En Español

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?


Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - July 31, 2010

From: Lehi, UT
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Non-Natives, Trees
Title: Japanese lilac trees in Lehi UT
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Dear Mr. Smarty Pants, We live in Utah and this past spring planted three Japanese Lilac Trees in the lawn next to the deck hoping they would one day provide some shade. They are planted in full sun and in sandy, rocky soil. Their leaves have been brown with crumpled edges for most of the summer. Of late a couple of new shoots have come out the top of the trees with a few blossoms. These trees are obviously not healthy. Help?


The best we can figure out, what you have is the  Syringa reticulata, which this  USDA Plant Profile shows growing in Wyoming, New York State and other northeastern states, but not Utah. Since it is native to (guess what?) Japan, it falls out of our expertise, which is plants native not only to North America but to the areas in which they are being grown. We found numerous websites on this plant, to some of which we will give you links. The closest we can come to speculating on the cause of the leaves browning is that it is likely too arid in Utah for it, and also your soil is probably alkaline. This particular variety is supposedly tolerant of poor soils and alkalinity, but perhaps not that tolerant. Most of all, it needs very good drainage, to prevent water from rain or irrigation from standing on its roots. 

University of Connecticut Horticulture

Backyard Gardener


Nebraska Forest Service


More Trees Questions

Need plants for privacy screen and noise reduction in Dallas.
January 07, 2015 - Our backyard is on the north side of our house and is adjacent to the south side of LBJ Freeway (I-635) in Dallas. TXDOT only constructed an 8' concrete wall along our portion of its expanded right-o...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen groundcover under pine tree in NY
May 23, 2008 - Hello! I live in upstate NY. I'm trying to find an evergreen ground cover to plant under a pine tree. I believe it's a white spruce (but I'm not postive). I've read conflicting information reg...
view the full question and answer

Are leaf margins of Chilopsis linearis toothed from Austin
December 22, 2013 - Are the leaf margins of Chilopsis linearis, Desert Willow, smooth or toothed? The NPIN descrip says willow-like. Most willows have toothed leaf margins. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Stressed live oaks from Lakeway TX
August 19, 2013 - I have some Live Oaks who appear to be stressed (Ball Moss is becoming very prevalent on some of them) during the drought in Central TX. How often and how long should I water them? Thank you very much...
view the full question and answer

Tree for South Dakota
April 24, 2012 - Sir, I am looking for suggestions on a backyard tree, nice shade tree 60-80' height to complement a split foyer house and a flowering crab that is currently there. Low maintenance, with no seeds or c...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center