© RHS / Mark Winwood



These neat evergreen shrubs earn their keep by giving year-round interest to shady borders, but they are also at home in containers. The fragrant spring flowers are followed by showy, lasting red or white berries on female plants which are a real bonus. Small, starter plants will give substance to winter window boxes and hanging baskets. They are also seldom damaged by deer or rabbits.  


Slow growing, rounded shrubs with leathery pointed oval-shape leaves. The often fragrant white or greenish flowers in lilac-like clusters are borne in spring. Female and hermaphrodite forms produce red, or occasionally white or black, persistent autumn berries.


Skimmias prefer a position in light shade, but they will tolerate deeper shade or sunny spots. Only some, such as Skimia 'Kew Green', will grow well in full sun. Plant them in any soil as long as it's not too wet or very dry.


If planted in poor and very dry soil, or if growing in full sun, the shrubs will struggle, leaves will start yellowing and plants will become spindly. This is often mistaken for iron deficiency, but skimmias are not ericaceous (acid soil loving) plants like camellias and rhododendrons. Watering, feeding and mulch will help. Alternatively reconsider their position.

Did you know?

Only female skimmias have berries and they need a male form growing nearby for pollination in order to produce them. There are very few that will produce berries on their own such as Skimmia japonica subsp. reevesiana.

Growing guide

Browse skimmia

Skimmia for berries and flowers

Skimmia we recommend

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Useful advice

Cuttings: semi-ripe

Cuttings: semi-ripe

Shade gardening

Shade gardening

Shade planting: annuals, bulbs and perennials

Shade planting: annuals, bulbs and perennials

Shrubs: pruning evergreens

Shrubs: pruning evergreens

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