New Hampshire State Flower - Purple Lilac

Plant a fragrance garden featuring lilacs.

Plant a fragrance garden featuring lilacs.

While politicians consider New Hampshire a blue state, residents know that it’s purple in May. That's when the lilacs (Syringa vulgaris) are in bloom, and the color is prominent all over the state. The folks in New Hampshire love their lilacs and celebrate the flower with two festivals each year: the Lilac Time Festival in Lisbon on Memorial Day weekend and the Lilacs Along the River celebration at the Wentworth-Coolidge Mansion in Portsmouth.


Lilacs are famous for their heady fragrance, which can fill the springtime garden so heavily that passersby may catch a whiff. While the common lilac is New Hampshire’s state flower, most species and varieties do well in the state. Lilacs are deciduous, either trees or small shrubs, and members of the olive family. New Hampshire’s purple lilac is an edible plant, the leaves of which make a floral-scented tea. The flowers are tasty when battered and fried, in the same manner as squash blossoms.


While the purple lilac isn’t native to the state of New Hampshire, it became a resident early in the state’s history. Brought into this country from England, it was first planted in 1750 in Portsmouth, at the governor’s mansion. When the time came to choose a state flower, the lilac competed against the purple aster, apple blossom, goldenrod and several other flowers. Each flower had its own group of backers, so there was much debate over which would become the state’s flower. The lilac was ultimately chosen, in 1919, because of its hardiness, symbolizing the character of the residents of New Hampshire.

Cultivation Notes

The lilac requires little care once established. It requires no fertilizer, unless you desire a burst of growth, and water only during drought. Keep weeds to a minimum, deadhead old flowers to keep the plant tidy, and prune, if you must, lightly and annually, just after it finishes flowering. New Hampshire’s common lilac grows slower than newer varieties, so don’t be alarmed if yours doesn’t seem to be keeping pace with your neighbor’s.


A common complaint among lilac growers is the plant’s failure to bloom. There are several reasons why a lilac doesn’t flower, the most significant of which is age. The common lilac typically doesn’t bloom until it reaches seven years of age. After that, if it fails to bloom, try growing it in a sunnier spot by trimming overhanging trees or transplanting the lilac. Too much nitrogen in the soil causes the lilac to produce foliage, not flowers, so don’t fertilize the plant if it isn’t blooming. Don’t prune the lilac. It blooms on old wood and may take up to five years to bloom again after pruning.

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  • Lilac image by Ivars Bogdanovs from <a href=''></a>


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