Skimmia are gorgeous shrubs that are long-lasting and easy to care for, but they like company just like the rest of us. What can you plant with these beauties? Companion plants can be tricky to navigate, so we've done all the research for you!
Here are 5 great companion plants for skimmia:
- Winter Heath (Erica carnea)
- Creek Dogwood (Cornus sericea ssp. occidentalis)
- Japanese Camellia (Camellia japonica)
- Japanese Cheesewood (Pittosporum tobira)
- Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis)
Every plant needs a pal, and this post will explore the most appropriate companion plants.
First, A Bit About Skimmia
These shrubs are native to Afghanistan, Southeast Asia, and the Phillippines.
Skimmia plants produce both flowers and berries. In order for berries to develop, you need both a male and female skimmia plant. Establish them beside each other and let the magic happen. Next season you should see bright red berries on the branches. The fruit is poisonous, so be sure to plant this in an area where your dog will not take a snack break!
Although the berries are the poisonous part of the plant, Skimmia japonica leaves have a compound called skimmianine which contains both anti-inflammatory properties and toxins. The other varieties of skimmia are not confirmed to have skimmianine in their leaves.
In addition, skimmia plants do well in adequately drained soil. Loam and sand soils also work, and it is important that the pH level is slightly acidic or neutral. Alkaline soils irritate skimmia.
Companion Plants for Skimmia
Here are 5 of the best companion plants for skimmia.
1. Winter Heath
Winter heath is an evergreen shrub that produces pink flowers, and very rarely white flowers. It grows just 4-12 inches tall and is often seen covered in snow.
There are many types of soil that work for heaths, including clay, loam, sand, and rocky terrain. It can tolerate alkaline soils, however, they prefer a lower pH level.
Winter heath is typically planted as a dense ground cover. It does especially well on slopes.
The flowers have been used throughout history to make an anti-inflammatory tea. This species, Erica carnea, is part of the Ericaceae genus. The National Library of Medicine states that plants in this genus have both anti-inflammatory and antinociceptive properties.
As always, it is important to note that floral teas are not direct guides to perfect health. If you are interested in the properties present in winter heath, talk to your doctor about this treatment before consuming large quantities.
This companion plant will provide a nice base of flowers before the skimmias bloom in April/May. This is important if you are keen on having a temporally even garden.
2. Creek Dogwood
This lovely plant has the same soil needs as skimmia, making it perfect as a companion plant. The only difference is that creek dogwoods require a bit more water. Every week, the shrub requires at least an inch of rainfall.
If planted in a sandy environment, you may need to soak the dogwood with a few gallons of water every so often. A few years after the plant is established, it has the potential to become drought-tolerant.
Medicinally, dogwood berries have been used by indigenous people to treat stomach aches. The white berries taste like stone fruit.
If you are interested in cultivating a medicinal garden, we recommend planting creek dogwood with Skimmia laureola. Historically, the leaves of the laureola have been burned to purify the air. In addition, they have been used as an ingredient in certain smallpox treatments.
Outside of the medical field, Skimmia laureola leaves can be found as a garnish or condiment for meals.
Creek dogwood is a perfect backyard shrub because it serves as protection for wildlife, especially birds. They also get to snack on the berries!
Speaking of berries, here is some additional information on skimmia berries: Are Skimmia Berries Poisonous? [Include To Dogs, Cats, Birds, Or Humans]
The white flowers attract native bees, which are keystone species for the environment. At a size of roughly 10 feet tall and wide (give or take a few feet), creek dogwood might need some pruning here and there.
According to the California Native Plant Society, creek dogwood needs partial shade. If you have room for it, a good old Douglas Fir can provide appropriate amounts of shade. Otherwise, there are always alternatives like a plant shade tarp.
3. Japanese Camellia
This stunning plant has evergreen foliage and flowers that bloom in spring. Camellia leaves attract a fair amount of attention due to their glossy and leathery phenotype.
The flowers fall off after a month and allow a new bud to bloom. The blossoms vary in size, some several centimeters larger than others. This cycle continues throughout autumn and the last few flowers die out in winter.
The Japanese Camellia isn't too fond of frigid temperatures and does better in warmer climates.
If you are growing this plant from seed, it is best to place the plant-to-be in a greenhouse. The temperature should be above 70 degrees and they should remain inside throughout their first winter.
It is recommended to use root mulch when planting these flowers. This helps promote the even distribution of nutrients while also preventing root rot.
Camellia petals are edible- usually used as a garnish or dried and brewed to make tea. In fact, Camellia sinensis is the tea plant used for black breakfast teas.
The tea plant, like all the plants in this post, enjoys acidic soil. Skimmia plants are also compatible with Camellia sinensis when they are both placed in zones 7 or 8.
Camellia sasanqua is another plant in the camellia genus that would work well with skimmia plants.
The only difference is that Camellia japonica blooms from spring-winter while Camellia sasanqua blooms in the autumn. Fun fact: they are both native to Japan!
4. Japanese Cheesewood
Other names for this plant include Japanese mock orange, Australian laurel, and Japanese pittosporum.
Let's dive into the etymology real quick. The binomial nomenclature (scientific name) uses the word tobira which is the Japanese word for this plant.
In Japanese, the name of this plant is equivalent to "door tree" in English. This makes a reference to the celebration of seasonal change, Setsubun.
One form of decoration for this holiday is to place branches of the cheesewood and sardine heads in the doorway.
Originating in southern Japan, the Japanese cheesewood has been cultivated for hedges and privacy shrubs. It is drought-resistant and sometimes people use their stems in floral arrangements. A few more benefits of this plant include salt and rabbit resistance.
Botanical landscapers refer to p. tobira as a backdrop. A backdrop plant is when a plant is rather plain, architecturally. It quite literally serves as a backdrop for other plants to be highlighted.
Unfortunately, this plant has a couple of common pests. There is an invasive fungus, Erythricium salmonicolor, that causes something called Pink Disease.
Citrus trees are often the victim of this fungal invasion, however, it also tends to target the mock orange. One piece of preventative care is to properly prune your plants when appropriate.
There is also a plant villain that targets this plant. Nectriella pironii, named after the famous plant pathologist Pascal Pompey Pirone, is a plant parasite. Targetting ornamental shrubs, this parasite manifests as sunken spots of leaves and brown, crunchy edges.
Bunchberry is a dogwood plant used for ground cover in moist areas. It makes for a good companion plant for skimmia because it can adjust from acidic to neutral soil and vice versa.
The leaves of this plant change with the seasons. Throughout the year they present a beautiful, bright green hue. In the fall, those leaves turn a deep burgundy color.
As previously stated, this plant is for moist areas. It takes up a fair amount of water, which means it is not compatible with many of the drought-tolerant plants mentioned earlier.
If you are interested in more drought-resistant options, check out our post: 16 Zone 6 Perennials That Are Full Sun And Drought Tolerant.
A common way of fertilizing a bunchberry plant is by placing pine needles in the soil. This can increase the acidity and fertility of the soil. The same can be done with peat moss.
Companion (Plant) Conclusion
Skimmia plants should be a breeze to work with now that you have this companion plant guide. We hope one or more of these plants make it safely to your garden and benefit it in the best way possible.
If you enjoyed this post, feel free to check out these related articles: