

    Bookmark   March 19, 2009 at 11:01PM
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I thought it didn't get cold enough here in the winter for them. We had a gorgeous one back where I grew up in Alaska, but I didn't plant any when I moved here because I'd read somewhere that they need that winter "chilling." Am I wrong? I would love to be wrong on this...

    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 9:16PM
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dragonfly_wings(Z8 - Central TX.)

Lilacs are definitely more of a northern tree/shrub but they DO grow down here because I've seen it. I wish I knew what the species was that I saw. I think some are bred to adapt (just as some more northern fruits have been bred to adjust to milder climates). I don't see 'Ludwig Von Spaeth' named on the list below, but hope that it's just because it's a new one.

Of course the surest bet is to go with the native tree that many refer to as the "Texas Lilac" which is actually a Vitex.

Many transplanted Northern gardeners find themselves missing the familiar plants of their former homes. In my case, I long for the flowering lilac tree, which could be considered the crepe myrtle of Colorado. More accurately, it is a medium-to-large shrub that often can be trained into a small tree. The blooms, which occur from early spring to early summer, are not only beautiful but highly fragrant as well.

One species that is well adapted to East Texas is Syringa laciniata, the cut-leaf lilac. It will grow to eight feet, with many small clusters of fragrant lilac-colored flowers. Other possibilities are the Descanso Hybrids, which have been developed to accept mild winters and should perform exceptionally well in the Lower South. Best known is 'Lavender Lady'; others include 'Blue Boy,' 'Blue Skies,' 'Chiffon' (lavender), 'Forrest K. Smith' (light lavender), 'Sylvan Beauty' (rose lavender), and 'White Angel.' S. patula 'Miss Kim' is heat tolerant and should do well but stays small for many years. However, its blooms - purple buds opening to very fragrant icy blue flowers - are outstanding.

Lilacs prefer a well-drained, neutral-to-slightly-alkaline soil. Since most soils in East Texas tend to be acidic, a pH test would be advisable. Testing kits are available from the Smith County Extension Office. The results will tell you the proper amount of lime to apply to your planting site.

Most lilacs bloom on wood formed the previous year, so they should be pruned just after flowering. Remove the spent flower clusters, cutting back to a pair of leaves. Growth buds at that point will make flowering stems for next year.

Since the rule of thumb is that lilacs will grow but not bloom here, it may be difficult to find many plants available locally. Check any you do find carefully and buy only those species adapted for our warmer winters. Otherwise you may find yourself with a healthy but nondescript, and certainly non-flowering, shrub. Mail order catalogs offer more options, but again, consider buying only the species listed above.

Kathy Fiebig, Smith County Master Gardener

    Bookmark   March 20, 2009 at 11:43PM
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dragonfly_wings(Z8 - Central TX.)

Unlike the old favorites that need cold winters to bloom, these newer varieties thrive without winter chill

Flowers as pretty as party dresses, with a gently sweet fragrance reminiscent of Grandma's dressing table, make lilacs sentimental favorites. In a world that swirls around us too fast, lilacs spark nostalgia â possibly for a place where they once flourished, or perhaps for another era.

But this nostalgia isn't easy to create everywhere. In mild-winter climates, you can't pop just any lilac ( Syringa vulgaris) into the ground and expect an exuberant show of blooms come midspring. You'll need to buy low-chill varieties.

Why? Because most lilacs prefer the kind of winter chill that sends us scrambling for heavy wool coats. Not so the low-chill varieties.

The first low-chill lilac, called 'Lavender Lady', was developed in Southern California 30 years ago by Walter Lammerts, a researcher and hybridizer with Rancho del Descanso â a former wholesale nursery that's now the site of Descanso Gardens, a botanical garden open to the public. 'Walter was an excellent hybridizer,' says Bob Boddy, son of the nursery's owner. 'He came up with a progeny of 350 potentially outstanding low-chill lilacs.' Although many varieties of lilacs are sometimes attributed to Lammerts, 'Lavender Lady' and 'Angel White' were his only direct creations.

But other descendants from the original plantings have been introduced through the years by Descanso's staff. The lilacs â often referred to as Descanso Hybrids â now number a dozen or so, and many of them can still be seen growing at the gardens (1418 Descanso Dr., La Cañada Flintridge; 818/952-4400).

How to grow the best flowers

Like roses, lilacs are a bit greedy. To produce an abundant crop of flowers, they need plenty of sun. They also need space; crowding reduces air circulation and makes them more prone to powdery mildew. In mild Southern California, avoid planting them near lawns; year-round watering can prohibit dormancy and flowering.

Unlike many plants that thrive in rainy Eastern climates, lilacs prefer the arid West's alkaline soil. It's generally not necessary to add soil amendments at planting time unless the soil is very sandy or heavy clay.

**Continued at link**

Here is a link that might be useful: Mild-climate lilacs

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 12:10AM
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I remember a house we lived in when I was about 5 or 6, it had these huge lilac bushes around the root cellar. They were fabulous. I remember lying under them and just inhaling the perfume. Those and bearded iris are 2 things I miss from childhood. And huge rose bushes that cascaded over walls and fences and were covered in blooms.

Now I'm going to have to hunt a low-chill variety and try it on the island. I can smell them now.
Bunch of enablers!! a website I can look at?
Tally HO!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 11:29AM
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dragonfly_wings(Z8 - Central TX.)

One good turn deserves another!
Lilac fragrance is unforgetable. I don't have any linkies
for ya because I bought mine at Sutherlands and am not sure
it's the right variety for this region. You are quite a bit
further south than me, so if/when you find a grower of these
mild-weather varieties I'd sure check with them about whether or not you are 'zone appropriate'.

If you do find a good source please share.

If you're too far south, well.....I believe Glade sells a lilac scented air!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 12:02PM
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Oooh! That's a good read! Thank you!!

    Bookmark   March 27, 2009 at 2:03PM
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dragonfly_wings(Z8 - Central TX.)

Just updating this thread with another article about the appropriate lilac hybrids to grow in Texas. This is an excerpt from an article in the Austin American Statesman. The whole article is available at the link:

"The genus of Syringa has many species. It is abbreviated as capital S in the following paragraphs. The small letter x is the designation for a hybrid plant in the following paragraphs.

The tree lilacs such as S. reticulata, S. amurensi, S. pekinensis or S. reticulata 'Ivory Silk' will all bloom in the South. They grow as tall as 25 feet and have various shades of white, cream or yellow flowers. They smell more like a privet than a lilac.

The dwarf Korean or Chinese lilacs like S. meyeri, S. microphyla and S. patula 'Miss Kim' are usually a light pink-blue color and only grow to about 10 feet with dwarf versions only half that. They also do well in many southern areas, but again, they don't smell like the common lilac.

The North Carolina State University's Mountain Horticultural Crops Research Station and the J.C. Raulston Arboretum in Raleigh, N.C., have been researching warm weather lilacs for more than 20 years.

They recommend S. x 'Angel White' and S. x hyacinthiflora 'Mount Baker' for white flowering lilacs. For blue flowers try, S. x 'Blue Skies.' For pink flowers, try S. x hyacinthiflora 'Maidens Blush.'

Other good varieties of S x hyacinthiflora were 'Asessippi,' 'Blanch Sweet,' 'California Rose,' 'Dark Knight,' 'Excell,' 'Forest Kresser Smith' and 'Pocahontas.' They will tend to grow about 10 feet wide and high, but they can be pruned lower."

Here is a link that might be useful: Am. Statesman article on Lilacs

    Bookmark   April 25, 2010 at 10:21AM
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I been looking for a purple flowering lilac tree if anyone has any ideas where I can purchase one in michigan/ohio or on lilne I would greatfully appricate it

    Bookmark   July 5, 2010 at 7:28AM
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dragonfly_wings(Z8 - Central TX.)

phil1340 -

Try posting your question in the forum for 'fragrant plants'. I think you would find people more knowledgable about lilacs and more local nurseries, particularly for your zone. Our selection in Texas is pretty much limited
to the 'low chill' hybrids that were created for warmer climates. Good luck!

    Bookmark   July 7, 2010 at 12:51PM
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Dragonfly Wings- WHERE did you find the Syringa vulgaris 'Ludwig Von Spaeth' here in Austin?!?! I have been searching high and low!! Where is Sutherlands Nursery?

    Bookmark   July 7, 2011 at 4:08PM
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