Photo by Melody

PlantFiles: Preston Lilac
Syringa x prestoniae 'James MacFarlane'

Family: Oleaceae (oh-lee-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Syringa (si-RING-gah) (Info)
Species: x prestoniae (pres-TON-ee-ay) (Info)
Cultivar: James MacFarlane

3 members have or want this plant for trade.


8-10 ft. (2.4-3 m)
10-12 ft. (3-3.6 m)

6-8 ft. (1.8-2.4 m)

USDA Zone 2a: to -45.5 C (-50 F)
USDA Zone 2b: to -42.7 C (-45 F)
USDA Zone 3a: to -39.9 C (-40 F)
USDA Zone 3b: to -37.2 C (-35 F)
USDA Zone 4a: to -34.4 C (-30 F)
USDA Zone 4b: to -31.6 C (-25 F)
USDA Zone 5a: to -28.8 C (-20 F)
USDA Zone 5b: to -26.1 C (-15 F)
USDA Zone 6a: to -23.3 C (-10 F)
USDA Zone 6b: to -20.5 C (-5 F)
USDA Zone 7a: to -17.7 C (0 F)
USDA Zone 7b: to -14.9 C (5 F)

Sun Exposure:
Full Sun

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Color:

Bloom Time:
Mid Spring
Late Spring/Early Summer


Other details:
This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds
Flowers are fragrant
Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater
Flowers are good for cutting

Soil pH requirements:
6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)
6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)
7.6 to 7.8 (mildly alkaline)

Patent Information:

Propagation Methods:
By dividing the rootball
From softwood cuttings

Seed Collecting:
N/A: plant does not set seed, flowers are sterile, or plants will not come true from seed

Click thumbnail
to view:

By langbr
Thumbnail #1 of Syringa x prestoniae by langbr

By langbr
Thumbnail #2 of Syringa x prestoniae by langbr

By Todd_Boland
Thumbnail #3 of Syringa x prestoniae by Todd_Boland


2 positives
3 neutrals
No negatives

Gardeners' Notes:

Neutral coriaceous On Mar 28, 2015, coriaceous from ROSLINDALE, MA wrote:

The Preston lilacs bloom 2 weeks later than common lilac (S. vulgaris) and are often said to be one zone hardier (to Z2, though Dirr does not agree). They may be useful in Z2, and for extending the lilac season in a lilac collection.

However, the fragrance is quite unlike that of common lilac, and to my nose much less pleasant, more like privet.

Healthy leaf color is dark green. Plants with yellowish foliage have a health problem.

Like other lilacs, these require well drained soil and are no more tolerant of wet soil than other lilacs.

These hybrid lilacs originated in crosses between S. villosa and S. reflexa. They are not descended from common lilac (S. vulgaris), and have a different fragrance.

Positive NancyMcD On Oct 30, 2011, NancyMcD from Grand Marais, MI wrote:

We love this lilac. The almost-pink flowers are beautiful and fragrant. The deer don't like it much, so they eat the common lilacs and let the Preston hybrids alone. It never suckers, which means you can grow it in a garden bed with no worries. It never mildews. Nothing bothers it. It should be much more widely used. Here, at least, on the south shore of Lake Superior, it's rock-solid cold hardy.

Positive amuscledskier On Jun 9, 2010, amuscledskier from Sagle, ID wrote:

This Preston Lilac is GOING OFF right now in my garden, just as my French (Vulgaris) varieties are on their way out... The one that is prolific right now is not the MacFarlane (which seems to be a slow grower here), but is light pink in bud, opening to near white. I'd love to know what cultivar it is. Research online has turned up little. 5 years ago when I planted it from a 5 gallon pot, it was 3 ft tall. Now it's 8 ft at least, and 6 wide! I love the shape, which is very even, and have 2 clematis that scamper through it(one being Mme. Julia Correvon). I also appreciate that it does not sucker, as it is placed in a very centrally viewed mixed border. A great plant that has really grown and flourished where it is situated. As for the James MacFarlane... well, he's a slow one, but he gets a little less regular watering as well.

Neutral JulieKane On May 31, 2007, JulieKane from Hillsdale, NY (Zone 5b) wrote:

Have this shrub at the back of my "English" garden, inherited from the previous owner. It is tagged "Syringa x Swegiflexa James MacFarlane," but my research suggests that it is the same plant as S. x Prestoniae. It has a stiffer, more upright habit than the common lilac and suffers tip dieback in our winters (zone 6b but quite an exposed position). On the plus side, it repeat blooms in October here.

Neutral langbr On May 15, 2004, langbr from Olathe, KS (Zone 6a) wrote:

Blooms about 1-2 weeks after the common lilac (Syringa vulgaris). This species also tolerates wetter soils than common lilac so moist areas are fine. Leaves are much more yellow-green (chartreuse) than your typical lilac.


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Deer, Arkansas
Commerce City, Colorado
Sagle, Idaho
Olathe, Kansas
Grand Marais, Michigan
Petoskey, Michigan
Lincoln, Nebraska
Hillsdale, New York
Webster, New York
, Newfoundland and Labrador
Mount Hood Parkdale, Oregon
Portland, Oregon
Aberdeen, South Dakota
Bellingham, Washington
Vashon, Washington

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