Six Classic Lilacs For Your Summer Garden

Resilient and deer resistant, this flower is perfect for the climates of New York & Connecticut.

Hailing from Eastern Europe, the classic lilac is both hardy in cold temperatures and unappealing to hungry deer. It also now numbers more than 2,000 varieties among 30 or so species. The six examples featured below are well-suited to the temperate climate of the Northeast. Diverse in size, color, and blossoms, they nonetheless all boast an exceptional fragrance.

Atheline Wilbur Lilac

1. ATHELINE WILBUR LILAC  (Syringa vulgaris ‘Atheline Wilbur’) 

Zones: 3–7; height: 10 feet 

Bred for disease resistance and a slightly shorter stature, this exceptional lilac boasts fragrant, beautiful pale-pink double flowers on big panicles. 

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2. JAPANESE TREE LILAC  (Syringa reticulata) 

Zones: 3–7; height: 20–30 feet 

This gorgeous lilac blooms in June, a bit later than most other species, and can even be used as a street tree. It’s known for its interesting bark, attractive trusses of soft ivory-colored flowers, and wonderful, far-reaching scent. 

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3. SENSATION LILAC  (Syringa vulgaris ‘Sensation’) 

Zones: 4–7; height: 10–15 feet 

Sensation lives up to its name, with a prominent perfume and extra-large trusses of deep-pink blossoms demarcated by a fine white line. 

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4. COMMON LILAC  (Syringa vulgaris) 

Zones: 3–7; height: 12–16 feet 

This backyard beauty has medium-purple color—it’s a lilac, after all—and a divine scent. Unfortunately, the shrub’s leaves occasionally attract a powdery, yet harmless mildew, so don’t plant it in the most visible spot in your garden, and make sure it has enough room to breathe. 

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5. MADAME LEMOINE LILAC  (Syringa vulgaris ‘Madame Lemoine’) 

Zones: 4–7; height: 8–10 feet 

A bit of an oxymoron color-wise, this bright-white lilac with double flowers is a popular choice for white gardens. Known for its heady scent, it’s named for the wife of Victor Lemoine, a celebrated French lilac breeder. 

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6. MISS KIM KOREAN LILAC  (Syringa pubescens subsp. patula ‘Miss Kim’) 

Zones: 3–8; height: 4–9 feet 

Compact and refined, Miss Kim (a.k.a. Manchurian lilac) doesn’t get leggy and is ideal in a tight corner, a shrub border, or a hedge. Its petite leaves take on a burgundy tinge in the fall. 


Tips & Tricks Across the Board

• Propagate from softwood cuttings in the early summer. 

• Avoid pruning. Instead, cut the blossoms for arrangements and deadhead the shrub immediately after it finishes flowering. 

• To extend lilacs’ vase life, cut them in the early morning, plunge the bottom 10 percent of the stem in boiling water for 30 seconds, and then place in a bucket of cold water until ready to arrange. 

• Lilacs thrive in full sun but can tolerate part sun. 

• Apply an organic tree and shrub fertilizer in the early spring and after flowering