We planted a bunch of lilac bushes from Home Depot about two weeks ago but they seem to be dying. See the picture below. Our dirt around here seems pretty poor so we added a few shovels of organic dirt from Home Depot and a shovel full of rabbit poo into each hole.

My wife checks the plants every day and waters them for 10-15 seconds each morning if the dirt looks dry, which is the only water they get being 1 to 5 feet outside the range of our sprinkler system.

Any idea what is wrong and how to save them?

enter image description here

  • How much water have they been getting? A plant that size might need 10 gallons to give the ground a good soaking. Just wetting the surface won't do any good, the water needs to get down to the root level. One gallon of water per square foot is equivalent to about half an inch of rainfall.
    – alephzero
    May 26, 2020 at 23:57
  • 2
    10 - 15 minutes would be more useful than 10 - 15 seconds IMO.
    – alephzero
    May 27, 2020 at 9:32

1 Answer 1


They're suffering from drought; if you dug one up you'll likely find the rootball is dry. When you first plant a shrub (or any woody based plant) if it's not cool and damp ongoing, they need watering deeply once a week, more often if it's hot and dry. Leave the hose trickling at the base of each plant for at least an hour, moving it slightly to cover all the base of the plant. It is better to water deeply less often than a little bit frequently, because you want the plant to put down roots into the soil to seek out its own water. If you water a little and frequently, the roots will sit near the surface of the soil, waiting for someone to come along and give its daily watering... You will need to do this until winter arrives and possibly next year too - it takes a couple of years for a good root system to form.

  • Watch the soil's pH, too. Lilacs can be fussy - they tend to like a narrow pH range of 6.5 to 7.5.
    – Jurp
    May 27, 2020 at 11:37
  • I've ordered a ph tester. and soaked the bushes with 1 hour of the hose. I'll keep soaking them once a week for the rest of the summer. Do you think they will recover? They look pretty far gone. May 28, 2020 at 20:39
  • With luck they will hang on - you may find the topgrowth you have dies back completely, but hopefully new shoots will arise off the roots at the base.
    – Bamboo
    May 29, 2020 at 9:02

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.