Skimmia japonica is a very popular plant for growing in pots or in the garden: it is in fact very decorative for most of the year. Its strong points are the persistent leaves, the abundant flowering and the brightly colored fruits that remain long on the plant. Its cultivation is simple and gives a lot of satisfaction: the important thing is to respect its needs in terms of soil, irrigation and climate.
There schimmia It is a slow-growing shrub originating in Central Asia and Japan; to the genus belong 4-5 species, all of Asian origin, very similar to each other. They produce shrubs that are globose, compact and dense, evergreen, with large oval leaves, dark green, at most 100-120 cm high. The development is very slow and a young plant takes a few years to reach one meter in height. Between the end of winter and the beginning of spring at the apex of the branches sprout long spikes of fiery red shoots, which will give rise to innumerable small star-shaped flowers, white or cream-white, delicately scented. Skimmies are dioecious plants, which means that there are specimens with female flowers and specimens with male flowers; after flowering the female specimens will give rise to green berries, which become red when ripe and persist for a long time on the plant. In fact after flowering in general the long panicles of withered flowers are pruned, so we will hardly have one skimmia with berries, regardless of whether it is a male or female specimen.
Origins and description of the Skimmia
There skimmia japonica is a shrub native to eastern Asia, particularly China, the Himalayan area and Japan. Its name probably derives from the Japanese shikimi and refers to a mountainous region between India and China. The genus is part of the Rutaceae family and includes 7-8 species of evergreen shrubs, all originating in wooded areas.
The Skimmia japonica, the most widespread at ornamental level, is characterized by alternate leaves, oval-shaped, of a beautiful bright green or with light green, cream or purple spots. If rubbed they give off a very pleasant scent. At the end of winter it produces panicle inflorescences, with single flowers from white to light yellow that give off an intense, sweet and fruity aroma. Being a dioecious plant there are male and female inflorescences and they are carried separately on different subjects. Later, on the female plants, the flowers evolve into round and shiny fruits (toxic!), Of a beautiful bright red, very long-lasting: they resist on the plant almost until the end of the following winter.
The plant requires very little maintenance: in fact it has a very slow growth and the operations to reduce its size are really rare: it rarely exceeds 1.50 of height and width.
THE SKIMMIA IN BRIEF
|Family, genus, species||Rutaceae, gen. skimmia, about 8 species|
|Type of plant||Evergreen shrub, dioecious|
|Height at maturity||Up to 2 meters|
|Width at maturity||Up to 2 meters|
|Flowers||White, green, red, yellow|
|density||1 specimen every meter (or every 40 cm for hedges)|
|Exposure||Half shade, shade, light light|
|irrigations||Frequent, demineralized water|
|Rusticitа||Medium (-5 ° C in pot, -10 ° C in full earth)|
|Propagation||Cutting or sowing|
|soil pH||From subacid to acid|
|Use||Vase, border, isolated specimen, groups, hedges|
How to grow it
There schimmia It is a rustic plant, which bears frost well, even if intense, so it finds a place directly in the garden; we can also cultivate it in pots, guaranteeing a container of adequate size, to prevent the plant from drying out during the summer.
It prefers soft and rich soils, quite fresh, but very well drained; water stagnations quickly cause root problems, which are reflected in apical desiccations or whole branches; to some good universal soil, let's add a little manure, little sand, to increase the drainage, and a good quantity of soil for acidophilic plants, since the skimmias prefer this type of soil, not loving the excessive presence of limestone in the ground.
If our skimmia tends to turn yellow over time, remember to add a good greening to spring watering.
Exposure and watering of the monkey
These shrubs do not particularly like direct sunlight, nor excessive summer heat; then place them in a shady or partially shaded place, where they receive the sun's rays only during the coolest hours of the day.
They are slow-growing plants, which generally do not require great care; in fact, however, especially after flowering, they can look messy; in these cases we shorten all the disordered branches, or ruined by the winter weather, reconstituting a roundish bearing.
The ideal exposure is the partial shade: it also tolerates direct light well in the early hours of the morning. From noon to 5 pm it is instead preferable to be more protected to avoid excessive dehydration and leaf burns.
It tolerates the complete shadow quite well, as long as it is not too thick.
From April to September we water regularly, avoiding leaving the water-soaked or dry soil for a long time; therefore we intensify the waterings in case of drought and suspend them in case of intense rains. Every 10-12 days we mix a fertilizer for acidophilic plants with the irrigating water.
Skimmia needs frequent irrigation: it is in fact extremely sensitive to drought. To obtain good results it is fundamental that the substrate is always kept fresh, intervening frequently, especially in summer. In any case, we avoid water stagnations as they could cause radical problems.
For this purpose we use, if possible, demineralized water, rainwater or anyway with little calcium: the accumulation of this salt (both in the ground and in the pot), can lead to the malabsorption of some microelements and in the long run cause the deterioration of the plant .
To reduce the frequency of watering it is very useful to prepare a thick mulch based on leaves, straw or other plant material.
Climate for the skimmia japonica
Depending on the environmental conditions it may be more or less rustic. In general it is able to withstand temperatures even around -15 ° C, but is particularly afraid of frost and cold winds. It is therefore advisable, in the regions with more severe winters, to find a well protected location for her.
In pot these problems can be accentuated, especially if the earthen bread is small and risks freezing completely. We generally avoid that the temperature drops below -5 ° C and we prepare, for safety, an insulating layer around the container.
The acidophilus in the garden
In some areas of our peninsula the soil is decidedly very calcareous, and so is the water in the aqueduct, with which we water the plants; when we place an acidophilous plant in the ground in these areas, over time the soil around the roots will tend to become more and more alkaline, becoming little suited to the life of our plant. There are special soil improvers on the market, which allow us to make the soil acidic again, although it is not always possible to change the composition of a large amount of soil: for example, if we have prepared a large plant of acidophilus, the use of soil improvers and fertilizers must be very frequent to allow us to keep the plants healthy and lush. In any case, with the passage of time we will have to remove the plants, replace the soil, and reposition our acidophilic plants in the new prepared soil.
Some solve this problem by practicing a large implant hole, which is then lined with mulching tissue, and then filled with soil for acidophilic; later the plants are watered only with rainwater, so as to avoid limestone; in this case the soil inside the bag we created should be better controlled and therefore it should be easier to keep it acid.
Land for the skimmia
The skimmia is a typical undergrowth plant: it therefore needs a fresh, well-drained soil with an acid pH or at least sub-acid. The ideal is to insert it where there is leaves or medium peat soil.
In too compact and calcium-rich soils, physiopathologies can occur such as ferric chlorosis or the onset of radical rot: it is therefore important to avoid inserting it or making efforts to profoundly change its structure.
THE SKIMMIA CALENDAR
|Flowering||February to May|
|Fruiting||July to November|
|Transplant||November or March|
When and how to plant the skimmia
The best time to proceed is undoubtedly the autumn. The skimmia is however rather sensitive to frosts and is therefore recommended, in Northern Italy and in mountainous areas, to proceed at the end of winter to prevent young specimens from being seriously damaged.
In the open ground
If our substrate is suitable, we can immediately proceed by digging a hole that is twice as wide as the earth's bread. We create a draining layer on the bottom based on gravel or expanded clay. We insert the specimen taking care that the collar is at the same level as the ground. We cover with soil, compact and irrigate abundantly.
If our soil is not suitable the ideal is to extract it and mix it with woodland or a specific product for acidophilic. The latter must be at least Ѕ or ѕ of the total (in the most serious cases).
For greater safety, especially if the soil is really compact, we can insert a large plastic pot into the soil (to which we have eliminated the bottom), insert the plant and fill the remaining space with a suitable product. We will greatly reduce the influence of the surrounding terrain on the specific characteristics of that area.
We always leave at least 50 cm free on each side to allow the specimen to develop at its best. If we decide to make a hedge, instead, we leave about 40 cm between one plant and another: in this way we will quickly obtain a compact appearance.
We choose a container large enough to allow the development of the plant for several years, without having to disturb the roots (quite sensitive). Place a thick drainage layer based on expanded clay on the bottom. The ideal soil will be obtained by mixing 1/3 of garden soil and 1/3 of forest soil (or a product for acidophilic). We insert the plant, fill the vacant space and compress well. Let us water abundantly.
Pruning and fertilization of the skimmia
It does not need important fertilizers: to encourage flowering it is however advisable to administer a fertilizer for acidophilic plants in early spring. The ideal are the granular products, but you can also opt for the liquid ones, repeating the distribution three to four times after 15 days.
Pruning is not necessary, given the slow development. It may be necessary to remove the infructescences at the end of winter to stimulate the next flowering.
Pests and diseases
It is rarely attacked by pathogens. The most frequent is the cochineal: it can be eliminated with cotton swabs soaked in alcohol or using mineral oil possibly activated by a systemic insecticide (only in the most serious cases).
A rather frequent problem is leaf chlorosis, caused by a too high pH of the soil. The ideal is to replace it totally or partially, then irrigating as much as possible only with demineralized water. In severe cases, to stop an emergency, chelated iron can be used to distribute with irrigations.
Propagation and multiplication of the Skimmia
The skimmia can be propagated by sowing or cutting. In both cases to obtain a well-formed plant it will be necessary to wait several years, given its slow development.
We proceed in summer by choosing a side branch about 7 cm long: we keep only two or three leaves at the top, releasing all the rest instead. We insert in a very draining compound (sand or agriperlite), using liquid rooting hormones during irrigation. We cover so as to keep humidity high. The seedlings will be ready for transfer to individual jars the following spring.
Ripe seeds are harvested in September and proceed immediately. They are placed in jars filled with forest soil and placed outside, so that they suffer the cold of winter. We always keep well moist. Once germination has taken place we will be able to put back into individual jars. Plants will not be well developed until 3 years after germination.
Schimmia - Skimmia: Variety of skimmia
The genus skimmia is composed of a few species, but, given its fortune as an ornamental plant, countless cultivars and hybrids are now available.
Here are the ones we can find most commonly on the market:
FLOWERS AND FRUITS
DIMENSIONS AND PORTAMENTO
|J. 'Fragrans'||Very fragrant flowers, bright white. No fruits||Dark green, aromatic||Up to 1m x 1m Bushy and rounded habit||Only male, without fruit|
|J. 'Fructu Albo'||Very fragrant flowers, first green then white. White fruits||Dark green||Big and rounded. Up to 2m x 3m||Female only|
|J. 'Kew Green'||Small green flowers, very fragrant, then white. No fruits||Dark green, very dense.||Dwarf shape, at most 1m x 1m||Only male|
|J. 'Rubella'||Very fragrant flowers, first red, then white. No fruits||Green on with red borders||Up to 1.5 m x 1.5 m. Rounded and compact habit||Only male. The most widespread on the market|
|Reevesiana||White, fragrant||Light green with darker edges||Up to 1 m x 1 m||hermaphrodite|
|'Veitchii'||Small and fragrant, first green then white. Red fruits||Dark green||Up to 1, 50 m; rounded habit||Only female, very decorative for beautiful fruits. Tolerates neutral soil|
Skimmia japonica, belonging to the Rutaceae family, is an evergreen shrub, native to Japan and H