Did you move to Wilmington from the North? Do you miss the fragrant smells and beautiful pink and purple flowers of lilacs? I know I do. There was a lavender lilac tree outside my childhood home and every spring it smelled wonderful. I also lived a hop and a skip from the Mackinac Island Lilac Festival., which is a festival very similar to our North Carolina Azalea Festival.
For my first few growing seasons (over 10 years ago), I looked around the local nurseries and never found a lilac. While I was thrilled to move to an area with a much longer gardening season and a new variety of plants, I was disappointed to find they were not sold here, because lilacs don’t do very well in our zone (8a). In order to bud, they need a cold winter. So, I gave up on owning a lilac until I mentioned to a friend recently that I missed them. She revealed there are a few lilacs that can grow here, and she had one.
I decided to dig further. I started an online search and found a few lilacs zoned for 8, but that was the outer limit for the range. From experience, I know the zone is not the only thing that determines if a plant will grow in an area. Soil plays a big factor, especially in a coastal area like ours where there is a lot of sand.
“…one more thing to consider – the pH of our sandy soil is usually above 7. Values of pH range from 1-14 with pH values below 7 considered acidic and those above 7 being basic. A soil pH of 7 is neutral. Most plants grow best in a pH around 6.7…” -Anne Ditmer, Coastal Illustrated
I decided to build on the experience of others and asked members of some local gardening groups if they had planted the lilacs I found. A few people had (one person even said they found theirs at one of the Wilmington Home Depots), and theirs bloomed multiple times a year. Another recommended a lilac I had not found but was doing well.
So, if you have your heart set on growing a lilac in Wilmington, below you will find the three varieties I found for our zone. But keep in mind they may need more nursing than a native plant to adjust to our local climate and soil. That means paying more attention to watering and fertilizer in the first year or two.
Two of the lilacs below are linked to Amazon. I am an affiliate and will earn a fee from Amazon if you purchase from them, but it won’t cost you anything. It’s like a high-five for providing quality content.
You can also ask your favorite Wilmington area nursery if they are able to order one of these varieties for you. We are all for supporting local businesses when we can.
The ‘Bloomerang’ Lilac from Proven Winners that grows in zones 4-8 and can reach 6ft -10ft high and 3ft-4ft wide. It grows well in full sun and blooms purple flowers in May and late summer. One of the local gardeners I talked to said hers blooms 3 times a year.
Monrovia ‘Blue Skies’ Lilac
The Blue Skies Lilac is a French lilac that grows in zones 3-8. It quickly grows to 10ft tall and 6ft wide. It grows well in partial to full sun and blooms light lavender-blue flowers in the spring. Like other lilacs, it will lose its green leaves in the winter.
Grower’s Solution ‘Palibin’ Korean Lilac
The Palibin Korean Lilac grows in zones 3-8 . At maturity, it reaches 4ft to 6ft high and 5ft to 7ft wide. It has lavender flowers and blooms in the spring. The leaves are slightly smaller than other lilacs and it does not do well in drought conditions, so make sure it gets enough water.
Make sure you give your lilacs 3 years to fully establish themselves. That’s when you’ll see their full blooming potential.
Good luck to all the Southeastern North Carolina lilac lovers out there!
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