Ivory Silk Japanese Tree Lilac

Ivory Silk Japanese Tree Lilac

Syringa reticulata ‘Ivory Silk’

Description & Overview

A small stature tree with beautiful late spring blooms. Creamy white flowers stand out against its dark green foliage. Incredibly fragrant blooms are sure to fill your landscape with a lovely aroma. Ivory Silk Japanese Tree Lilac is hardy for Wisconsin landscapes as they can be established up to Zone 3.

Core Characteristics

Wisconsin Native: No – Introduced
Mature Height: 25 feet
Mature Spread: 15 feet
Growth Rate: Slow
Growth Form: Upright, Pyramidal
Light Requirements: Full Sun
Site Requirements: Prefers moist, well-drained soils but will tolerate alkaline clay soils.
Flower: Fragrant, creamy white panicle flowers.
Bloom Period: June
Foliage: Dark Green
Fall Color: Insignificant
Fruit Notes: Attractive seed heads. Panicle of small capsules which ripen in fall.

Suggested Uses:

Ivory Silk Japanese Tree Lilac is among the top contenders for ornamental trees. A fine addition to any landscape, Ivory Silk’s small stature makes it particularly useful on sites with overhead restrictions such as power lines. It’s also very popular as a garden specimen or an accent in a shrub border.

This tree performs best in moist, well-drained soil, but it has proved quite adaptable. It can tolerate dry sites, alkaline soil, and even road salt. These feats have allowed it to be urban approved and considered an eligible street tree. However, something to keep in mind is the ‘Ivory Silk’ is rather drought intolerant.

You can usually purchase Ivory Silk as a single-stem or multi-stem tree, depending on the desired look and feel of the tree within your site. It flowers later in spring than other trees. With early summer blooms it’s sure to stand out. The bark is somewhat showy as it has prominent lenticels which are reminiscent of Black Cherry.

Wildlife Value:

Ivory Silk Japanese Tree Lilac produces immensely fragrant flowers that bloom in June. These blossoms will attract beneficial insect pollinators, butterflies, and potentially even hummingbirds.

While the foliage provides little food for insects, songbirds may take refuge and build nests inside the canopy. While there are some traits that positively affect wildlife, this tree would not fall into the category of ‘high value’. The primary value of this tree is in its fragrance, urban tolerance, or a unique specimen in any landscape.

Maintenance Tips:

Remove damaged, dead, or diseased limbs, as necessary. If you have a single stem tree, prune off suckers in winter when the tree is dormant using a clean pruner.

Ivory Silk Japanese Tree Lilac is drought intolerant; frequent watering throughout dry periods is a must.


Ivory Silk Japanese Tree Lilac has few problems. The Lilac Borer may cause issues as it primarily attacks the main trunk of the tree. Larvae of the borer will tunnel into larger branches and start feeding on tasty phloem. The damage can cause wilting, particularly on stressed trees. Severely infested branches may become weak and break off. We recommend removing and destroying the infected branches. The best way to combat the borer is to keep your plant healthy and stress-free.

Ivory Silk is generally free of serious diseases, however it may fall victim to common ornamental diseases such as powdery mildew or leaf blotch. Both of which usually occur in rainy seasons and rarely do serious damage or cause mortality. Again, these are ornamental issues.

Keeping the tree watered and stress free is crucial in preventing other diseases such as Verticillium wilt which causes wilting and premature leaf drop. Verticillium may kill one, several, or even all the branches. Be aware when fertilizing! Over applying fertilize, especially those high in nitrogen, can bring on bacterial blight. Keep a close eye on young shoots that develop black stripes and black spots on leaves. Treating bacterial blight in Ivory Silk involves removing and destroying infected areas. You will also want to reduce fertilizer applications.

Leaf Lore:

Syringa reticulata is a species in the Olive (Oleaceae) family. The specific epithet reticulata is Latin for ‘net-like’ or ‘resembling a network’. It was named as such for the cross-hatched pattern of lenticels on its bark. Japanese tree lilac is native to eastern Asia and is quite common in Northern Japan. The ‘Ivory Silk’ cultivar has received the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society’s Gold Medal Award and was named Tree of the Year by the Society of Municipal Arborists in 1997.

Companion Plants:

Japanese Tree Lilac is worthy of many landscapes. Underplanting brightly colored perennials such as Iris, Lungwort, Amsonia, Coneflowers or even Salvia are fabulous accents that help Ivory Silk shine. These are just a few examples as the Japanese Tree Lilac can be paired with a plethora of plants and fit into a landscape quite nicely.

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johnson's nursery plant knowledgebase for the midwest tree logo popout 32x32
johnson's nursery plant knowledgebase for the midwest tree logo popout 32x32
johnson's nursery plant knowledgebase for the midwest tree logo popout 32x32