Pronounced: SKIM-eeh-ah jah-PON-ih-kah
Japan, China, S.E. Asia.
Sunset zones: 4-9, 14-22.
USDA zones: 7-9.
Heat zones: 9-7.
Height 2-5 feet (60 cm-1.5 m).
Width: 3-6 feet (1-2 m).
April to May.
Buds are red; white flowers are fragrant, held in dense panicles, followed by bright red berries in October that persist on the shrub until spring.
Oblong to elliptic glossy green leaves that are aromatic when bruised.
Slow growing evergreen shrub.
Light to medium shade. Deep shade causes lankiness.
Humus rich, moist, acidic soils.
Sow seed after cleaning off the pulp; germinates in 3-4 weeks.
Root cuttings in July and August and in autumn.
Prune after flowering only to keep the shrubs symmetry.
Rainy Side Notes
Skimmia japonica is a shrub for year round interest with its handsome, glossy foliage that blends well with other shade-tolerant plants and fragrant white flowers in spring, followed by luscious red berries in winter. Since the plant is dioecious, a male and female plant are necessary for producing berries on the female plant. One male will pollinate up to six females--a man's dream plant! Dan Hinkley of Heronswood Nursery recommends the male S. 'Rubella' for the pollinator, with its red buds in winter opening to white-blushed-pink flowers in late spring; lucky for the male, 'Rubella'.
S. japonica came into cultivation in 1838. This is a beautiful shrub to grow in an open woodland garden as well as in containers. Make sure you site them where the fruit is in view during winter.
The berries are not edible, and may cause an upset stomach when eaten.
Photographed in author's garden.