KC Gardens

Should I plant another Japanese Lilac?


I had a Japanese Lilac tree planted last fall. This spring it had buds and a few shriveled up leaves on it and then died. Any thoughts on why it died? I would like to replace it but if it is difficult to grow maybe I should choose a different tree. - Cheryl -


  1. 9 months, 3 weeks ago

    Sorry about the rapid demise of your tree, Japanese Tree Lilacs are generally very fairly easy to transplant and a good plant for our area. I cannot say for sure what caused its decline, but I would venture to guess that the tree pretty much died over the winter, and used the little strength it had left to send out a few leaves, and then expire.

    To help determine the reason, you can look back to Where it was planted, and How. This tree, like all lilacs, likes well drained soil in a sunny location. Given the amount of moisture we had over the winter, you might check the drainage at the planting site.

    Next, I would think about the How. Was the planting hole, only as deep as the original root ball, was all burlap, wire, removed? If container grown, was the root ball loosened so as to avoid any girdling roots? Finally was the tree planted at the correct level, with the root flair at ground level?

    One last observation would be that last year the spring and summer were very hot and very dry. If your tree had not been properly cared for before you bought it, it may have already been in decline when you planted it.

    Sorry, I can’t give you a definitive answer. If you can provide the cultural conditions that Japanese Tree Lilacs prefer, I see no reason not to try again.

    Best of luck. Carole Johnson County Extension Master Gardener

  2. 9 months, 3 weeks ago

    I have had a Japanese Tree Lilac for about 10 years. I’ve never had a problem with it. It just gets better and better every year, and when it blooms, I am very glad I planted it! Wonderful fragrance. I haven’t had to give it any extra care over the years either. I would say…..try again! Good luck!

  3. 9 months, 3 weeks ago

    Carole’s answer makes a lot of sense. We have a Northern Bayberry (not Barberry) that I admit didn’t get much supplemental water last summer and fall. There are three in total, and this year, the one in the middle put out female flowers along the stems, and only tiny leaves near the tips. It’s really struggling, and I think it didn’t go into winter with enough food reserves to fully leaf out this year. I’ll baby it this summer as it’s a very large shrub, but I’m not too optimistic.

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