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Location: Uintah Basin

Why did my lilacs die?

I am in zone 6 (I think)--high mountain desert country, with heavy clay soil. Two years ago we put in 7 new bushes, of 3 different varieties. We planted 4 of them against the house (red brick), which is a southern exposure. Of the seven plants, all but two have died. I can't figure out why, but would appreciate suggestions. Thanks!

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Super Green Thumb
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Joined: Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:04 pm
Location: TN/GA 7b

Hard to tell with that amount of information. ... How did they die? In other words what kind of symptoms were they showing. A shrub can't really be fine one day and dead the next; what was happening in between? You planted them last year, when did they start dying?

I am in zone 6 (B) with very heavy clay soil. I have a lilac bush that I believe was new when my house was, about 90 years ago. I don't fertilize it or do anything to it, except a bit of pruning.

Lilacs like full sun, but the southern exposure should have been enough sun so they wouldn't die. Not being full sun might reduce the amount of blooming, but it wouldn't kill them.

Is it very hot there against the brick wall? Are they baking? Lilacs are pretty hardy, but one thing they really don't like is wet feet, having the roots stay wet. How is the drainage around them?

Help us play detective... 7 bushes, 4 against the house. Where are the other 3? 3 different varieties. 5 bushes died. Which ones were they re against the house or not, which varieties died. How are the two remaining ones doing?

Can you post pictures of the two remaining ones (especially if they are showing any symptoms)? Instructions for that are linked in my signature. Do you have any pix of the now dead ones while they were between fine and dead?
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: Facebook page I manage for them: Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

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Posts: 13
Joined: Sun Jan 18, 2009 3:20 pm
Location: NY

Clay soil is usually what causes lilacs to die because people dig down into the ground.

With clay soil, it is best to mound upwards. That way, you don't create a "bucket effect" where water drains into the hole, but runs off. Clay soil is very wet, and stays wet for a long time. This is why you dig only a few inches down, and then mound up.

The symptoms for clay soil is usually smaller leaves, and when you dug up the dead plant, the roots looked like they were rotten or very small and broke off.

Hope this helps :)

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