I have had several calls in recent weeks of lilacs whose leaves are turning brown and appear to be dying.
Upon closer inspection, many times it does not appear to be a disease, but an abiotic condition caused by the unusually wet, cool spring weather and now the relentless, dry and HOT summer we are currently experiencing.
The entire bush is probably not dead, but going in and cleaning out some of the dead branches and giving the bush a good soaking of at least an inch weekly will help it to survive, recover and return next spring.
It is not uncommon for older lilac bushes to need a good pruning by being cut off near the ground. The healthy growth will return next spring and give you even better, fragrant blooms.
You can chop the whole thing back to about six or eight inches high. It sounds drastic, but lilacs are very hardy. The downside to this option is that it takes a few years to grow back. The upside is less work and more reward, as the lilac will grow back bursting with blooms.
For more information, contact the Ford County Extension Office or visit us online at www.ford.ksu.edu.