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Miss Kim Lilac vs Dwarf Korean Lilac: What’s The Difference?

Nearly everyone recalls the nostalgic fragrance of lilacs in spring, often evoking childhood memories. These charming plants are a common feature in gardening. Nowadays, there is an extensive selection of lilac varieties available. In this article, we will talk about two of the most popular varieties.

Miss Kim Lilac and Dwarf Korean Lilac differ mainly in size and fragrance. Miss Kim Lilac is slightly larger and has a more pronounced fragrance, while the Dwarf Korean Lilac is more compact and has a subtler scent.

Miss Kim Lilac vs Dwarf Korean Lilac

Miss Kim Lilac and Dwarf Korean Lilac

 Miss Kim Lilac Dwarf Korean Lilac
Hardiness zone 3-8 3-7
Mature height 6-8 ft (1.8-2.4m) 4-6 ft (1.2-1.8m)
Mature width 6-8 ft (1.8-2.4m) 5-8 ft (1.5-2.4m)
Growth rate medium slow
Light exposure full sun full sun
Soil moist, drained moist, drained
Soil pH 6.5-7.0 6.8-7.0
Watering One time per week in a drought One time per week in a drought
Diseases fungus fungus
Pests insects insects

Dwarf Korean Lilac is smaller than Miss Kim

A key difference between Miss Kim and Dwarf Korean Lilac is their size. The Dwarf Korean Lilac typically reaches up to 6 feet in height and can spread up to 8 feet wide, though it may be smaller in colder regions. In contrast, Miss Kim Lilac can surpass 8 feet in height and, under ideal conditions, may grow to about 9 feet.

Their growth habits also vary slightly. Miss Kim Lilac tends to have a spherical shape, with its height and width being roughly equal. Conversely, the Dwarf Korean Lilac generally has a wider than taller appearance, resulting in a slightly flattened shape.

Additionally, their growth rates differ. Miss Kim Lilac grows faster, with an annual increase of about 10 inches (25 cm), while the Dwarf Korean Lilac grows around 7 inches (18 cm) per year.

Therefore, Miss Kim Lilac requires somewhat more space than the Dwarf Korean Lilac. However, through pruning, the size of both varieties can be effectively managed.

The blooming time is different

The Dwarf Korean Lilac typically flowers earlier than Miss Kim, with blossoming potentially starting in early to mid-May, varying with the climate and weather conditions.

This early flowering has its pros and cons. It means enjoying beautiful blooms sooner in your garden, but there’s also a risk of late frost damage. In zones 3-4, late frosts can occur as late as late April or early May, potentially harming the blossoms.

Miss Kim, on the other hand, generally starts flowering in the latter half of May. This timing often helps it avoid the late frosts. On average, Miss Kim blooms about two weeks later than the Dwarf Korean Lilac.

An added benefit of the Dwarf Korean Lilac is its slightly longer blooming period. Its flowers can last for about two weeks, compared to just over a week for Miss Kim.

Furthermore, the Dwarf Korean Lilac is more prone to re-blooming. With proper care, such as removing spent blooms, it can flower again in the latter part of summer.

Miss Kim, in contrast, seldom re-blooms. It’s more an exception than a regular occurrence for this variety.

Miss Kim Lilac is more fragrant

Miss Kim Lilac is renowned for its strong and sweet fragrance. This aroma is particularly intense during its blooming season in late spring, filling the surrounding air with a rich, floral scent. The scent is often described as classic lilac, reminiscent of the nostalgic and traditional lilac fragrances.

On the other hand, the Dwarf Korean Lilac, while still pleasantly scented, has a more subtle fragrance compared to Miss Kim. Its aroma is less intense, offering a delicate and less overpowering floral scent. This makes it a suitable choice for those who prefer a milder fragrance in their gardens.

They have differences in leaves

Miss Kim Lilac features larger leaves than the Dwarf Korean Lilac, with lengths up to 1.5 inches (3.7 cm) and a width of about one inch. The shape of Miss Kim’s leaves is elongated due to their length-to-width ratio. They also have a slightly twisted and shiny appearance, adding a decorative element to the plant.

In contrast, the leaves of the Dwarf Korean Lilac are smaller, typically not exceeding 1 inch in size. A distinctive feature of this variety is its rounded leaves, which mostly lack sharp tips, setting them apart from most other lilacs. Additionally, the leaves of the Dwarf Korean Lilac tend to have a slightly darker hue compared to those of Miss Kim.


Miss Kim Lilac exhibits a slightly higher tolerance for warmer climates and can be successfully grown in zones 3 to 8.

On the other hand, Dwarf Korean Lilac is generally recommended for zones 3 to 7, indicating that it may not be suitable for gardeners in zone 8.

While not a major advantage, Miss Kim’s better heat tolerance compared to Dwarf Korean Lilac is notable. It also tends to be less vulnerable to late frosts.

They have a different origin

Miss Kim, one of the earliest dwarf lilac cultivars, originated at the University of New Hampshire using seeds from Seoul, South Korea, in the 1950s. Its formal designation is Syringa pubescens ssp. patula ‘Miss Kim,’ and it’s also known as Manchurian Lilac.

In contrast, the Dwarf Korean Lilac, another popular compact variety, was introduced to the United States from China by Frank Meyer in the early 20th century. Its botanical name is Syringa meyeri ‘Palibin.’ Given their different origins, these two varieties, as their names suggest, belong to distinct species and thus exhibit notable differences.