Winter Beauties: Skimmias

Nov 10, 2020

By Veronica 

Skimmias are Japanese native plants with a dark-green, glossy foliage contrasting with the bright red berries of the female plants in Winter. Similar to our traditional holly, there are male and female plants, so you need a pair to enjoy the fruits. The male plants (Skimmia Japonica Rubella) are also very attractive on their own, bearing their buds all winter, before opening to panicles of creamy-white, scented, flowers in spring.

If space is limited, there are a number of beautiful self-fertile varieties available which are perfect for small gardens or pots.

Self-fertile Skimmias:  Plants That Do It All

They are dense and lush with their dark-green foliage all-year round. The fragrant flowers in spring are followed by red berries in autumn and winter, sometimes well into spring and it is not rare to see plants bearing berries and flowers at the same time. They are very cheerful and are a great alternative to holly if you want the berries without the thorns and are also left alone by the birds. Two main varieties stand out:

Temptation:  A robust variety with bright red berries.

Height and Spread: 1.5 x 1.5m.


Reevesina: a more compact variety with slightly aromatic, leathery leaves and deep red berries.

Height and Spread: 1 x 1m.


Flowering Skimmias: a wide range of foliage and bud colour.

In the main, skimmias’ leaves are predominantly dark green, however new varieties are now available that offer even more attractive foliage.


Skimmia 'Red Dwarf' is a compact, evergreen shrub with dark green, leathery foliage contrasting with the dark red buds, through the winter. The creamy, scented flowers open in Spring.. Award winning plant.

Red Dwarf Skimmia

Skimmia 'Perosa' has creamy pale green, variegated foliage which contrasts beautifully with the dark red buds from August well into Winter.

Height and Spread: 0.9 x 0.9m

'Rubella' is small and rounded  with dark-green, leathery leaves and panicles of red buds from the autumn, opening to white, fragrant flowers in spring. RHS Award of garden Merit.

Height and Spread: 1 x 1m.


'Mystic Marlot' is compact, evergreen shrub with pale green and cream, variegated leaves. The flower buds appear white in autumn to turn red in winter and finally open white.

Height and Spread: 0.6 x 0.6m.



‘Miracle’ is a small, rounded, evergreen shrub with bronze flower buds.

Height and Spread: 1 x 1m.



General Care Advice:

Soil: Skimmias grow best in neutral to acidic soil, although ‘Reevesiana’ is more tolerant of alkaline conditions. When potting up and planting in the ground, use ericaceous compost for best results.

Aspect: Shade tolerant, they can also be grown in full sun. However, the foliage will tend to fade if they get too much direct sun. A partial sun or dappled shade aspect is best to keep the foliage lush.

Pruning: These shrubs do not require any specific pruning. You can, however, give it a light trim in spring, after flowering to help it keep an even shape and remove unwanted shoots.

Feeding: A seaweed based feed during the growing season (March to October) will keep your plants healthy. Any yellowing of the leaves is most often due to the lack of iron in the soil. The can be corrected with sequesterd iron.


Skimmias are good for pollinators as they scented flowers are very attractive to them, especially at the beginning of the season when food is still scarce. Note, however, that they berries are toxic which is one of the reason why they last so long as the birds will not eat them.




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