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Skimmia japonica subsp. reevesiana

Skimmia japonica subsp. reevesiana. Image: Andrew Chapman

With bright red berries against a backdrop of dark green leaves during the winter months, followed by deliciously fragrant white flowers in spring, this shrub will brighten up any shady spot in the garden. Find it in the Winter Garden at Harlow Carr.

Vital statistics

Common name
Skimmia
Family
Rutaceae
Height & spread
Up to 1m (3ft 4in) x 90cm (36in)
Form
Dome-shaped to erect or creeping shrub
Soil
Moderately fertile, humus-rich, moist but well-drained soil
Aspect
Light dappled to deep shade
Hardiness
Fully hardy to -15˚C (5˚F)

Skimmia

Skimmia is a genus containing four species of evergreen shrubs and trees. They originate from the woodlands of the Himalayas through to South East Asia, China and Japan.

They are grown predominantly for their attractive leaves, flowers and fruits. Terminal panicles of star-shaped flowers are borne in spring, although the spherical buds are also an attractive feature as they develop over winter. Skimmia may be dioecious or hermaphrodite, the fleshy spherical red or black fruit being produced on all hermaphrodite plants, but only on the females of dioecious plants (both male and female plants needed to obtain fruit). The fruit can cause mild stomach upset if ingested.

Skimmia tolerate shade, atmospheric pollution, and neglect, making them ideal for urban environments. They are typically grown in a shrub border or woodland garden, but can also be grown in containers.

The name Skimmia comes from the Japanese name for the plant, shikimi, and japonica means Japanese.

Skimmia japonica subsp. reevesiana

Skimmia japonica subsp. reevesiana produces narrowly elliptic, tapered dark green leaves up to 10cm (4in) long. It is a hermaphrodite bearing dense panicles of fragrant white flowers opening from red buds in mid to late spring, followed by ovoid red fruit in the autumn and winter.

Cultivation

Skimmia are best grown in moderately fertile, humus-rich, moist but well-drained soil in light dappled shade to deep shade. On poor, dry soil, or if over-exposed to the sun, plants may become chlorotic.

Pruning, if necessary, should be carried out after flowering, lightly trimming back shoots as necessary.

Scale insects can be a problem with Skimmia.

Propagation

Skimmia can be propagated from seed, and should be sown in containers in a cold frame in the autumn.

Semi-ripe cuttings can be taken in late summer.

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