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

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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

QUESTION:

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?

ANSWER:

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

cirrusimage.com

Nebraska Forest Service

 

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