Best Companion Plants for Lilacs

It’s just about time for the lilacs to bloom here in Central Oregon!  Along with forsythia & dappled willows: lilacs are among the first plants to bloom here in springtime.  Some may think of lilacs as an “old-fashioned” flower.  And in fact, my first introduction to them was through Nancy Drew, in “The Mystery at Lilac Inn.”  But lilacs can find a home in all kinds of gardens: from modern farmhouse styles, to more traditional & cottage gardens.  Here, we’ll find some of the “Best Companion Plants for Lilacs,” to get you inspired for coming spring days…

Best Companion Plants for Lilacs, How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden, How to Create a Modern Farmhouse Garden, The Easiest-to-Grow Plants in Garden Zone 6, Girl Who Gardens

The pretty pink flower in the foreground is one of my favorite flowers: a Common Lilac.


Common Lilac


Quick Overview of Lilacs

  •  Most Popular Types of LilacsCommon Lilacs (also called French Lilacs), Sensation, Bloomerang, Re-blooming Lilacs, & Miss Kim Lilac
  • Hardiness Zones: 3 – 7. Lilacs require a period of cold in order to produce blooms (similar to many fruit trees). Some varieties can be hardy down to Zone 2, while species like “Lavender Lady” can survive the heat of Zone 9.
  • Are Lilacs an Annual or Perennial?  In zones 3 – 7, lilacs are a hearty, returning perennial. They typically come back stronger each year, with little maintenance required.  In any other zone, you’ll only be able to grow lilacs as an annual ~ unless you get a special species bred for your zone.
  • Growth Rate for Lilacs:  Moderate to fast. Most lilacs will grow 1-2 feet per year….which in my book, is pretty fast! Some of the dwarf lilac shrubs will likely be slower-growing. Common lilacs will typically reach maturity within 2-3 years.
  • Mature Size:  The Common Lilac can grow up to 12-15 feet tall, & can often be mistaken for a tree when it reaches maturity! Lilac shrubs typically grow around 4-6 feet tall, & 3-7 feet wide. If they’re in beds surrounded by other plants: this will likely stop them from growing too wide.
  • Preferred Sun Exposure:  Full sun. Plant them where they’ll receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight per day.  
  • Do Lilacs Get Diseases/Have Pest Problems?  Lilacs are unlikely to get diseases, & aren’t a typical pest target. While it’s possible to get powdery mildew: if your lilacs are in a full sun position ~ this shouldn’t be an issue. Also, give them adequate space from other plants to create good air circulation; this should help with any disease issues. The most likely problem you might have with lilacs is that they fail to bloom for a year. And though they don’t typically attract bugs/pests, you can use neem oil if you do see any on your plant for a more organic pest solution.
  • Bloom Time:  May is the month of lilacs!! Depending on your garden zone, this is typically when lilacs are in full & fragrant flower. In Zone 6, my lilacs have tons of buds on them right now (in early April), & will start blooming in mid-to-late April. Some say that lilacs reach their “Peak Bloom” right around Mother’s Day….which is nice timing, especially if you’re hosting a Mother’s Day brunch at your house!
  • Where to Plant Lilacs?  Because of how good they smell: I highly recommend planting lilacs close to the home, in an area that you walk by often…so that in the spring, you can delight in the fragrance. Mine are right off of the master patio, creating a border between that & the dining patio. They’d also be a great hedge by your outdoor dining area. Just make sure they’re in full sun!
  • Easy to Grow?  YES!! Lilacs are one of the easiest plants in my garden, as I do virtually nothing with them. Make sure not to over-fertilize: they really don’t need it. And too much nitrogen can actually harm them, interfering with their blooms. Other than some occasional pruning, lilacs are a pretty much “Set It & Forget It!” kind of plant.
  • How Much Water Do Lilacs Need? Moderate. During their first year, lilacs will need more water to establish. My healthiest lilacs are on the smallest drip irrigation, & thriving. While my lilacs that are under sprinklers tend to be not as healthy ~ overwatering is NOT good for lilacs! If yours is droopy-looking: water it less. An established lilac can handle a bit of drought perfectly well.

Best Companion Plants for Lilacs, Girl Who Gardens

Mature lilacs can grow as tall as a tree! Photo: Gurney’s.

What Garden Styles Work With Lilacs?

 First of all: what kind of gardens do lilacs work well in?  In my opinion, you’ve got a wide range.  They work well in a cottage garden ~ which encourages pretty flowers of all kinds….& the more the better!  It also works well in the slightly more formal French country garden.  And the new Joanna Gaines-style home, which is commonly known as “Modern Farmhouse,” is a perfect candidate for lilacs: to introduce a bit of color.  They can also work in a traditional garden, with say: a row of neatly-trimmed boxwoods. 

And I also think it looks lovely in a more more naturalistic, wild garden ~ mixed with native grasses & such.

So to recap: 

Lilacs Look Great in These Kind of Gardens:

  • Cottage gardens
  • French country gardens
  • Modern Farmhouse gardens (aka the “Joanna Gaines” style)
  • Traditional gardens, when combined with more traditional hedges & shrubs
  • Wild, natural gardens.

panion Plants for Lilacs, Girl Who Gardens

My garden combines French country with cottage style: so lilacs are a perfect fit. Shown here next to a row of foxgloves…


What Garden Styles Don’t Work With Lilacs?

 In my opinion, there are just a few that won’t work with lilacs.  Namely: a drought-tolerant or xeriscaped yard.  As these tend to be in more desert landscapes, such as Palm Springs or Arizona: lilacs also won’t survive there long-term, due to the heat & their need for cold, in order to produce the best blooms.  Also, modern homes with very spare & minimalist gardens aren’t a great fit for lilacs ~ as lilacs lend a more romantic feel….which just doesn’t match a very modern home.

Lilacs Won’t Work in These Kind of Gardens:

  • Drought-tolerant gardens
  • Xeriscaped yards (yards with absolutely no irrigation or sprinkler systems)
  • Modern or minimalist gardens, that use sharp edges & rectangular shapes, in both home & garden.


Great Companion Plants for Lilacs

As lilacs prefer slightly more alkaline soil, avoid planting them next to more acid-loving plants: such as azaleas & rhododendrons (which also prefer part-shade….something lilacs won’t do well in).  Magnolias, gardenia, & blueberry bushes also prefer acidic soil; so keep that in mind when planting.

But here’s what will work with lilacs:

For All-Out Romance, Go For: Roses (pink, white, purple, & yellow all compliment the lilac’s pastel shades); climbing roses; other tall stunners like foxgloves & delphiniums; spring-blooming flowers, such as hyacinths, a bed of color-blocked tulips, or peonies. Purple plants that are easy-to-grow: like lavender, Russian Sage & catmint will start to create a “layered effect” ~ as they bloom after lilacs, keeping purple in the garden for months at a time.  And of course, one of the most romantic flowers of all time: hydrangeas look fantastic near lilacs.  As they may compete for water: plant hydrangeas in a pot by your lilacs!  Whether they’re panicle or big-leaf: hydrangeas & lilacs are one of the most romantic garden pairings.  

To Create Contrast:  In my garden, I’ve used rows of tall evergreens (arborvitae) to create a “background” for my flowering plants, like lilacs ~ which you can see in the photo above.  The dark green row behind the lilacs makes them stand out even more.  A row of boxwoods would create a similar effect.  The key is to find a plant that stays green in your climate year-round!  It could even be a vine. 

And because lilacs grow so tall: I like to pair them with shrubs that are shorter & “fatter,” to provide contrast.  Shrubs like spirea (which can be seen in the photo below), wiegela, dappled willows: anything with a “spreading” habit, will look great next to the taller & leaner lilac.

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From the left, plantings in this bed are: spirea (shorter), lilac (taller), Karl Foerster grass (tall), foxglove (medium), Karl, lilac, spirea. Planting something shorter & wider next to lilacs is a great contrast.

To Create a Sense of Wildness:  Native grasses are the way to go if you want to add “wildness” to the garden.  Karl Foerster grasses are my absolute, #1 favorite: as they’re nearly IMPOSSIBLE to kill!!  Plus, they look great year-round: which helps add interest when your lilac loses its blooms.  Other native grasses that may work well in your garden: blue fescue, pampas grass, Indiangrass, switchgrass, muhly grass, & bottlebrush…to name just a few. 

And they all have very low watering needs, so they won’t compete with the lilacs for water.

Climbing Roses


Native Grasses

Photos of Lilacs for Inspiration

Let’s take one last look at some beautiful lilac arrangments to gather inspiration for your own garden…

Great Companion Plants for Lilacs, Girl Who Gardens

Up-close-and-personal with a Common Lilac.

Great Companion Plants for Lilacs, Girl Who Gardens

You may not think of using lilacs as a hedge: but their height & fast-growth make them a good candidate for a privacy hedge. Photo: Black Gold.

Inspiration Photos of Lilac, Girl Who Gardens

They also make a great, if slightly unusual, cut flower.

The Easiest-to-Grow Plants in Garden Zone 6, Girl Who Gardens

One more shot of my garden: with lilacs in the foreground, dark green arborvitae providing a great contrast for them in the background.

Inspiration Photos of Lilac, Girl Who Gardens

And one final, ultra-romantic shot of lilacs, used as decoration for a wedding. Photo: Unsplash.

Great Companion Plants for Lilacs

As I walked outside, just before “Publishing” this article: I saw my VERY first lilac bloom of the season!!  Pretty good timing!  Make sure to plant them close to your home, to truly appreciate their amazing fragrance all spring long….

xoxo Noelia

Read Next: How to Create a French Country Garden

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