Pekin Lilac is the lesser-known relative of the Japanese Tree Lilac (Syringa reticulata). Both are small trees that grow to about 20-30’ tall and wide. Unlike its cousin, which has rather dull gray, unexciting Lawrence Welkish-type bark, Pekin Lilac can have spectacular, shiny, bronze-colored, metal bark that can blow you away. Several cultivars were selected primarily for this outstanding characteristic. They are China Snow® and Copper Curls™. Other cultivars and seedlings of Pekin Lilac have nice bark but are not nearly as spectacular as these cultivars.
Besides its bark, Pekin Lilac has other attractive traits. It has creamy white panicles of flowers that have a sweet fragrance similar to privet. The flower clusters are smaller than those of Japanese Tree Lilac, being about 3-6” in length. The tree is shrubbier in habit than the Japanese Tree Lilac but has a faster growth rate. Pekin Lilac has smaller leaves than Japanese Tree Lilac, giving it a more fine textured appearance than its cousin. It is a tough tree that is great for street plantings. Like Japanese Tree Lilac, Pekin Lilac has few insect or disease problems though it is not especially drought tolerant.
Summer Charm is another outstanding Pekin Lilac cultivar, selected for its impressive creamy white flowers though the bark is not as brightly colored as the previously mentioned cultivars.
At Johnson’s Nursery, all of our top grafted Korean Lilacs (Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin’) are grafted onto Pekin Lilac understock. The trunks will have beautiful bark to go along with the cute little Korean Lilac on top (see image above). However, it must be noted not all of the plants will have equally outstanding bark because of seedling variability.