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What is lilac and lavender?

What is lilac and lavender?

Lilac and lavender are two types of flowering plants that belong to the same family known as Oleaceae. Though they look similar, there are some key differences between the two.

Lilac and lavender are popular ornamental plants grown for their attractive flowers and fragrance. Both belong to the Oleaceae family, which includes around 600 species including olives, ashes, jasmines, and privets. While they have some similarities, lilac and lavender are distinct plants with some notable differences.

What is Lilac?

Lilac or Syringa is a genus of 12-20 species of flowering woody plants native to woodland areas across Europe and Asia. They are deciduous shrubs or small trees growing between 6 to 15 feet tall with a spread of up to 10 feet.

Some key facts about lilac:

– Scientific name: Syringa
– Native to: Europe and Asia
– Growth habit: Deciduous shrub or small tree
– Height: 6 to 15 feet
– Spread: 6 to 10 feet
– Foliage: Green, oval leaves about 3 inches long
– Flowers: Produced in spring in large panicles ranging from light purple, lavender, pink, blue, to white
– Fragrance: Intensely fragrant

Lilacs are extremely hardy plants that can withstand cold winters and hot summers. They require full sun exposure and well-drained soil. Some popular lilac varieties include:

Variety Flower Color
Common lilac Lavender
French lilac Double lavender
Miss Kim lilac Lavender-blue
Palibin lilac Pinkish-lavender

Lilacs are low maintenance shrubs, but should be pruned immediately after flowering to maintain shape and vigor.

What is Lavender?

Lavender refers to over 40 species of flowering plants that belong to the mint family Lamiaceae. They are native to the Mediterranean region but grown worldwide.

Some key facts about lavender:

– Scientific name: Lavandula
– Native to: Mediterranean region
– Growth habit: Evergreen woody shrub
– Height: 1 to 3 feet
– Spread: 1 to 3 feet
– Foliage: Fragrant narrow grayish green leaves
– Flowers: Produced on spikes in summer, purple, blue, white
– Fragrance: Strongly scented

Popular lavender varieties include:

Variety Flower Color
English Lavender Purple
French Lavender Purple
Spanish Lavender Dark purple
Fringed Lavender Purple-blue

Lavender thrives in hot, sunny climates with well-drained soil. It takes 1-2 years to establish but lives longer than lilacs, up to 20 years. Lavender should be pruned every few years to maintain its shape.

Similarities Between Lilac and Lavender

Despite being distinct plant genera, lilac and lavender share the following similarities:

– Both are flowering woody plants belonging to the Oleaceae family.

– They are popular ornamental plants grown for their attractive flowers and fragrance.

– Produce flowers in spring/summer in panicles or spikes. Flower colors are shades of purple, lavender, pink, blue, and white.

– Highly fragrant flowers with sweet, pleasant aroma. Widely used in perfumes and aromatherapy.

– Require full sun and well-drained soil to thrive. Prefers slightly alkaline to neutral pH soil.

– Can be susceptible to powdery mildew fungal disease in humid environments. Needs good airflow.

– Can be pruned after flowering to maintain shape and vigor. Do not require much fertilization.

– Used in landscaping for borders, hedges, accent plants. Also grown in containers.

– Provide nectar for pollinators like bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds.

Differences Between Lilac and Lavender

While lilac and lavender may seem alike, they have distinct differences:

Feature Lilac Lavender
Scientific name Syringa Lavandula
Family Oleaceae Lamiaceae
Native to Europe, Asia Mediterranean
Growth habit Deciduous shrub/tree Evergreen shrub
Height 6-15 feet 1-3 feet
Foliage Green, oval leaves Narrow grayish green leaves
Flowers Spring panicles Summer spikes
Bloom time Late spring Mid summer
Life span 15-20 years 10-20 years

The main differences are:

– Lilacs are larger, deciduous shrubs that lose their leaves in fall while lavender are smaller evergreen shrubs.

– Lilacs bloom in spring while lavender blooms in summer.

– Lilacs have larger panicle flowers while lavender flowers are small and borne on spikes.

– Lavender is more drought tolerant and needs less watering than lilacs.

– Lilacs are hardier plants that can withstand colder climates than lavender.

So in summary, lilacs are spring flowering, cold-hardy shrubs while lavender are smaller summer blooming plants more suited for hot, dry climates.

Uses of Lilac and Lavender

Both lilac and lavender are valued for their ornamental qualities and fragrance. Here are some of their popular uses:

Lilac Uses

– Fragrance industry – Lilac oil and extract used in perfumes, soaps, candles

– Landscaping – Horticulture plant for borders, hedges, foundation planting

– Cut flowers – Used in floral arrangements and bouquets

– Lilac festivals – Community events celebrating lilac blooms

– Aromatherapy and alternative medicine

Lavender Uses

– Fragrance – Lavender oil used in cosmetics, perfumes, soaps, candles

– Culinary – Used to flavor beverages, jelly, baked goods, syrups

– Landscaping – Ground cover, low flowering hedges, pots, borders

– Dried flowers – Crafting potpourri, sachets, wreaths, arrangements

– Aromatherapy and alternative medicine – Relaxation, sleep aid, antiseptic

– Textiles – Provides scent to linen, sachets

Growing Lilac and Lavender

Here is a summary of key cultivation needs for lilacs and lavender:

Growing Lilacs

– Location: Full sun, at least 6 hours direct sunlight

– Soil: Well-drained, fertile soil with neutral to alkaline pH

– Water: Moderate, about 1 inch per week

– Fertilizer: Balanced fertilizer in early spring

– Pruning: After flowering to shape and rejuvenate

– Pests: Watch for borers, scale, mealybugs

– Hardiness zones: 2-7

Growing Lavender

– Location: Full sun, at least 6-8 hours direct sunlight

– Soil: Extremely well-drained, sandy or gravelly soil

– Water: Low water needs, drought tolerant

– Fertilizer: Use slow release fertilizer at planting

– Pruning: Prune annually after blooming

– Pests: Can attract root rot, fungus gnats, mites

– Hardiness zones: 5-10

Key tips for both plants – avoid overwatering, allow good airflow, prune just after flowering. With proper site selection, soil, and care lilacs and lavender will thrive for many years.


In summary, lilac and lavender are distinct flowering plants with some similar traits such as fragrant flowers, need for sun, and uses in landscaping and fragrance. However, they belong to different plant families with key differences in appearance, growth habit, ideal climate, and bloom time. Lilacs are larger, cold-hardy spring blooming shrubs while lavender are more petite summer flowering Mediterranean plants. Both make excellent additions to gardens and landscapes where their colors, scents, and nectar can be enjoyed.