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Tough Tree Gains Popularity

Japanese tree lilac has become one of the most popular trees in North Dakota.

Japanese tree lilac
Figs. 1–3. Japanese tree lilac is becoming one of the most popular trees in North Dakota. The trouble-free tree blooms in June and features glistening copper bark. ‘Golden Eclipse’ has variegated foliage in spring.
The Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata) is one of the toughest and most trouble-free trees for landscapes. It offers year-round beauty with its showy blooms, emerald leaves and glossy bark.

Japanese tree lilac is hardy throughout the state and adapts well to our soils. It is one of the finest trees to grow along boulevards. The rounded canopy grows 25 feet tall and fits neatly under power lines.

When the spring blooms of crabapples and lilacs have faded, the Japanese tree lilac takes center stage with its late display of cream-colored flowers. The fragrance of the flowers is not very pleasing; but not stinky either. Some gardeners feel the flowers smell like privet. Less critical gardeners say the blooms smell like vanilla.

The glossy copper bark is a great feature that provides winter interest.

‘Ivory Silk’ has been the top variety since its introduction from Ontario in 1973. It is a sturdy tree with deep green leaves. It blooms at a young age and is known for its heavy set of blooms. First Editions Snowdance™ has similar features (Fig. 1), and it has sterile flowers that won’t create messy seedheads.

‘Golden Eclipse’ offers variegated foliage in spring, making this remarkable tree even more special. Its variegation fades over summer.


Written by , Extension Horticulturist, North Dakota State University. Photos were made available under Creative Commons licenses specified by the photographers: Bailey Nurseries, Inc.; Minnesota Tree Resources; and Mark Dwyer.

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