The Q&A Archives: Struggling Lilac

Question: I have a small lilac tree/bush. Its about 3 feet tall, and not very bushy. I have had it for about 3 years, and it has always done very well in a pot on my patio. Now I have a house, and I planted it in the ground. It gets morning sun, and shade in the late afternoon, so its never too hot. The leaves came this spring, and now, within the last couple of weeks, the leaves have dried up. It looks like its not getting enough water, but we are watering it when it doesn't rain, and that's always been enough. I don't know if I should remove the dead leaves, or replant it... Thanks for your advice! Lindsay

Answer: You didn't say how long ago you transplanted your lilac, but if it was within the last few months, it may still be undergoing a little transplant shock. Lilacs grow best in full sunshine, in neutral to slightly alkaline soil. Since yours was in a pot, it probably was growing in a potting mix rather than garden soil. Most likely your garden soil is more acidic than the potting soil your lilac was used to and it's showing its stress with yellowing leaves. Wilting, even though the plant is watered regularly, can indicate poorly draining soil. I'd dig the lilac, find a sunnier site, amend the soil with a little lime to raise the pH, then replant. When you water (once a week should be fine), apply the water slowly so it percolates down to wet the entire root mass. Don't prune or fertilize your lilac at this point - allow it to become established in its new home and regain its health first. Best wishes with your lilac.

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