Floridata Plant Encyclopedia

A Floridata Plant Profile 1285 Syringa meyeri

Common Names: Meyer lilac,dwarf Korean lilac Family: Oleaceae (olive Family)
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Meyer lilac
Meyer lilac flowers are fragrant and persist on the shrubs for 2 to 3 weeks in spring.


Meyer lilac is a rounded and compact little shrub getting up to 5 or 6 ft (150 or 180 cm) in height and 4 ft (120 cm) or more across. Most specimens are considerably smaller. The young stems are four-sided and hollow, and the leaves are oval with wavy margins. The leaves are about an inch (2.5 cm) long, and arranged opposite one another on the branches. The leaves are deciduous, dropping in fall with little color change. The inflorescence is a showy cone shaped panicle 2-4 in (5-10 cm) tall, made up of rose-pink or violet-purple (dare we say lilac?) flowers. The individual flowers are tube shaped, about a half an inch (13 mm) long and fragrant, although not quite as strongly scented as some other lilac species.

Dwarf Korean lilac (Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’), sometimes incorrectly marketed as S. palibiniana, S. patula or S. velutina, is smaller and slower growing than the species but has larger flower clusters. Dwarf Korean lilac is sometimes grafted atop a 4 in (1 m) standard, creating a cute little lollipop tree. This is likely the only cultivar of Meyer lilac available in much of the US. Harder to find, the cultivar, ‘Superba’ tends to bloom with dark pink flowers all spring and summer and into early fall. Worth looking for!


Syringa meyeri was found growing in a botanical garden near Beijing in 1909, by Frank Meyer who was working for the USDA as a plant collector. The species has not been found in the wild.


Light: Lilacs do best in full sun. Meyer lilac will survive in part shade, but it won’t bloom as well. Moisture: Meyer lilac needs a rich, fertile soil that is neutral or even alkaline, but not acidic. They like regular watering, but the soil needs to be well drained. Regular mulching helps to retain moisture in the soil around the roots. Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 - 7 . Meyer lilac can be grown in zone 3, but the early flower buds can be damaged by a late freeze. Propagation: Try starting fast growing stem tips under mist, in spring. Good luck: Lilacs are difficult to start from cuttings. Layering has proven successful. Seeds should be sown as soon as they ripen, or stratified moist and cool for 2 or 3 months before sowing.

Meyer lilac shrub
Meyer lilac shrub in bloom
Meyer lilac standard
Meyer lilac is handsome even when not in bloom as demonstrated by this handsome lollipop speciman (shrub grafted onto a standard).


The lilacs, with their springtime flower clusters in striking shades of, well, lilac, make outstanding specimen shrubs. Lilacs are useful in casual hedges and in small groupings. Meyer lilac is one of the smallest of the lilacs, and is good for foundation plantings and as a potted patio plant. This is a compact and densely foliated shrub with a medium-fine texture. Meyer lilacs grow slowly, staying small and tidy, and rarely in need of pruning. These are precocious little shrubs, blooming within their first year and as small as 12 in (30 cm) in height. The dense and compact Meyer lilac can be literally covered with flowers for two weeks in spring. Not only that, they often bloom twice in a single season. This is a fine shrub for use in a border around a bed of taller flowers and shrubs. Plant a cluster of three for an eye catching center of attention in a small yard.

If you remove the spent flower clusters right after blooming, you should get even more flowers the following year. Meyer lilac is more resistant to diseases, including mildews, than other lilacs.


There are a couple dozen species of lilacs occurring naturally from southeastern Europe to the Himalayas and eastern Asia.

The famous plant explorer, Frank Meyer, introduced some 2500 plant species to cultivation in the United States. Frans Nicolaas Meijer was born in 1875 in Amsterdam and emigrated to the United States in 1901 after establishing himself as an accomplished plant explorer. He was hired by the United States Department of Agriculture in 1905 as a collector of economic plants in eastern Asia. He made four expeditions to China before dying there under mysterious circumstances in 1918.

Some of Meyer’s introductions are: Soybeans, Chinese cabbage, water chestnuts, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts and many other Chinese edibles. Among his ornamental finds: Meyer lemon (Citrus meyeri), Chinese elm (Ulmus parvifolia), Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila), Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana), Chinese chestnut (Castanea mollissima) , pistachio  (Pistacia chinensis) and Meyer lilac.

Steve Christman 5/17/17

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Syringa species profiled on Floridata:

Syringa meyeri

( Meyer lilac,dwarf Korean lilac )

Syringa reticulata

( Japanese tree lilac )

Syringa vulgaris

( common lilac, French lilac )

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