Evergreen plants of wild nature are gradually mastering home flower beds – they retain decorativeness throughout the year, bring comfort and originality to the interior. Skimmia (Rutaceae family) is one such plant. In culture, it has been since 1838, but gained popularity only in the XX century.
You can grow in a pot, a large tub, the flowers exude a pleasant delicate aroma, from the female flowers are formed fruits-berries of red or black color. At the same time, buds, flowers and berries that ripened last season can be found on the bush, which looks very unusual and is used in the composition of floral arrangements.
Characteristics of culture
Skimmia in its natural environment grows in the forests of Japan, South Asia and can be a shrub, a low tree, there are skimmii-epiphytes who have chosen old trees. At home, it is a low shrub with a spherical crown, growing from 0.3 to 1 m in height. The plant is frost-resistant, withstands temperatures up to -15 °C, but in temperate latitudes, it is grown only indoors.
In European countries, skimmia is given at Christmas – red fruits-berries symbolize the blood of Christ.
Special decorativeness is given by bright green oblong narrow glossy leaves covering the shoots of purplish-red color. By March, vertical panicle inflorescences of burgundy color, consisting of small reddish-pink buds, are formed on the tops of the shoots.
Small (1-2 cm in diameter) star flowers are first red, then the color gradually changes and by the end of flowering, which falls on June, the bush is strewn with snow-white flowers. On the female plant, fruits with red, black or white juicy pulp are formed, which persist until the next spring. Inedible due to the presence of the alkaloid skimmin, the berry contains one seed.
The genus skimmia has 12 species, the most common is Skimmia japonica, which grows on the Japanese islands, in the forests of Korea and China. In nature, the bush grows up to 7 m in height, but in conditions of home cultivation, the height depends on the variety and does not exceed 1.5 m.
The glossy leaves are 6 to 20 cm long and 2 to 5 cm wide and non-falling, tough, oval. The upper part of the leaf plate is darker colored than the lower, from below there are glands that are clearly visible in the light and, if touched, exude a pleasant sweetish aroma. Small fragrant flowers with five pointed petals are collected in a dense panicle. For pollination, the presence of male and female plants is necessary, so two bushes are sometimes planted in a large pot at once. Female plants are decorative due to the fruits, male – beautiful flowering.
At home, it is convenient to grow a self-pollinating subspecies – Reeves’s skimmy (S. reevesiana). On a compact dwarf bush, raspberry fruits are preserved for a long time, the flowers are white, very fragrant.
Varieties and hybrids of Japanese skimmia:
- Skimmia Rubella – a hybrid male variety, decorative is given by a red border along the edge of a green leaf and flower buds of dark red color, stands well in cut, used to create floral arrangements (the variety is sometimes called “Rubella”);
- MagicMarlo is a variegated variety with original variegated leaves, buds of unusual bronze color and cream flowers;
- FructoAlbo – after flowering, white fruits are formed, against the background of dark green leaves they look unusually beautiful;
- Fragrans – male variety, the bush is not more than 95 cm in height, white inflorescences exude a delicate lily-of-the-valley aroma;
- SmitsSpider – a low bush (25 cm), compact, the color of the buds is first green, then changes to the color of mango;
- BrocoxRocket is an original variety with large globular inflorescences, green flowers, which turn white by the end of flowering.
Conditions of detention
Crops with ornamental foliage develop well and build up a green mass in bright light (but not in direct sun), so a place with bright but diffused lighting is suitable for skimmia so that the leaves do not get burned. In partial shade or in artificial light, the bush does not look so decorative – fewer leaves are formed.
In winter, during the period of rest, the shrub should be kept in a cool room (5-10 ° C) with dry air, and in summer during the active growing season it should be taken out into the fresh air in the garden, on the balcony, terrace. The optimal temperature in summer is 18-24 ° C. If the temperature is constantly high, the plant can shed its leaves, buds, flowers.
A period of rest for skimmia is necessary – flower buds are laid.
The soil should be moist (not wet), drained, so that moisture does not stagnate around the roots, is rich in humus, with a pH of 3.0-5.5 (acidic environment) – intervein chlorosis develops in a slightly acidic environment. You can prepare a soil mixture yourself by mixing humus, leafy earth, peat and sand in a ratio of 1: 1: 2: 1, or purchase soil for azalea, camellia, gardenia, rhododendron, which also love acidic soil.
When caring for skimmia, you need to consider the season, because the requirements for watering, humidity and fertilizing differ in different periods of growth. After the end of flowering and full ripening of the fruits, a period of rest begins, when the plant rests and prepares for the next season.
How to care:
- Irrigation. For irrigation, settled water at room temperature is used. If the water is hard, then it is settled for several days (salts precipitate), softened by adding citric acid (3-4 g + 10 liters of water), boiling, freezing. In winter, water abundantly at intervals of 2-3 weeks, in summer – when the topsoil dries up. The main condition for watering is that the soil should be moist, not wet, because skimmia does not tolerate waterlogging.
- Humidity. The optimal level of humidity (40-50%) is maintained by spraying the bush, humidifying the air near the plant with a spray gun, installing water containers next to it. In the heat, the leaves should be wiped with a damp cloth.
- Feeding. Fertilizers during the growing season (April-September) are applied every two weeks, using mineral complexes for rhododendrons, flowering houseplants. In winter, fertilizing is not carried out.
- Pruning. On the male plant, wilted inflorescences must be cut, on the female they are cut only when berries are not needed. After the completion of flowering and fruiting, the bush is trimmed, giving it a compact neat shape. The trimmed tops can be used for reproduction.
- Transplantation. Young bushes are transplanted into a larger pot as they grow, adding new soil, adults are transplanted every 3 years. If the bush is voluminous, high, then it can not be transplanted, but replaced with 10-15 cm of topsoil.
Diseases, insect pests
All types of skimmia are resistant to fungal infections, but with constant waterlogging, rotting of the roots begins, which can lead to the death of the plant. You can save it by transplanting it into new soil – the bush is removed from the pot, the roots are freed from the old soil, the affected areas are cut, the sections are treated with coal powder.
In case of violations in care (too dry air, overdried soil or, conversely, low temperature in combination with waterlogging), insects that feed on the juice of young leaves can settle on the bush: spider mite, shield, mealybug.
You can notice a spider mite by a sticky thin web in the leaf axils, on the underside of the leaf, on the flowers, the mealybug leaves behind a gray-white coating resembling cotton wool, a sticky sugary coating appears in place of aphid colonies. Insects and their larvae, sucking juices, deprive the plant of nutrients, as a result, the leaves deform, turn yellow and dry out, the flowers drop their petals, wither, and the buds, without blooming, fall off.
At the initial stage of the lesion, while there are not very many insects, you can do without insecticides, but if the colonies have occupied a large area, then chemical agents are used (Actellic, Phytoverm, Fufanon). First, the leaves and stems are wiped with a sponge moistened in a soapy solution (it is better to use laundry soap), removing insects mechanically, then wash the entire bush under the shower, directing the stream to the stems. The soil before washing is closed with a film, after the end of the procedure, you can spray it with any insecticide. The treatment is repeated after a week to destroy the young individuals that have appeared during this time. The full course consists of 3-4 treatments.
With a strong lesion, you can try to save the bush by pruning the damaged stems and treating the remaining ones with an insecticide, while replacing the topsoil.
Skimmia is propagated by seed method and with the help of cuttings. Seeds to improve germination are stratified, keeping in the refrigerator for 1-1.5 weeks. Sowing is carried out in a pre-moistened substrate of equal parts peat and sand to a depth of 1 cm, covered with a film and put the container in a warm bright place where the temperature is not higher than 21-23 °C. After the appearance of seedlings, the film is removed. Seedlings are transplanted into separate containers in the presence of 3-4 leaves.
Cuttings are harvested in August-February – they choose strong semi-woody shoots, cut off the top (10-12 cm), performing a cut along the oblique. The lower leaves of the cuttings are cut off, treated with a growth stimulant and planted in a cup with a mixture of sand and peat, watered, covered with a bag and placed in a warm (22 °C) bright place. Care consists in airing the greenhouse, moistening the soil. The appearance of new shoots reports that rooting was successful. When the sapling grows up, it is transplanted into a pot.