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Peking lilac

Peking lilac has attractive, peeling bark.

The Peking lilac is a dependable urban tree and a great choice even for parking lot, boulevard, and parkway plantings. Native to Asia, it is both hardy and beautiful, with attractive, amber-colored, peeling bark. In early summer, when many shrubs and trees are done blooming, it has large, creamy-white, honey-scented flower clusters.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.

Botanical name:

Syringa pekinensis

All common names:

Peking lilac, Pekin lilac

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Planting Site:

  • Residential and parks,
  • City parkway,
  • Wide median,
  • Under utility lines

Tree or Plant Type:

  • Tree


  • Deciduous (seasonally loses leaves)

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Utility,
  • Specimen,
  • Shade tree,
  • Parkway/street

Size Range:

  • Small tree (15-25 feet)

Mature Height:

15-20 feet

Mature Width:

10-15 feet

Light Exposure:

  • Full sun (6 hrs direct light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 3,
  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Occasional drought,
  • Alkaline soil,
  • Clay soil,
  • Road salt

Acid Soils:

  • Tolerant

Alkaline Soils:

  • Tolerant

Salt Spray:

  • Tolerant

Soil Salt:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Drought Conditions:

  • Moderately Tolerant

Poor Drainage:

  • Intolerant

Planting Considerations:

  • May be difficult to find in nurseries

Ornamental Interest:

  • Spring blossoms,
  • Fragrant flowers,
  • Showy fruit,
  • Showy flowers,
  • Attractive bark

Seasons of Interest:

  • early summer

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Fragrant,
  • White

Shape or Form:

  • Multi-stemmed,
  • Oval,
  • Round,
  • Upright

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

Transplants Well:

  • Yes


  • Butterflies,
  • Hummingbirds,
  • Insect pollinators

More Information:

Tree & Plant Care

Prune after blooming for best flowering the following year.
Tolerant of both acid and alkaline soil.  Avoid wet sites.
Fairly drought tolerant once it is established.

Disease, pests, and problems

Nothing serious.

Disease, pest, and problem resistance

Shows some resistance to common lilac problems like powdery mildew and borers.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to China.

Bark color and textureting

Bark is a cinnamon or amber color and is mildly exfoliating (peeling).

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, texture, and color

Simple, opposite leaves with entire margins; 2-4 inches long.
Fall color is minimal (yellow-green).

Peking llilac produces large clusters of tiny flowers in late spring.
Peking llilac (Syringa pekinensis)
photo: John Hagstrom

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Small, creamy white, fragrant flowers held in large clusters (6 to 12 inches high).

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Dry capsules, usually in large enough quantity that they add some interest to the late summer landscape.

Cultivars and their differences

Beijing Gold® Peking Lilac (Syringa pekinensis 'Zhang Zhiming'):  This cultivar has creamy-yellow flowers; attractive, cinnamon-colored bark; and unique yellow-gold fall color.

China Snow® Peking Lilac (Syringa pekinensis ‘Morton’):  This cultivar has excellent exfoliating amber-colored bark and a rounded habit.  Selected from the collections at The Morton Arboretum and introduced through the Chicagoland Grows® introduction program.

Great Wall Peking Lilac (Syringa pekinensis ‘WFH2’): 20 feet high by 12 feet wide with an upright, oval habit; yellow fall color.

Summer Charm® Peking Lilac (Syringa pekinensis ‘DTR 124’): 20 feet high by 15 feet wide, with somewhat rounded form.  Finer foliage texture.

Location of Syringa pekinensis (Peking lilac) at the Arboretum