Lilacs are known for their fragrant, heady scent. But not all lilacs are created equal. Some can provide a small hint of sweetness, while others have powerful and far-reaching fragrances that can carry throughout your yard and beyond.
Whatever lilac variety you choose, the good news is that most lilacs are low maintenance to grow. Lilacs grow well in USDA plant hardiness zones 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (check your region’s hardiness zone here), and they need lots of sun.
Although lilacs have a notoriously short blossoming time of about two weeks, you can carefully select a few lilac varieties that will blossom at different times throughout late spring and early summer. This way you can maximize that lilac scent all season long.
Wondering which are the most fragrant lilacs you can plant in your garden? Or do you prefer a lighter scent? Whichever lilac variety you prefer, there’s one for you.
“Miss Kim” For A Powerful Lilac Scent
If it’s a strong lilac scent that you are looking for, you can’t go wrong with Syringa pubescens, more commonly known as “Miss Kim.” This lilac is native to China and works best as a hedge in your yard or as a perennial border. Miss Kim needs full sun and moist soil with good drainage, but overall this is a low-maintenance lilac that is not prone to many issues. Her lavender flowers are known for their strong, bold scent.
“President Lincoln” Is A Mid-Season Bloomer
Here is another lilac variety that will add sweetness to your garden: Syringa vulgaris “President Lincoln.” These mid-season bloomers don’t just offer gorgeous blue buds, they also release a captivating scent that will bring presidential elegance to any garden. Since its creation in 1916, this lilac variety has become a timeless classic that both bees and humans adore. The President Lincoln lilac variety requires full sun and works well as a hedge or border shrub. Its cuttings make for a fragrant, colorful bouquet.
“Miss Canada” Lilac Has A Spicy Side
Are you looking for a lilac that offers a milder scent? If you think lilacs only come in sweet, almost-cloying varieties, you’re missing out. Many lilac varieties have a scent that is nothing at all like you might expect it to be, and this includes “Miss Canada.” More spicy than sweet, this late-blooming lilac offers deep red blossoms that are quite unique in both color and in scent.
Sweet “Sensation” Lilac Has Bicolor Blooms
The aptly named “Sensation” is an award-winning, cult-favorite among lilac lovers. Beloved for their unique buds and their powerful scent, the Syringa vulgaris Sensation is a lilac among lilacs. The bicolor buds feature purplish-blue buds that are trimmed in bright white. With overlarge blossoms and heart-shaped leaves, this lilac shrub is a superstar of the garden.
“Beauty of Moscow” Lilac Makes A Splash
If you’re looking for a lilac variety that is going to catch everyone’s eye when they pass by your garden, look no further than the “Beauty of Moscow” lilac. These intensely fragrant lilacs make a splendid display thanks to their pinkish-lavender buds that are surrounded by double white florets. Not only does the Beauty of Moscow offer extraordinary buds, but butterflies and hummingbirds love this sweetly-scented shrub, so it will attract even more beauty to your garden.
Lilac Trees Send Their Scent On The Breeze
If you want the scent of lilacs to be cast far and wide around your yard, you might want to consider lilac trees. Though a bit trickier to grow and maintain than a lilac shrub, lilac trees smell simply delicious when the breeze blows through the blossoms. There are a few different options of lilac varieties when it comes to lilac trees, including the Pekin tree lilac and the Japanese tree lilac. These fragrant trees come in many different hues, including white, yellow, gold and more, so you can pick the buds that best suit your color scheme.
A Lilac Variety For The Eyes, Not The Nose
White lilacs are known for offering a milder scent than their boldly-hued cousins, but some white lilacs are bred to be completely scent-free. So, if you have a sensitive nose, you may want to look for lilacs with white buds, or ask your local nursery staff to tell you which lilac plants they have that offer the least amount of smell.
What To Do When Your Lilacs Stop Smelling
Now that you know the most pungent lilacs (and the mildest), you might be wondering what it means if your sweet-scented lilac bush suddenly loses its powerful smell. When this happens, it usually means that the air is too cold or wet for the scent to travel far enough to be noticed. Lilacs smell the strongest when the air is warm and dry, so pay attention to how the smell of your lilacs will change in intensity depending on the weather.