Common Name: Japanese tree lilac

Scientific Name: 
Genus: Syringa
Species: S. reticulata

Hardiness Zone: 3 to 7
Height: 20 to 25 ft
Width: 15 to 20 ft


Common Characteristics:

The Japanese tree lilac grows to heights of 30’ tall and 20’ wide with an oval-rounded crown. Reddish-brown peeling bark, similar to cherry bark, is attractive on younger branches. The bark gradually turns gray with age. Leaves are simple and grow in opposite pairs on the stems. They are ovate in shape with a rounded base. The leaves are dark green in the summer with little color change in the fall. Its best ornamental feature is its showy, fragrant, creamy white flowers which bloom in upright panicles to 12” long in late spring to early summer (later than most other lilac species). Flowers give way to loose clusters of brown capsules that persist into winter.  

Where it grows:

Prefers moist, well-drained soils. The tree lilac will tolerate dry sites, alkaline soils, and road salts. This makes it well suited as an urban landscape tree.  

How it’s used:

Widely used in the urban landscape around Minnesota in parks, boulevards, and residential lawns. Often planted under powerlines or other trees because of their short stature. 

Ecosystem services:

Its many flowers will attract pollinators such as butterflies and hummingbirds, along with other insect pollinators.  

Where it is native to:

Native to Japan, but well adapted to Minnesota.  

Known Varieties and Their Traits:

Golden Eclipse Japanese tree lilac  (Syringa reticulata ssp. reticulata 'Golden Eclipse'):  A more compact form (to 24 feet high).  Leaves develop gold edges as the season progresses.

Ivory Pillar Japanese tree lilac  (Syringa reticulata ssp. reticulata 'Willamette'): A more narrow, upright form (25 feet high by 15 feet wide).

Ivory Silk Japanese tree lilac  (Syringa reticulata ssp. reticulata 'Ivory Silk'):  More compact (20 to 25 feet high); flowers profusely and begins to flower at an early age.

Signature Japanese tree lilac  (Syringa reticulata ssp. reticulata 'Sigzam'):  Flower clusters more rounded and smaller than those of 'Ivory Silk'.  Flowers a week or two later than 'Ivory Silk'.

Snowdance Japanese tree lilac  (Syringa reticulata ssp. reticulata 'Bailnce'):  Flowers at an early age and flowers very prolifically.  20 feet high and wide.


Good resistance to powdery mildew, scale, and borers. Bacterial blight and leaf spots are possible. 


Missouri Botanical Garden

Morton Arboretum


Japanese tree lilac form
Japanese tree lilac bark
Japanese tree lilac foliage
Japanese tree lilac buds
Japanese tree lilac flower
Japanese tree lilac fruit