How To Grow Superb Skimmias

How To Grow Superb Skimmias

Skimmia japonica 'Rubella'

Skimmias are the ideal winter plant with fragrant flowers and berries

Skimmia are a species of medium sized evergreen shrubs originating from the Himalayas, China, Japan and South East Asia. They flower early, over winter, so are a good plant to give colour and fragrance when there is little else. They are a good beginners plant as they are hardy, easy to grow and require little or no maintenance; they also grow well in containers and look superb surrounded by tulips and winter bedding. They make a good small compact hedge, growing to a height of 90 – 120cm (3 – 4’). They can reach a height of 6m (20’), but this will take many, many years. The male plants have red buds opening to fragrant creamy white flowers. The females are less strongly scented but will bear berries in the autumn, however they will need a male plant.


They like dappled shade out of direct midday sun as this can scorch their leaves. They need an acid, humus rich soil, so if you have a limey soil it may be better to grow them in containers in ericaceous compost.


Add a spadeful of garden compost, leaf mould or well-rotted farmyard manure to the planting hole and mulch with the same material to help conserve moisture. Plant to the same depth as in the pot. If using as a hedge plant approximately 45 - 60cm (18 - 24") apart.

Feeding and watering

Make sure to water well in the first year after planting, after that it should have put down enough roots to reach moisture. Sprinkle with a little blood, fish and bone in the spring; if it is not fed the leaves start turning yellow after several years and it may need feeding with sequestered iron.


It is a compact, slow growing plant so requires no pruning; just take out any damaged stems in spring. If growing it as a hedge, cut in the spring.

Skimmia japonica 'Fragrant Cloud'

Skimmia japonica 'Fragrant Cloud'

Pests and diseases

It is fairly disease resistant but can become infected with red spider mite if it is in too hot a position and becomes too dry. The solution is to move it to a site in dappled shade and water well.

Recommended varieties

Female: Skimmia japonica ‘Nymans’ and ‘Cecile Brown’. Skimmia x confuse ‘Kew Green’.
Male: Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ (which has been awarded the Award of Garden Merit by the RHS), ‘Fragrant Cloud’ (Fragrans) and ‘Bronze Knight’.

The variety Reevesiana is an hermaphrodite which means it does not need a male plant in order for it to produce berries, however it is very low growing, approximately 15cm (6").

Angela Slater

Daughter of a farmer and market gardener so have always had a connection with the outdoors, whether it was keeping animals or producing fruit, vegetables and cut flowers. Along with my work at Hayes Garden World I also have a smallholding, mainly breeding rare breed pigs. I gained an HND and BSc in Conservation and Environmental Land Management, as a result I am an ardent environmentalist and have a keen interest in environmentally friendly gardening. In my time at Hayes I worked for several years in the Outdoor Plant and Houseplant areas.