Japanese Skimmia, also known as Skimmia japonica, is a fantastic evergreen foundation shrub that offers multiple seasons of interest, low care requirements and general durability.
As its name indicates, it is originally from Japan and other parts of Asia, but also has a huge presence in landscapes in Metro Vancouver. It is known for its leathery, oblong, somewhat fragrant green leaves, striking flower buds, masses of small fragrant flowers, and on female plants an added bonus
Skimmia plants are either male or female. Male skimmia produce colourful buds and blossoms, while females do that and more. Female skimmia also deliver colourful, bright red berries in late fall and winter. One male can pollinate several females so draw up your planting plan accordingly.
Skimmia plants are generally forest dwellers. They prefer locations in part shade, with little direct sun. In areas of extreme shade, they will become long and leggy. In the Pacific Northwest, we find that skimmia's will tolerate the full sun if kept slightly moist. If the skimmia leaves begin to turn yellow, it could be an indication it is getting too much sun.
Skimmias are a natural compliment to rhododendrons, pieris, ferns and many other northwest natives. They prefer a moist, but well drained acidic soil that is rich in organic matter. Alkaline or sandy soils can also be troublesome. Water regularly in the hot summer season as the plant resents drought.
In good conditions, they will grow to 3-5 feet in height and spread. They are slow growing so do not generally need pruning to maintain size or shape. Prune away dead, damaged or diseased wood if needed.
Skimmia plants are generally low maintenance, but can be susceptible to aphids and spider mites. Use an insecticidal soap and occasionally use a sharp spray of water to blast away unwanted insects. If you skimmia leaves are going yellow, it could be one of four things. Too much sun, a nutrient deficiency, alkaline soil or a pest infestation. Move the skimmia into more shade, feed with an acidic fertilizer and check to see if any bugs or pests are present. If you are not getting any red berries, ensure that your plant is a female variety and that there is at least one male skimmia nearby.
Feed skimmia's with a general purpose, balanced fertilizer in early spring as new growth begins. If in doubt, use a Rhododendron food like Art's Garden Pro Rhodo and Azalea Food. This special formulations serves to acidify the soil while it feeds.
Growing Skimmia in Containers
As a slow growing plant, Skimmia shrubs are ideal container plants. Just remember to keep the soil acidic, moist but well drained, and site the pot out of the direct sun.
View our skimmia product list
If you have any questions about growing skimmia, please give us a call during business hours at 604.882.1201. Better yet, visit Art's Nursery in person and have a look at our fantastic selection of skimmia plants.