Skimmia – the perfect winter plant


Skimmia (Skimmia Japonica) is one of the unsung heroes of the garden and a great, low maintenance all-rounder – making it November’s Plant of the Month.

It’s a small, evergreen shrub with neat, aromatic dark green leaves and clusters of flower buds, which will add colour and texture to your winter garden.

Skimmia is in the plant family Rutaceae, which also includes the citrus fruits, lemon, orange and grapefruit. Although Skimmia doesn’t produce anything edible, it does share a similar aromatic leaf.

It flowers in April and May, providing a vital source of food for insects and making it particularly useful in a wildlife garden. However, Skimmia’s tidy, evergreen nature makes a great winter plant allowing you to create colour, structure and fragrance in garden styles ranging from contemporary, minimalist spaces to picturesque cottage gardens.

Plant of the moment - November - Skimmia

Skimmia originally heralds from China and Japan, so it also fits in perfectly with a part-shaded Japanese style garden.

The real beauty of Skimmia is that it’s extremely low maintenance and will thrive and provide evergreen structure in conditions where other plants would struggle. It prefers a part shady position with adequate moisture, but can also do well in complete shade, providing the light levels and drainage are good. However, Skimmia doesn’t like full sun and its leaves can burn easily. It never becomes unruly and needs little or no pruning.

The Skimmia Japonica ‘Rubella’ variety has pretty red buds in late winter that open to tiny white flowers in spring. ‘Rubella’ is the male form, so won’t produce berries itself as it needs a female cultivar to produce berries. If you do plant both male and female cultivars - or one of the self-fertile plants, Skimmia Japonica subsp. ‘reevesiana’ or ‘Temptation’ - you’ll enjoy a wonderful display of red berries that will last right through the year until new flowers appear next spring.

Top tips for growing Skimmia:

  • For the best results in containers, plant Skimmia in an ericaceous compost or John Innes no. 3 and make sure you keep it well watered until it becomes established.
  • If you’re growing Skimmia in containers, give it a boost every few months using a fertiliser for ericaceous plants.
  • Skimmia can live for up to 50 years if the conditions are right and won’t need any pruning, so it’s ideal for a low maintenance garden.

Skimmia goes well with:

  • Hellebores in a woodland setting
  • Other ericaceous shrubs, eg. Rhododendron or Azaleas
  • Spring flowering Primula vulgaris and Erythronium
  • White daffodils
  • Snowdrops
  • Spring bulbs
  • Ferns for textural contrast

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