The Q&A Archives: Lilac and Crabapple

Question: We moved into a newly built home. Last year the lilacs and crabapple trees bloomed a lot. This year the one of the lilacs didn't bloom at all and the leaves appeared to get cracks in the middle of them and then they open up turned brown along the edges and became curly. I also noticed the leaves on the crabapple are curly and has brown spots too. I've read the questions about only pruning in the spring but what could be causing the leaf problem.

Answer: Stress - either environmental or cultural - can cause the leaf problems. Weather, watering practices, fertilizing and even failure of the roots to establish can all contribute to the symptoms you describe. I'd give them another year to become established. Don't prune either until after they have finished flowering next year. If they don't flower, it would be safe to prune them both in early June. Pruning will encourage healthy new growth which should bloom the following spring.

Water stress should be avoided this year. To make sure your crabapple and lilac get enough, but not too much water, make a watering well or water basin beneath each (mound up 2-3 inches of soil, in a circle, about 12" out from the main trunk or stem). Fill this basin with water, allow to drain, then fill a second time. Do this once each week. Watering in this way concentrates the moisture directly over the root mass and allows it to trickle down and wet the entire root system.

Best wishes with your landscape!

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