What is a Japanese Lilac?

Sara Schmidt

The Japanese Lilac is a type of flowering tree. Scientifically classified as Syringa reticulata, it is a member of the olive family. It features shiny, horizontally-lined bark, and grows large clusters of soft, white flowers during the summer months.

Man mowing the grass
Man mowing the grass

Many gardeners enjoy planting Japanese Lilac trees in their yards for their elegant appearance. Its leaves are ovate and vibrant green, while its bark is red-brown. It resembles the lilac bush in many ways. Unlike the lilac flower used for perfumes and oils, the tree possesses a strong, musky odor that can be off-putting. Some growers, however, enjoy the smell.

Japanese Lilacs, which are the most common of all lilac trees, begin as small shrubs. In time, however, they grow to be 20 to 30 feet (6 to 9 meters) tall. Branches stretch into a wide, round shape as they grow, expanding up to 15 to 25 feet (4.5 to 7.5 meters) across. While the trees ordinarily do not require trimming, tree shaping is a popular way to treat these lilacs. Many growers prefer to create striking bonsai tree formations with the Japanese Lilac.

Two of the most popular varieties of Japanese Lilac trees are the Ivory Silk and Summer Snows cultivars. The two are well liked primarily because of their ability to produce more flowers than most other cultivars. These trees feature large panicles, or clusters, of creamy flowers, growing up to 10 inches (25 centimeters) in width.

Its low maintenance nature makes the Japanese lilac an optimal ornamental tree for busy homeowners. The tree typically does not grow to interfere with power lines or require pruning. It is also largely pest-free, rarely succumbing to disease. Most of the trees flower annually during the spring, rewarding little to no work with pleasing results. Native to temperate regions of Asia, the tree can be cultivated widely in similar climates.

These lilac trees can be planted in most environments. Though they can begin growing in a container, it is advisable to move them to a larger area, such as a medium to large sized yard. The plants also work well as landscaping trees in urban areas, such as parking lots.

Full sunlight is recommended to ensure optimal growing of Japanese Lilac trees. In order to yield flowers, the tree must receive a minimum of six hours of sunlight daily. Japanese Lilacs should be watered daily. Mulching the base of the tree can help retain water as well as prevent weeds from growing around it.

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