The 'Miss Kim' lilac is a deciduous flowering shrub that produces clusters of very fragrant, lavender-purple panicle-shaped blooms in spring. It has smaller blooms, a shorter mature height, and a different flower fragrance from the traditional common or French lilac (Syringa vulgaris), and unlike the common lilac, it is quite resistant to powdery mildew. Because 'Miss Kim' is a late bloomer, its flower buds are less likely to be damaged by frost. The 'Miss Kim' cultivar is sometimes considered a dwarf plant when compared to other lilacs, but compact would be a better description. This is still a full-sized shrub, but one that is denser and less leggy than common lilacs. A newly planted 'Miss Kim' will also produce blooms sooner than does a common lilac.
This lilac is usually planted as a potted nursery specimen in spring or fall. 'Miss Kim' is a fairly slow-growing shrub that will take three years or more to achieve a mature height of about 5 feet.
|Botanical Name||Syringa pubescens subsp. patula 'Miss Kim'|
|Common Name||'Miss Kim' lilac, Manchurian lilac|
|Plant Type||Flowering deciduous shrub|
|Mature Size||4 –9 feet tall, 5–7 feet wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun|
|Soil pH||Neutral to slightly alkaline (6.5–8.5)|
|Bloom Time||Spring to early summer|
|Hardiness Zones||3–8 (USDA)|
|Native Area||Eastern Asia (Korea, Manchuria)|
'Miss Kim' Lilac Care
Choose a landscape location that enjoys full sun and well-drained soil, then dig a hole that is at least twice as large as the nursery container, place the shrub in the center, and backfill around the root ball with soil. Water thoroughly and apply a mulch of wood bark or compost over the roots but keep the mulch from touching the shrub's stems.
While the shrub is getting established, water frequently. Don't fertilize until it's been in place for at least a month. Once established, this shrub will do fine with a weekly watering (if there has been no rain) and feeding once a year. Pruning is needed only if you want to shape the plant.
'Miss Kim' is a largely trouble-free shrub—even more so than common lilacs. The flower buds and young leaves can be damaged by last spring frost, but the shrub rebounds easily. While more resistant to powdery mildew than other lilacs, 'Miss Kim' still prefers good air circulation.
The 'Miss Kim' lilac, like its cousins, prefers full sun in order to bloom well. It can tolerate some shade, but it won't produce as many blooms. An ideal location receives direct sun for at least six to eight hours per day.
Plant 'Miss Kim' in well-drained soil with a neutral to alkaline soil pH. This lilac does not do well in acidic soil. Ideally, you'll want to work some compost into the soil.
'Miss Kim' requires average moisture, so keep the soil evenly moist. When establishing a new plant, water it well, but after it is well-rooted, the plant will tolerate drying out now and then. Monitor the soil and if the area is dry, provide supplemental water. Watering weekly will be sufficient in most climates, but you might need to water more often in cases of extreme heat. You don't want to over-water or underwater 'Miss Kim' or it might not bloom.
Temperature and Humidity
'Miss Kim' lilacs generally do well in zones 3 through 8, but they aren't good choices for the deep South. This shrub is slightly less cold-tolerant than the common lilac, but it is still reliably hardy down to minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Zone 3 gardeners may want to plant it in a sheltered location. Unlike other lilacs that often develop powdery mildew in humid conditions, 'Miss Kim' is more resistant to fungal problems.
'Miss Kim' should get a small feeding about a month after planting it in the spring, but after than a single annual feeding in late fall is all that's required. Use a small amount of all-purpose, balanced fertilizer.
Types of Syringa Pubescence Lilac
These are two other popular cultivars in the S. pubescens species:
- S. pubescens subsp. julianae 'Hers' has a weeping tree form.
- S. pubescens subsp. microphylla 'Superba' features deep pink flowers. Also known as the littleleaf lilac, it sometimes re-blooms in summer or fall.
Because 'Miss Kim' doesn't produce suckers like Syringa vulgaris does, landscape maintenance is reduced because you don't have to remove suckers to keep the plant contained. Deadheading blooms after they fade will increase blooming the following year, as well encourage as possible reblooming in the current year.
'Miss Kim' lilacs require less pruning than the common lilac, Syringa vulgaris. But you might choose to prune it to shape the plant, to maintain a certain height, or to encourage reblooming. Prune right after the blooming period because 'Miss Kim' blooms on old wood. If you prune too late in the season, you will remove next year's blooms; pruning that is too severe might even reduce flowering for up to three years. But if you find that blooms have reduced in size year over year, a mild pruning performed right after the bloom season will help increase bloom size for the following year.
Propagating 'Miss Kim' Lilac
Like other lilacs, 'Miss Kim' is most easily propagated with young softwood cuttings. Late spring or early summer is the best time to begin propagation by taking cuttings from the tips of actively growing stems. Here's how to do it:
- Using sharp pruners, take 4- to 6-inch-long cuttings from the new growth.
- Strip off the bottom leaves and plant them in a mixture of potting soil, sand, and perlite, with the remaining leaves exposed. Dipping the end of the cutting into rooting hormone helps promote rooting. Roots will emerge from the buried nodes where the leaves were removed.
- Place the pot in a warm location and keep the potting mix damp until a good network of roots is established.
- When roots are well established and new growth has started, transplant the cuttings into larger pots or into the garden.
How to Grow 'Miss Kim' Lilac From Seed
Growing lilacs from the seeds you collect from the dried flower heads is possible, but not very practical. It can take as much as five years for a plant started from seed to reach flowering maturity. Further complicating the issue is that hybrid lilacs (though 'Miss Kim' is not one of them) do not produce seeds that "come true" to the parent plant.
If you want to try seed propagation, collect some of the seed pods from dried flower heads on a mature lilac, and plant them in small pots filled with standard potting mix. Keep the mix moist and set the pots in a moderately warm location that is bright but not in direct sunlight until they sprout. You can start the seeds indoors and grow them through the winter, or save the seeds to sow outdoors in the spring. Once established, the seedlings will need plenty of sunlight to grow.
The seedlings can be nursed in their pots, gradually repotting them into larger containers as needed, until they are large enough to plant outdoors. This can take a couple of years. But be aware that plants started from seeds will likely not bloom for at least four years.
Potting and Repotting 'Miss Kim' Lilac
Lilac shrubs are not a typical choice for container culture, but as a slow-growing and relatively small lilac species, 'Miss Kim' can be used in this way. Use a large, heavy, deep pot—at least 12 inches in diameter. A terra-cotta or ceramic planter will be sufficiently heavy to resist blowing over. Because most potting mixes are somewhat acidic due to the amount of peat moss they include, alkaline-loving lilacs will require that you amend the potting mix by blending in a good amount of agricultural lime before planting—about 1 cup of lime for every 2 cubic feet of potting mix.
A mature lilac is not easy to repot, so it's best to start with the largest pot that is practical. When a potted 'Miss Kim' becomes overgrown and begins to decline, it will need to be repotted into a larger container. Plan to do this every two to four years.
A potted shrub is more susceptible to cold injury than an in-ground plant, so a potted lilac should be moved to a sheltered location if you live in a zone with especially harsh winters. Some gardeners will actually bury the entire pot for the winter; another solution is to heap compost or leaf mulch around the entire pot to insulate it for the winter.
When planted in its established hardiness range, 'Miss Kim' does not require any special winter cold protection. Young plants can be susceptible to winter gnawing damage by rabbits and rodents, so shielding them with a cage made of metal hardware cloth can protect a shrub during its formative years. Once well established, the shrub will no longer need this protection.
In regions where late, hard spring frosts are common, you may want to shelter the shrub with a tent made of canvas or burlap, erected as buds begin to appear in early spring and left in place until all danger of frost has passed.
Common Pests & Plant Diseases
'Miss Kim' lilac has good resistance to most of the pest and disease problems that can plague other lilac species, such as powdery mildew. It can be somewhat susceptible to fungal leaf spots, which can be treated with fungicide and prevented by careful pruning that opens up the inside of the shrub to good air circulation. Less commonly, extremely wet conditions can cause root rot fungus. This occurs most often with soils that are dense and poorly draining.
How to Get 'Miss Kim' Lilac to Bloom
"Miss Kim' usually will flower for several weeks in late spring to early summer. Like most lilacs, the most common reason for lack of blooms is that the plants aren't getting enough direct sunlight. 'Miss Kim' is also very sensitive to soil moisture; they require a "just right" level of water—not too much, not too little—in order to bloom well. Some other possible reasons for disappointing blooms:
- The plant is not mature enough. Lilacs purchased from a nursery are usually several years old already and ready to bloom, but if you happen to buy a specimen that is too young, it may take another year or two before it blooms.
- Badly timed pruning can temporarily disrupt the blooming pattern. These plants should be pruned immediately after they bloom, and if you prune too late in the year, you will remove the "old wood" that forms the basis for the following spring's blooms.
- Young leaves and flower buds are susceptible to frost injury from late spring frosts. This can ruin the flowering for that season, but the shrub will usually return to normal flowering the following spring.
- The soil that is too acidic will reduce flowering. These shrubs prefer neutral to alkaline soil. If your soil is too acidic, a soil amendment such as agricultural lime can help adjust the soil.
Common Problems with 'Miss Kim' Lilac
This shrub has very few serious problems, which is one of the reasons it is so popular as a landscape plant. But although it grows fairly slowly, 'Miss Kim' will eventually become overgrown, which will cause reduced blossoming. When this happens, a good hard rejuvenation pruning, in which all the older stems—or even the entire shrub—is cut back to ground level can help restore it to former glory. It can take a couple of years for the shrub to recover fully, but it will soon reward you by becoming a healthier, more vigorous shrub.
Leaves that dry out and turn brown are usually the result of improper watering. Usually, this occurs during hot, dry periods, when it can be remedied by providing more frequent irrigation for the shrub. Sometimes, however, withering, drying leaves can be caused by a fungal problem that is affecting the ability of the plant's roots to carry water up to the outer branches. If you notice this problem during wet weather, then withhold water and prune off the affected branches.
How can I use this plant in the landscape?
'Miss Kim' is a good choice for planting in full sun gardens where space is limited. It is suitable to be used as a specimen plant, for planting in a mixed shrub border, as a foundation planting, or as a hedge.
'Miss Kim' attracts butterflies and hummingbirds and is also deer-resistant.
Are there other small lilac species I can consider?
Other small lilacs you can consider include:
- Syringa meyeri 'Palibin" is commonly called Meyer lilac or Korean lilac. It is hardy in zones 3 to 7. It grows 4 to 5 feet tall and 5 to 7 feet wide and has pale pink flowers.
- Syringa meyeri 'Tinkerbelle' is hardy in zones 3 to 7. It grows 6 feet tall and wide and has wine-red flowers.
- Syringa x meyeri 'Josee' has a compact, rounded habit. It is hardy in zones 3 to 7. It grows 4 to 6 feet in height and spread and has lavender-pink flowers.
- Syringa x 'Bloomerang' is hardy in zones 4 to 7. It is a true dwarf at just 3 to 4 feet in both height and width. It has purplish-pink blooms and is named for its ability to rebloom. It is considered to be a hybrid of 'Josee'.
Does 'Miss Kim' offer good fall color?
Yes. Unlike many lilacs, 'Miss Kim' has leaves that turn an attractive deep burgundy color in fall.
How long does 'Miss Kim' live?
Like most lilacs, 'Miss Kim' can live many decades. Introduced in the nursery trade in 1954, some of the original plants are still living.
Periodic pruning to remove old, non-productive stems will keep this plant healthy and long-lived.
Syringa pubescens subsp. patula 'Miss Kim'. Missouri Botanical Garden.