The common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) is beloved by gardeners for its fragrant lavender flowers. According to Dr. Leonard Perry of the University of Vermont Extension Office, lilacs were first introduced to the United States by European settlers. Hardy to USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 3, they are long-lived and can reach heights of 20 feet or more. If you're feeling adventurous, experiment with one of the many hybrids, including Korean lilac (S. oblata dilatata) or Cut-leaf lilac (S. laciniata). Lilac hybrids produce purple, pink or white flowers and grow from small, compact forms (Meyer lilac) to 30-foot-tall trees (Japanese tree lilac).
Consult your local county extension office for lilac varieties suitable to your area. Lilacs have few needs and grow easily in most parts of the United States.
Consider your goals in planting lilac. Do you want a privacy screen or one small shrub? Since lilacs vary so much in size, choose one whose growth will fit your gardening needs.
Buy container-grown lilacs at local nurseries, garden centers or home stores. Choose 1-gallon varieties for the least expensive option. These smaller plants take 3 to 4 years to mature and begin flowering. For faster results, choose more costly 5-gallon-size plants. Select plants that have healthy, green leaves and strong stems.