Winter dreariness in the garden is a thing of the past with Japanese skimmia.
With its bright red berries, the plant drives away melancholy and heralds the spring with creamy white flowers. You will be surprised by how easy it is to cultivate.
Planting Japanese Skimmia
September is planting time for Japanese skimmia (Skimmia japonica). If you put the picturesque flowering and fruiting shrubs in the ground properly, the floral spectacle will not let you wait long.
Before you get to work in a semi-shaded location in nutrient-rich, freshly moist soil, place the still potted root balls in soft water. Here’s how to proceed:
- At intervals of 12-20 inches (30-50 cm), dig small pits with 1.5 times the volume of the root ball.
- Pot up the soaked root ball and place it in the center of the planting hole.
- Instead of the excavated soil, preferably use rhododendron substrate to fill the planting hole up to the lower pair of leaves.
- Water the planting site and mulch it with leaves or bark mulch.
If a Japanese skimmia functions as a decorative plant in a pot, the work is similar. In addition, place some clay shards above the water drainage in the soil so that they act as additional drainage to counteract harmful waterlogging.
In order to fully enjoy the flowers and fruits of a Japanese skimmia, it comes down to these care factors:
- Water moderately with soft water after the substrate has dried out.
- Fertilize every 2 weeks from April to August.
- Cut back and thin out a male plant after flowering if necessary.
- Do not prune out female skimmia and do not cut them back until early spring.
In the bed, light winter protection is recommended for the first two years. Cultivated in containers, you should take precautions against freezing temperatures annually.
It is important to note that the evergreen plant needs continuous watering during the cold season.
Which Location is Suitable for Japanese Skimmia?
In order for the full beauty of the Asian plant to come to fruition, the location should be:
- Shady to semi-shady location without blazing sunlight.
- Ideally in the protected lee of tall woody plants.
- Preferably humid near bodies of water.
The Right Planting Distance
In small groups, Japanese skimmia stage a picturesque appearance. As a dioecious species, the plant cannot act as a solitary anyway, so the question of proper plant spacing for Japanese skimmia is of particular relevance.
Arrange female and male specimens at a distance of 12 to 20 inches (30 to 50 cm) from each other, or 2 to 3 plants per 10 sqft.
What Kind of Soil Does Japanese Skimmia Need?
Japanese skimmia favors nutrient-rich, humus-rich, and slightly moist soil. Since the plant tolerates little lime, it thrives wonderfully in bog or rhododendron soil.
In the immediate vicinity of conifers, a Japanese skimmia feels extremely well, since here the soil is always slightly acidic and low in lime.
When is Flowering Time for Japanese Skimmia?
Japanese skimmia decorates the spring garden with white flowers from April to May.
In female Skimmia japonica, the flowering acts as an overture to the furious fruiting with bright red berries in the fall and appears rather discreet.
In contrast, the focus of a male plant is exclusively on flowering. Accordingly, the splendor unfolds luxuriantly, refined with a beguiling scent of the lily of the valley.
Pruning the Japanese Skimmia Properly
Considering the leisurely growth of 2 to 6 inches (5 to 15 cm) per year, pruning is rarely on the maintenance schedule. Thorough thinning immediately after flowering or in early spring is usually sufficient.
If necessary, cut back a male Japanese skimmia immediately after flowering. On female plants, do not remove the wilted flowers, as they will develop into the longed-for fruiting ornament.
Watering Japanese Skimmia
The floral mastery of a Japanese skimmia is based, not least, on a well-balanced water regime. There should be neither drought stress nor waterlogging.
Water the plant only when the soil surface has dried out. This is more often the case in the container than in the bed.
To prevent excess lime from accumulating in the substrate, we recommend using soft rainwater or decalcified tap water.
Fertilizing Japanese Skimmia Properly
One of the main pillars of Japanese skimmia care is a balanced supply of nutrients. Only a regular supply of energy enables the ornamental shrub to produce an exuberant abundance of flowers and lush fruiting.
Fertilize the plant every 14 days from March to August with compost in the bed and liquid fertilizer in the pot.
Wintering Japanese Skimmia
Well-established Japanese skimmias are completely hardy. Only in the first two standing years in the bed as well as in the tub light winter protection is necessary.
Here’s how to do it right:
- From the beginning of September, reduce watering and stop fertilizing.
- Before the first frost, pile up the root disc with leaves, brushwood or bark mulch.
- Place pots on wood and wrap them with foil.
- Ideally overwinter in a bright and cool place not above 60 °F (15 °C).
As an evergreen plant, Japanese skimmia continues to evaporate water during the winter. Therefore, water the plant during dry weather on mild days.
Japanese Skimmia in a Pot
As a decorative plant in a pot, the Japanese skimmia takes gardeners’ hearts by storm.
To ensure that your enjoyment of the blossoms and berries lasts for a long time, you need to consider some relevant cultivation factors:
- Protect it from blazing sun on the balcony and windowsill.
- Fertilize the plant at 2-week intervals from March/April to August.
- Keep the substrate constantly moist with soft water.
- Do not prune out female skimmia, as fruits thrive from the flowers.
Skimmia japonica is only conditionally suitable as a houseplant during the winter. Temperatures should not exceed 60 °F (15 °C). In addition, dry heating air permanently affects the floral beauty.
Is Japanese Skimmia Poisonous?
As a member of the rue family (Rutaceae), Skimmia japonica contains alkaloids in all parts and is declared a slightly poisonous plant.
This fact implies that the red berries in autumn serve solely for decoration. Intentional or unintentional consumption of toxic fruits causes significant symptoms of poisoning.
Consequently, Japanese skimmia is not suitable for the family garden, where little explorers are on an expedition and put everything in their mouths.
The visual expressiveness of a Japanese skimmia is massively impaired when the glossy green leaves turn yellow. Moreover, this shortcoming indicates problems in cultivation.
The most common causes of yellow leaves are:
- Too sunny location: Japanese skimmia prefer a semi-shaded location.
- Lack of nutrients: You should fertilize the plant every 2 weeks from March to September.
- Waterlogging: Water your Japanese skimmia only when the substrate has dried out.
In addition, the plant is sensitive to calcareous substrate and water. Therefore, we recommend using rhododendron or bog soil and watering with collected rainwater or stagnant tap water, if possible.
The following selection of beautiful varieties presents both female and male cultivars. To decorate your winter garden with the bright red fruiting spikes, only female Japanese skimmias are capable.
If, however, you have in mind a charming spring bloom with a wonderful scent of lily of the valley, then you should decide on a male Skimmia japonica.
- Foremanii: A female Skimmia japonica with bright red fruits in autumn and winter. The height of growth is 24-40 inches (60-100 cm).
- Rubella: This male plant impresses with red buds in autumn and white flowers in May. The growth height is 28-36 inches (70-90 cm).
- Veitchii: A female plant with extra large, glossy green leaves and red berries in autumn. Its growing height is up to 60 inches (150 cm).
- Fragant Cloud: An enchanting male Skimmia japonica with beguiling fragrance in April and May. The growth height is 40-48 inches (100-120 cm).
- Magic Marlot: A small-growing, male plant with white-pink flowers which thrives wonderfully in the tub. The growth height is only 16-20 inches (40-50 cm).