Lilac tree slow to leaf out . . .

Asked May 22, 2017, 7:53 PM EDT

This is the second year for this Ivory Silk Lilac tree. I planted it May 2015, and last year it did great, but this year it's very slow to produce leaves and some of the higher branches are dead (they just snap off).
What could be going on with it?

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2 Responses

Thank you for the question. Failure of a recently planted tree to grow and thrive is usually due to improper planting and/or insufficient or damaged rootball. This is a great step by step publication on how a tree should be planted and cared for: https://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/fnr/fnr-433-w.pdf

From the photo, the reason for your tree's failure isn't obvious. Stressed trees can often produce a bit of growth for a short time in the spring but quickly run out of energy and die. If the top branches are dry and break easily, the top of the tree is dead. If you planted the tree, you may recognize some mistakes after reading the above article. The tree is small enough that you could dig it up and correct any planting problems, prune off the dead branches, baby it all season and hope for the best. If someone else planted it, it probably has a warranty. I suggest you call them to come look at the tree and replace it.

Thank you for contacting Extension.

Anita - I can't thank you enough for the advice! Unfortunately, the well-known garden center that I purchased the tree from did not give me any instruction as to how to properly plant the tree, nor did they offer any advice when I recently contacted them regarding the issues I was seeing this spring. They flat our did not care. This led me to searching the web for assistance . . . As you predicted, I do see a step that I missed (carving down the circular root system to a box). I will be digging the tree up this weekend and giving it some tender loving care and hope for the best.
Thank you again,
Laura