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Japanese Skimmia Skimmia japonica

Phonetic Spelling
SKIM-ee-a ja-PON-i-ka
This plant has medium severity poison characteristics.
See below
Description

Japanese skimmia is a slow-growing, shade-loving, broadleaf evergreen shrub that provides multi-season interest in the landscape. It grows from 2 feet to 7 feet tall and about 5 feet wide. It is a dense and mounding shrub with leathery ovate dark green leaves that are clustered at the branch ends. Fragrant creamy white flowers appear in the spring, and red drupes ripen in the fall and will persist through the winter. There are female and male plants. The male shrub tends to have larger flowers, and the female shrub tends to spread and has red drupes. It is a member of the Rutaceae family or citrus family.

The genus name, Skimmia, originates from the Japanese name Shikimi. The epithet, japonica, means "of Japan." 

Japanese skimmia is native to Japan, Kuril Island, Nansei-Shoto, Primorye, Sakhalin, and Taiwan.

Plant this shrub in rich, acidic, well-drained soils in part to full shade. The leaves will scorch in the full sun. It prefers morning sun then dappled shade for the rest of the day and performs best in sun-dappled areas of the landscape. It is recommended that one male plant should be planted for every six female shrubs to obtain good fruit production. 

The leaves have a spicy scent when crushed. The male flowers tend to be more fragrant than the female flowers. The attractive red berries are poisonous and should not be ingested. This is a low-maintenance shrub and is tolerant of pollution.

Consider the fragrant and shade-loving Japanese skimmia as a specimen, foundation planting, border planting, hedge, or an understory shrub for large trees. It may also be used for mass plantings, containers, patios, or used in bonsai.

Seasons of Interest:

Bloom:  Spring            Foliage:  Year-round              Fruits:  Fall and Winter

Quick ID Hints:

  • dense, mounded, broadleaf evergreen shrub up to 6-7 feet tall and up to 5 feet wide
  • bark and buds are green-tinged and reddish-purple
  • the leaves are fragrant, leathery, elliptical, entire margins sometimes crenate, dark green upper surface, and yellow-green beneath
  • leaves are clustered and whorled at the end of the branch
  • fragrant, creamy white flowers bloom in rounded panicles at the branch tips
  • female flowers produce red drupes in the fall that persist through winter

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  This plant has no serious insect or disease concerns: however, spider mites can be problematic in very warm and dry climates. Scale and aphids can occur. 

VIDEO created by Ryan Contreras for “Landscape Plant Materials I:  Deciduous Hardwoods and Conifers or Landscape Plant Materials II:  Spring Flowering Trees and Shrubs” a plant identification course offered by the Department of Horticulture at Oregon State University

 

Profile Video:
See this plant in the following landscapes:
Container Garden Pots on Hardscape
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Bronze Knight'
    the leaves are dark green tinted with red in the winter
  • 'Dwarf Male'
  • 'Fragrans'
    Male plant with white flowers
  • 'Magic Marlot'
    young leaves have yellow margins, mature to cream colored margins
  • 'Nymans'
    Female shrub with red berries
  • 'Pabella'
    Female shrub with red fruits.
  • 'Rubella'
    Red buds open to white flowers
  • 'Veitchii'
    large clusters of red fruits
'Bronze Knight', 'Dwarf Male', 'Fragrans', 'Magic Marlot', 'Nymans', 'Pabella', 'Rubella', 'Veitchii'
Tags:
#evergreen#fragrant flowers#specimen#white flowers#fragrant leaves#shade shrub#shade garden#broadleaf evergreen#spring flowers#winter interest#slopes#year-round interest#hedges#mounding#poisonous fruits#foundation planting#border planting#screening#shade border#patio planting#partial shade tolerant#heavy shade tolerant#dense growth#poisonous if ingested#berries#landscape plant sleuths course
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Bronze Knight'
    the leaves are dark green tinted with red in the winter
  • 'Dwarf Male'
  • 'Fragrans'
    Male plant with white flowers
  • 'Magic Marlot'
    young leaves have yellow margins, mature to cream colored margins
  • 'Nymans'
    Female shrub with red berries
  • 'Pabella'
    Female shrub with red fruits.
  • 'Rubella'
    Red buds open to white flowers
  • 'Veitchii'
    large clusters of red fruits
'Bronze Knight', 'Dwarf Male', 'Fragrans', 'Magic Marlot', 'Nymans', 'Pabella', 'Rubella', 'Veitchii'
Tags:
#evergreen#fragrant flowers#specimen#white flowers#fragrant leaves#shade shrub#shade garden#broadleaf evergreen#spring flowers#winter interest#slopes#year-round interest#hedges#mounding#poisonous fruits#foundation planting#border planting#screening#shade border#patio planting#partial shade tolerant#heavy shade tolerant#dense growth#poisonous if ingested#berries#landscape plant sleuths course
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Skimmia
    Species:
    japonica
    Family:
    Rutaceae
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Southern Russia Far East, Japan to Taiwan
    Wildlife Value:
    Attracts birds.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Fragrance
    Edibility:
    The fruits are poisonous and can cause cardiac arrest if ingested in large quantities.
    Dimensions:
    Height: 2 ft. 0 in. - 7 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 3 ft. 0 in. - 5 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Poisonous
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Dense
    Mounding
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Slow
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Dappled Sunlight (Shade through upper canopy all day)
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    7b, 7a, 8a, 8b
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    White
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The drupes appear only on female plants. They are 3/8 inches in diameter and appear in clusters. They mature to bright red in fall and persist into winter.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Cream/Tan
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Star
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The flowers are 2-3 inches long terminal panicles of creamy-white to pink-tinged blooms that occur in spring. The individual star-shaped flowers are 1/4-1/3 inches across and fragrant. Male plants may have larger, more fragrant flowers, but the female plants bear the berries.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leathery
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Whorled
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Ovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Crenate
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are alternate, simple, leathery, oval medium green on the upper surface and yellow-green beneath. They are crowded and whorl-like at end of the stems. They measure 2.5 to 5 inches. long. The margins are generally entire but sometimes crenate. They also have a fragrant spicy scent when bruised.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Green
    Red/Burgundy
    Bark Description:
    The bark is green-tinged and reddish-purple.
  • Stem:
    Stem Color:
    Green
    Purple/Lavender
    Red/Burgundy
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    Yes
    Stem Description:
    The buds are green-tinged and reddish-purple. They are fragrant when bruised.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Lawn
    Patio
    Slope/Bank
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Cottage Garden
    Garden for the Blind
    Shade Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Foundation Planting
    Hedge
    Screen/Privacy
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Songbirds
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Heavy Shade
    Problems:
    Poisonous to Humans
    Problem for Children
  • Poisonous to Humans:
    Poison Severity:
    Medium
    Poison Symptoms:
    Causes abortion, cardiac arrest in large amounts. Small amounts can cause nausea.
    Poison Toxic Principle:
    Unknown.
    Causes Contact Dermatitis:
    No
    Poison Part:
    Fruits