Lilacs that typically are a shade of purple looked paler in the spring of 2022. (photo/Cindy Hadish)

Numerous Iowa gardeners have noticed a change in the color of their lilacs this spring.

Normally purple lilacs, to quote Procol Harum, turned a whiter shade of pale.

The perfumed blossoms, a springtime favorite, still carried their fragrant scent, but didn’t look as colorful as in previous years.

Linn County Master Gardeners covering the “hortline” said they have received several messages regarding the color of lilacs recently.

Aaron Steil, consumer horticulture extension specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, calls the phenomenon a “perfect storm” of environmental conditions that much of Iowa experienced this spring.

“Many plants, including lilac, will have flowers that change color as they age. In many plants, pink will fade to a peachy yellow. Older flowers could develop into this color,” Steil wrote in an email. “Extreme weather can also influence flower color. Intense heat (which much of the state had this last week) can fade pink or purple flowers to a yellow. I suspect the rapid and rather intense heat at a specific time in the development of the flowers caused the blooms to fade to yellow/white.”

Steil added that nothing can be done to fix the color issue, and it should not threaten the overall health of the shrub.

“Simply continue to provide consistent care for the shrub,” he wrote. “Provided that the same weather conditions don’t happen next year, the shrub should bloom its typical color next season.”

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