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October Plant of the Month | Skimmia

Skimmias are versatile, low-maintenance, evergreen shrubs suitable for almost any garden. They are excellent for autumn – winter planting.

Originally native to Japan, China and Southeast Asia, the rounded shrubs have glossy leathery leaves with fragrant flowers in early spring that can be cream or white. Female plants produce small round red or white berries in the autumn, while male varieties produce showy flower buds.

Skimmias are hard-working structural shrubs that tolerate frost and drought conditions and are loved by bees and butterflies. One important note of caution, though – the berries are toxic if eaten.


Top Varieties

Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’

This male form is hard to beat for year-round perfection. Produces panicles of red buds throughout autumn & winter and fragrant white flowers in the spring RHS AGM.

Skimmia japonica subsp. Reevesiana

Compact plant with slightly aromatic leathery leaves.  Produce clusters of small fragrant flowers in the Spring following by red berries in the autumn and throughout winter.

Skimmia japonica ‘Obsession’

A new, self-fertile variety that produces scented flowers in the spring and red berries combined with red flower buds in the autumn.

Skimmia japonica ‘Fragrans’

The variety to choose for fantastic scent. Compact variety with dark green aromatic leaves and dense clusters of fragrant white flowers


Skimmia Factfile

Flowering / fruiting time: Flowers from early spring. Flower buds or berries (depending on whether a male or female cultivar) in autumn and all through winter.

Sun Requirements: In general, Skimmias prefer shady spots

Soil: Happy in most soils. For chalk soils, it is recommended to add extra feed or a top-dressing of well-rotted manure.

Hardiness: Hardy in most parts of the UK, often down to -15°C

Eventual size (height x width): Varieties typically grow to a maximum size of 1-1.5m x 1-1.5m


Plant Care

Skimmias are, in general, low-maintenance and disease-free plants.

Water thoroughly in the pot before planting and water well in the first year to establish. Plant in a soil mixed with an organic improver, such as Hillier Multi-Purpose Compost, and a suitable fertiliser.

Skimmias rarely require pruning, but you can trim and shape before growth appears in spring and once berries have passed their best (on female cultivars) to keep neat and encourage more flowers.


Complementary Planting Ideas

Create an exciting autumn/winter garden by planting together in borders with other plants of seasonal interest e.g. Cornus alba or sericea and Ericas.

Skimmias are also excellent in pots and winter containers. Placed by the front or back door around Christmas time, they bring the season to life. For a festive combination, plant together with Winter-flowering Hellebores. Another great winter combination is with Leucothoe and Ajugas.


Top Tip

During the festive Christmas season, why not bring a few sprigs of Skimmia indoors for use in decorations?

The beautifully scented Skimmia japonica ‘Fragrans’

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