Japanese Tree Lilac

“A Tough Tree for Tough Soils”

Here in southern Minnesota many homeowners have had frustrations with trying to get trees to grow well in poor quality soils especially clay soils.  Japanese Tree Lilacs produce lovely white to creamy white blossoms in mid to late June, and have demonstrated their ability to grow well in clay soils, as long as the location chosen drains properly.

When the glaciers that covered Minnesota melted about 10,000 years ago, they left behind a tremendously wide variety of soils, including plenty of clay, which is quite common in the Northfield area.  Most of us quickly learn that clay is difficult to dig in, and not very fertile which causes many landscape plants to struggle.  Lilacs in general, and Japanese Tree Lilacs in particular have the ability to grow nicely in these difficult clay soils, as long as you avoid soggy, poorly drained locations.  Another great feature about Japanese Tree Lilacs is that they are very fragrant!

The standard Japanese Tree Lilacs grow to a medium size of about 25′ tall by 20′ wide, producing their very large blossoms about 3 to 4 weeks after the common lilac shrubs have finished their May bloom cycle.  For homeowners who desire a s lightly smaller sized ornamental tree, several more varieties of Japanese Tree Lilac have been selected and brought to market.

Ivory Silk Japanese Tree Lilac is a slightly narrower cultivar that now has become fairly widely available, maturing to about 15′ wide.  Ivory Pillar Japanese Tree Lilac was also chosen for its narrower width of approximately 10-12′ wide and a bit shorter at 18′ tall.

Snowcap Japanese Tree Lilac carries a rating of 15′-20-‘ tall by 10′-15′ wide, and Bailey Nurseries from St. Paul recently introduced a seedless Japanese Tree Lilac named Snowdance, which becomes a chubby butter ball about 20′ wide and 20′ tall.

Northfield’s own Rock Kelly who is the tree grower from Bachmans has made a very nice selection named Summer Storm Japanese Tree Lilac, which has shown nice vigorous growth, and matures to about 25′ tall by 12′-15’ wide.

Japanese Tree Lilacs do grow nicely when planted in high quality soils, and out perform some other ornamental trees in poor clay soils, as long as you avoid soggy poorly drained areas.  They also love locations with lots of sunlight.  Avoid shady areas, and enjoy the toughness and beauty of the Japanese Tree Lilac.