How To Revive A Dying Lilac Bush
Lilac trees are beautiful, with their bountiful blooms and fresh, green leaves. Unfortunately, they have pretty specific requirements when it comes to care, soil quality and water availability. A lack of care or a drought can cause a lilac bush to wither away. However, you should never give up on a lilac bush that appears to be dying. If you follow these steps, you might be able to bring it back to life.
Step 1: Prune the tree.
One of the main reasons why lilacs start to die back is that they are not pruned enough. When dead branches are left on the tree, they leech nutrients and water from the rest of the tree. The younger branches don't get enough nourishment, so they start dying back, too. To end this cycle, you need to prune any dead branches off the lilac bush.
On a lilac bush that's looking a bit worse for wear, you'll have to look closely to know which branches are completely dead and which are able to be revived. To accomplish this, look at the base of the branch. If the base of the branch has any hint of green to it, then that branch is still alive and you do not want to prune it away. If the branch is completely brown and has no leaves left whatsoever, it is completely dead and you should prune it away.
Step 2: Test and amend your soil.
If your lilacs are dying, there's a good chance it's because your soil is the wrong pH. In order to know, you'll need to conduct a soil test. You can find soil testing kits at most home and garden stores. However, if you have a local Cooperative Extension, this is an even better resource for soil testing. The kits these extensions provide tend to have more detailed instructions as to how to amend the soil based on the results of your test.
Conduct the soil test according to the instructions in the packet. You'll need to collect a sample of soil, put it in a special tube or case, and have it sent to the lab for analysis. Take it back to the garden center or Cooperative Extension where you obtained it. They will either analyze the soil on-site or send it off to a lab for testing.
Lilacs prefer a soil pH between 6.5 and 7.0. If the pH is too low, you'll be instructed to add limestone to the soil. If it is too high, you'll need to add sulfur or aluminum sulfate. Instructions included with your original soil test packet or test results will guide you in figuring out how much to add.
Step 3: Fertilize the soil.
Once you know your soil pH is properly adjusted, you can apply a basic 5-10-10 fertilizer to the soil surrounding your lilac tree. A balanced 5-10-10 fertilizer contains equal parts potassium and phosphorus and less nitrogen, which is ideal for lilacs. These are the three most important nutrients for growing plants. Make sure you spread it in a broad circle around the tree so that it leaches into the soil where the roots are located. Be careful not to over-fertilize. Fertilizing the tree once a year is sufficient. It is best to fertilize in the spring if possible.
Step 4: Water your tree.
For the next couple of months until your tree begins making a comeback, make sure you water it daily (unless it rains or the soil is notably wet). Apply the water directly to the ground. Do not spray the lilac tree itself, as this exposes the branches to moisture and may perpetuate fungal growth. Scatter the water in a circle around the tree's base so that it comes into contact with the roots.
If you follow the steps above, your lilac tree should slowly start making a comeback. If you're not confident in your tree pruning or soil testing abilities, you can hire a tree service to complete these tasks for you. Check out websites like http://smittystreeservice.net/ for more information.