What Is Korean Lilac?
Korean lilac (Syringa meyeri) is a medium-sized shrub that can grow up to 5–10 feet tall and across, with tiny light purple blooms that grow in clusters. Its leaves are a deep green color with a velvety texture.
Depending on where they are grown, these bushes bloom in early to mid-May, and blooms last around 14 days. Korean lilacs are deciduous plants, losing their leaves during the fall and returning to bloom the following season. They are popular among many gardeners because of their ease to grow and relatively low maintenance. The shrub is more naturally round and compacted compared to other lilac bush varieties though, making it particularly popular in heavily manicured garden arrangements.
Planting and Maintenance
Korean lilac will grow in USDA hardiness zones 3–7, which is about from Oklahoma and continuing north up to Canada. It may survive in more southern zones if planted in partial shade to protect it from the harsh heat. Alternatively, if planted in a container (this would likely only work well for dwarf varieties), it can be moved around when appropriate to avoid really high temperatures. Down through the Florida panhandle, Korean lilacs have been successfully grown in containers.
Soil and Sunlight
These shrubs are not particularly sensitive to soil pH like some other plants are. They thrive in well-draining soil and prefer full sun when planted in zones 3–7. If grown in hotter zones (see above), some shade is ideal for it to survive the hotter temperatures.
Korean lilac doesn’t need extra fertilizer to do well, but will benefit from a standard slow-release fertilizer a few weeks after it is planted. It is fairly drought resistant, but if your area is experiencing unusually dry weather, these plants can benefit from biweekly watering.
When to Plant
Korean lilacs (like other varieties as well) can be planted either in late fall before the ground is frozen or in early spring, once the risk of frost has passed but ideally before mid-May when the full blooming would occur. It is preferable to plant them in the spring rather than fall, however.
Care must be taken when pruning Korean lilacs so as not to accidentally trim branches that would otherwise bring more blooms. These shrubs produce blooms on the prior years’ growth, so they should not be pruned in the fall when some other plants are typically pruned. Pruning is best done in late spring or early summer when the May blooms have faded.
Pruning can be done to maintain the shape of the plant and to remove diseased-looking branches if necessary. Healthy branches and stems shouldn’t be pruned back more than one third of their length. Pruning will encourage more blooms the following year and can help maintain the signature rounded shape of the plant.
Korean lilacs can also be pruned to look like trees. To do this, after you plant it, you should cut back the lower branches and stems of the bottom one-third of the plant. Cut these all the way down to the central stem. As the bush grows and matures, it will assume the tree habit with a full top and bare trunk.
Korean lilac does not need much care to survive cold winters. In dry climates where there is little snow or rain, they could benefit from occasional deep watering.
If you have yours in a pot, you can dig a hole and put the pot in the ground over winter to keep it safe. Otherwise, since the pruning takes place earlier in late spring/early summer, little care is needed over the winter.
History of Korean Lilac
Lilacs in general originate in Asia. They were brought to Europe from Asia in the 1500s and then to the Americas in the 1700s, and they have become a mainstay of many American gardens since. In fact, some lilac bushes in the eastern United States themselves date back to the 1750s.
The Korean variety in particular was first found in the early 20th century by Frank Meyer (hence the botanical name Meyeri) near Beijing, China. It was then introduced to the United States at a time when several other lilac varieties had already been widely available. It quickly gained popularity due to its unique shape.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.