'Ivory Silk' Japanese Tree Lilac - A Tree for All Seasons

Ivory Silk Tree Lilac photo from Arbor Hill Tree Nursery 

Years ago I moved to Northern Vermont  (Montpelier) and worked as a landscape designer for a design / build firm there.  I soon discovered that my 'plant palette' was greatly altered due to the colder climate. 

I had to learn about cold hardy plants - and fast.

One of my favorite cold hardy discoveries that has remained a favorite of mine is the ornamental tree,  'Ivory Silk' Tree Lilac  (Syringa reticulata "Ivory Silk" ). 

This small flowering tree, which grows no taller than 25 feet, was selected by Sheridan Nursery of Ontario, Canada in 1975 as a compact cultivar of Japanese Tree Lilac.

 It needs full sun and is hardy to USDA Zone 3!

I love 'Ivory Silk' because it flowers later than other flowering trees and has spectacular creamy white, fragrant flowers borne in abundance in 6" - 12" long clusters. 

In my part of the world it blooms from June to July.  The fragrance is similar to a common lilac.

I also admire its lovely upright oval form. This is quite different from the spreading habits of the other small flowering trees such as dogwoods, cherries, magnolias and crabapples.

The leaves are fairly large and dense. It has no disease or insect problems and is adaptable to a wide range of soils and exposures. Ivory Silk can be used as a patio tree, lawn specimen or even as a small street tree. 

Since they tolerate a wide range of conditions, they are great in urban areas, including as parking lot or boulevard plantings.

'Ivory Silk' Japanese Tree Lilac won the Cary Award in 2000 for outstanding plant for New England gardens. 

But there are also a few others to consider as well:

 'Chantilly Lace' - A form with variegated foliage, the leaves of this plant feature a pale creamy yellow perimeter. 

 'Cameo Jewel' - is a variegated form with yellow-cream splashed foliage.  'China Gold', and 'Golden Eclipse' all offer variously gold-margined or gold-spotted young foliage, which usually matures to a muted green.

 'Summer Snow' - A more compact, rounded tree, this form reaches 20' tall with large flower panicles. Its toughness and small size may make the plant a good street tree.  It came from Schichtels' Nursery near Buffalo, NY.

 'Morton' - trademarked as 'China Snow' is from the Chicagoland Grows Program and is noted for its tolerance of drought, extreme cold, and de-icing salts, combined with its narrow habit, and attractive, cherry-like bark.

Summer Charm® Tree Lilac (Syringa pekinensis ‘DTR’ 124) which bears profuse white blooms similar to those of Ivory Silk Japanese Tree Lilac. However, its lustrous dark green foliage is finer textured than that of ‘Ivory Silk’ and has a more rounded, relaxed form. Hardiness is USDA Zone 3.


  1. This tree is lovely and sounds like a winner, especially in cold climates. I live in a temperate climate and my favorite flowering tree is the jacaranda.

  2. I love Jacaranda too! too cold here for it where I live....


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