Miss Kim Lilac | Thinning By Pruning | Qualities To Admire

Miss Kim Lilac, Syringa pubescens subsp. patula 'Miss Kim'
Miss Kim Lilac, Syringa pubescens subsp. patula 'Miss Kim' 

Pruning by thinning is considered the least invigorating type of pruning but is the best at maintaining the natural form of a plant while keeping its size in check. Watch as Kevin prunes a mature Miss Kim Lilac and how it compares to rejuvenation pruning on a Bloomerang Lilac and formal pruning on a Dwarf Korean Lilac.

Miss Kim Lilac, Syringa pubescens subsp. patula ‘Miss Kim’ (Zone 4-8)

Often, before I shoot a video, I’ll do some quick research on the internet to refresh my memory on a plant’s characteristics. I stumbled across a plant forum in a recent search for Miss Kim Lilac, and I was surprised at several gardeners’ disappointment in this lilac variety. I’m of the opposite opinion.

Here’s why I like Miss Kim:

  • A prolific bloomer with an excellent fragrance
  • Deep purple buds with lavender-blue flowers, turning white as they progress
  • An interesting wavy, cup-shaped leaf
  • The foliage has a burgundy-tinged fall color
  • Excellent resistance to powdery mildew
  • Medium to fast growth rate
  • It has a more compact shape than the old-fashioned vulgaris species
  • It is easy to shape by shearing for a beautiful formal look

That’s a lot of positive bullet points! The main reason for the disappointment on the forum thread, seemed to be the smaller flowers on Miss Kim. But as you see in the photos below, their abundance makes up for it.

Syringa vulgaris, mentioned in the bullets, is the Common Lilac. I have lost interest in the common lilac varieties primarily due to their susceptibility to powdery mildew and other more recent fungal problems. They also sucker profusely and do not shape as well if you decide to shear.

The common lilacs do have a lot of varieties with different colors to pick from, though, and the French Hybrid Common Lilacs do not sucker. So, there are still many good reasons to plant this species.

Here’s a look at several photos of Miss Kim throughout the season.

I could have rejuvenated this Miss Kim with similar results to what you see on this Bloomerang Lilac. However, since Miss Kim blooms on old wood, growth that needs an entire season for the flower buds to develop, I decided to prune this shrub by thinning cuts. I did not want to skip a year of flowering by cutting off all the flower buds. I also like the current size and will start annual thinning to keep it in this size range.

You can view other videos on rejuvenation pruning of different species here, here, and here.

Thinning can be a little more time-consuming than rejuvenation, but it is the best choice if you want to enjoy the lilac flowers in the same season.

I usually aim for about 20% of the longest branches pruned out when thinning a shrub.

Other benefits of pruning by thinning include:

  • Improved light and air circulation
  • Encourages new growth on existing branches, leading to a fuller, dense plant
  • The remaining buds receive more nutrients, promoting better flowering and fruiting

As discussed in the video, if you lightly shear your Miss Kim Lilac mid-season, the best time to do this pruning is directly after the shrub has bloomed.

After shearing off the spent flowers and the outer leaves, you will see some new leaf growth. Flower buds will begin to form on that new growth, and you will see blooms the following spring. Don’t wait too long to prune after the blooms have finished. You’ll want to maximize the time needed for flower bud development.

Dwarf Korean Lilac is similar to Miss Kim Lilac but smaller. Both plants are excellent choices if you are looking for a shrub to keep groomed in a formal shape. Below are a couple pictures of Dwarf Korean Lilac that I came across in a Japanese Garden. Flowering is not the primary consideration of these specimens. I’m betting they are sheared twice each season to maintain this effect.

If you like lilacs, I think you'll enjoy this video on Japanese Tree Lilacs.

That’s all for now; thanks for stopping by Garden Hike!


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