Most lilacs are large shrubs that grow 10 to 15 feet tall. Their large size makes them excellent plants for informal hedges and screens. However, their size limits their use elsewhere in the landscape. In the past few years there have been several new introductions of dwarf lilacs. The Fairytale lilacs from Bailey Nurseries have delighted Midwestern gardeners with their compact habits and variety of flower colors. These lilacs are related to the Dwarf Korean lilac (Syringa meyeri 'Palibin') that is commonly used in foundation plantings. Some of the cultivars from the Fairytale Series should be available at local garden centers. Below is a brief description of the four current members of the series.
The most recent introduction is Thumbelina . It is the sweetest smelling cultivar. Flowers are medium pink in bud and then open to a light pink color. Plants are 5 to 6 feet tall and wide at maturity.
Tinkerbelle was the first introduction in the Fairytale series. The flowers are wine-red in bud and open to pink. Its growth habit and bloom time is similar to the Dwarf Korean, which is one of its parents. Fragrance is described as pleasing and spicy.
What would a fairytale be without a prince? Prince Charming lilac has deep wine-red buds that open lavender-pink, giving each flower a distinctive two-tone appearance. The fragrance is described as warm and spicy. Plants reach 5 to 6 feet tall and 4 to 6 feet wide at maturity.
Last, but certainly not least, is Sugar Plum Fairy . It has rosy-lilac flowers and a lovely lilac fragrance. Sugar Plum Fairy is the most compact cultivar in the series growing only 4 to 5 feet tall and wide at maturity.
All of the Fairytale lilacs are hardy to USDA Hardiness zone 3 and overwinter easily in Iowa. They prefer sunny locations with well-drained soils. Fairytale lilacs can be planted singly or in groups in the landscape. They should be popular in foundation plantings because of their compact habit and fragrant spring blooms.
Thumbelina Lilac (Syringa 'Bailina'). Photo courtesy of Bailey Nurseries.
This article originally appeared in the 5/4/2005 issue.