Skimmia japonica, or Japanese skimmia, plants are evergreen flowering shrubs native to Japan. They are widely cultivated as ornamental plants in the United States, and they grow well as container plants or in mixed shrub plantings, according to the University of Delaware. All parts of the Japanese skimmia plant are highly toxic and can cause heart failure and death if eaten in large quantities.
Japanese skimmia grows between 3 and 4 feet tall with a 3- to 4-foot spread. It has a rounded, or moundlike, form and alternating leaves that grow from the ends of the stems. The leaves have dark green upper surfaces and greenish-yellow lower surfaces. Both male and female plants produce creamy-white blossoms in the springtime. The males generally produce larger and more fragrant blossom. Female plants bear red or white fruit.
Growing Japanese Skimmia
Japanese skimmia plants are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 7 and 8. They prefer partial or light shade and moist, nutrient-rich, acidic soil. The foliage tends to bleach or burn if exposed to direct sunlight. Depending on the amount of winter sunlight the shrubs receive, they may thrive under larger trees or shrubs. Oregon State University recommends planting at least one male plant for every six to seven female skimmias so that the plants will bear fruit.
Other Skimmia Species
Skimmia japonica spp. reevesiana is a subspecies of Skimmia japonica. It grows between 1 and 3 feet tall with a 2- to 3-foot spread and produces white flowers followed by round red fruit. Unlike Skimmia japonica, this plant has male and female parts and does not need male and female plants present before it can bear fruit. Skimmia japonica rubella, another subspecies, has medium-green foliage and produces dark pink blossoms during the winter months. Skimmia laureola, which is native to China and Nepal, has elongated leaves and black fruit.
Skimmia shrubs are particularly susceptible to attack from mites. The Panonychus citri, or citrus red mite, is the most frequent pest species on skimmias. These eight-legged arachnids vary in colour from reddish-brown to greenish yellow and are too small to see clearly without magnification. They mainly feed on the undersides of leaves, causing bronzing and stippling. They often create unsightly webs on the foliage. Other mite pest species such as Bryobia rubrioculus and Tetranychus cause similar symptoms.