How to Grow the Saint Margaret Common Lilac Bush (Syringa vulgaris)

Name: Saint Margaret Common Lilac
Variety: Syringa vulgaris
Family: Oleaceae
Cultivar: Saint Margaret
Zones: 4 to 8
AHS Heat Zone: Not defined for this plant
Soil Type: Sandy loam to loam
Soil pH: 6 to 7.5
Sunlight: Sun to full sun
Watering: Normal to moist
Fertilizer: Flowering shrub and tree fertilizer
Availability: Sold as live, potted plants.

When to plant: Plant the Saint Margaret Common Lilac at any time during the growing season when there is no danger of frost.

Planting Method
Container: Dig a planting hole twice the size of the root ball and as deep as the soil in the container. Center the Saint Margaret Common Lilac in the planting hole and backfill with soil. Mulch with at least 3 inches of compost or pulverized bark and water well.

Balled and burlapped: If the burlap is synthetic, remove and discard it, as synthetic burlap will not decompose. Dig a planting hole three times the size of the root ball and as deep as the root ball. Center the Saint Margaret Common Lilac in the planting hole. Remove any staples or ties from the organic burlap and fold the burlap down far enough so that it is covered completely when you backfill. Backfill with soil. Mulch with at least 3 inches of compost or pulverized bark and water well.

Bare root: Soak the Saint Margaret Common Lilac's bare roots for at least eight hours to ensure proper hydration. Dig a planting hole as wide as the spread out roots and as deep as the discoloration on the stem. The discoloration shows how deep the plant was previously planted. Backfill with soil. Mulch with at least 3 inches of compost or pulverized bark and water well.

Water the Saint Margaret Common Lilac with at least an inch of water per week. Do not allow the soil to become soggy, but it should stay moist. If you have a problem with excess standing water, create a French drain to help divert excess water to another part of the garden or yard. Reduce watering from late November through early March.

Fertilize the Saint Margaret Common Lilac with phosphorus during the first year. After the first year, fertilize once a year before new growth with a good, all-purpose flowering shrub and tree fertilizer. If a soil test shows low or missing nutrients, fertilize with a nutrient-specific fertilizer. If using organic fertilizer such as fish emulsion, read the instructions on the package, as different brands may have different ingredients and strengths.

The Saint Margaret Common Lilac is a shrub with a spreading, irregular growth habit that produces medium green, oval or heart-shaped leaves and double, showy, fragrant flowers in shades of white.

Verticillium or Fusarium Wilt: Verticillium or Fusarium wilt is a fungus that multiplies during cool, moist seasons. Infected seed, plant matter and soil are all ways this wilt can be spread to other plants. If you overfertilize, you can also cause the plant to contact verticillium or fusarium wilt. This particular wilt also affects weeds. Signs of this wilt do not appear until the weather turns warm and dry. To control this wilt, do not use a nitrogen-heavy fertilizer, keep the garden area weeded and remove infected plants.

Powdery Mildew: Powdery mildew is a fungus that usually affects plants that have low air circulation and inadequate light. It is a bigger problem in the early spring and fall months, when the temperatures swing from high during the day to low at night, especially in zones with a lot of humidity. Powdery mildew forms a white or gray coating on the top-side of the leaves or on the fruit of the plant, making the leaves turn yellow. They eventually curl up and drop off. It makes stunted fruit that drops early. If you suspect powdery mildew, decrease watering, use a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen and keep water off the foliage. Apply fungicides as directed on their packages.

Leaf Spots: Bacteria or fungi cause brown or black spots on leaves. The leaf spots have no particular shape, but the edges look yellow. People, rain and insects spread leaf spots. When the plant is dry, remove the infected leaves. Be sure to keep the plant pruned properly, and clean up any dropped leaves under the plant. Water the plants from below. Leaf spots can also be controlled with fungicide.

Anthracnose: A fungus causes anthracnose - it is the result of a plant infection. It can cause defoliation. Signs include sunken patches on foliage and fruit. Foliage and fruit may also have a gray-brown color to it or have pinkish-tan, slimy spore masses. For prevention, do not over water plants and keep plants staked and allow them to grow on a trellis to help with air flow. Always remove and discard infected plants. Anthracnose can be controlled with a fungicide.

Scale Insects: The small, eighth-inch long scale insect attaches itself to the leaves and stems of plants. While the males have wings, the females do not, and spend their lives attached to the plant, sucking out the juices with their piercing mouth parts. The scale insect excretes honeydew, which causes the plant to have the fungus sooty mold. The sooty mold attracts ants. Cut any infected leaves off the plants. If the stems are also infected, you may have to dispose of the entire plant. You can try to control them with insecticidal soaps or pesticides. You can also introduce parasitic wasps to your garden, as they are the scale insect's natural enemies. Lady beetles are also enemies and may help to control the scale insect population.

Visit for more information on pest control and pictures of pests.

Caterpillars: Caterpillars are heavy feeders and can be quite destructive. They are the immature form of butterflies and moths. Help control caterpillar infestations by removing all weeds around the area and introducing parasitic wasps to the garden. If you are still having problems, certain insecticidal soaps and oils will kill the caterpillars.

Leaf Miners: A leaf miner is the larvae of different bugs - moths, flies and beetles. The leaf miner creates a tunnel between the upper and lower surface of the leaves. They are attracted to vegetables and ornamental plants. To control leaf miners, keep the area well weeded, introduce parasitic wasps and remove and discard infected leaves. Some insecticides may kill leaf miners.

Prune the Saint Margaret Common Lilac in the spring and throughout the growing season for dead and decaying wood and plant matter. This plant has growth buds, so pinching the stem tips encourages foliage growth and lateral flower budding, but stop pinching the stem tips before July, as the following year's buds are produced the previous year.

Saving Seeds
The best way to propagate the Saint Margaret Common Lilac is by dividing the rootball. Carefully dig up the plant, divide the rootball and plant immediately.

Warning: The Saint Margaret Common Lilac is susceptible to blight. Blights are caused by various fungi and bacteria. There are many different types of blight, and each type has its own method of control. Help prevent blight from attacking this plant by keeping it disease- and pest-free.

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