Lilac Sunday

Lilacs at the Arnold Arboretum

Lilac Sunday

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Welcome the Arrival of Spring at the Arboretum


About Of the thousands of flowering plants in the Arboretum, only one, the lilac, is singled out each year for a daylong celebration. Mainly located on the edge of Bussey Hill Road in the heart of the landscape, the lilac collection at the Arnold Arboretum is among the premier collections of these plants in North America. Lilac Sunday has been celebrated at the Arnold Arboretum since 1908.

Tours of the lilacs and family activities are available from 10:00am to 3:00pm on Sunday, May 12. Picnicking is permitted on this day only, but food must be brought in to the Arboretum—no food vendors on site. The landscape is open from dawn until dusk. Print a landscape map.

Street parking along the Arboretum perimeter is limited. Visitors are advised to take public transportation. No unauthorized vehicles are allowed within the gates on weekends.

Some parking spaces outside the gates are designated for special-needs visitors. A limited number of wheelchairs are available on a first-come, first-served basis at information tents in three locations: in front of the Hunnewell Visitor Center, inside the Forest Hills Gate, and inside the Centre Street Gate. They may not be reserved in advance.

Lilac Collection:
With 397 lilac plants representing 179 taxa (kinds), the Arboretum holds one of the premier lilac collections in North America.

Become a member:
Join the Friends of the Arnold Arboretum as a new member at the Contributing level ($50) on Lilac Sunday and receive a special lilac plant while supplies last. Look for the membership tent near the lilacs.


2018 winning design by Julie Pritchard

2018 winning design by Julie Pritchard

Last year’s winning t-shirt design for the Arnold Arboretum’s annual Lilac Sunday event was created by Julie Pritchard, a graphic designer who favors tangible print design. She has created dozens of brand identities over the years for businesses, non-profits, and fun as the art director of her own studio. More recently she has begun designing jigsaw puzzles based on New England coastal history and nautical themes, launching her new company Dashing Dan Puzzles. For Lilac Sunday, Julie’s design celebrated spring renewal and the lilac’s fragrant and fleeting certainty.

At Lilac Sunday 2019, newly designed t-shirts will be for sale in the Hunnewell Building Visitor Center and in the landscape near the lilac collection.

Tours Enjoy the lilacs and explore other featured collections at the Arboretum. Tours last about 45 minutes and include general Arboretum tours, tours of the lilacs, and more.

Self-Guided Lilac Tour
Signs in the landscape feature specific lilacs to reveal the amazing diversity of this special collection.

Other 10:00am–3:00pm
Become a member of the Friends of the Arnold Arboretum at the Household level ($50) and receive a free lilac.

Explore on Your Own
Conifer Path showcases the diversity of coniferous plants from temperate regions around the world including the dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) and golden larch (Pseudolarix amabilis). Mobile tour »

The Bonsai & Penjing Collection is a historic collection of Japanese dwarfed trees—some specimens are over 275 years old.

The Malus Collection (apples/crabapples) on Peter’s Hill bloom in white and shades of red ranging from pale pink to deep purplish rose creating a spectacular display among our 445 plants in this collection. Mobile tour »

Rhododendron Dell at the foot of Hemlock Hill is a contemplative landscape showcasing the Arboretum’s core collection of hybrid and evergreen rhododendrons. Mobile tour »

Kids 10:00am–3:00pm
Family Activities
—Hunnewell Lawn

  • Lilac memory card game
  • Design your own Mother’s Day card
  • Lilac and pollinator temporary tattoos
  • Fragrance tests
Food Lilac Sunday is the one day of the year that picnicking is allowed at the Arnold Arboretum, so pack your picnic basket, grab a blanket, and plan to stay for the day. Or plan to eat at one of the many area restaurants in Jamaica Plain, Roslindale, West Roxbury, and Brookline.
Press Please contact Jon Hetman for further information, additional images, or press queries.

Lilac Sunday 2018 Press Release [pdf]
Publicity Image 1 [Credit: Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University]
Publicity Image 2 [Credit: Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University]
Publicity Image 3 [Credit: Arnold Arboretum of Harvard University]
Lilac Collection at the Arnold Arboretum
Lilacs–Plants of History, Plants of Tomorrow
Best Lilacs for New England Gardens