Japanese plants for garden


Plants for a Japanese garden

Japanese-themed gardens are defined by their calming atmosphere and restrained colour palette.


Trees and shrubs feature heavily, particularly evergreens and those with blazing autumn foliage or delicate spring blossom. Mosses and ferns thrive in the shade cast by these larger plants.

Related content:

  • Flowering ground cover plants for shade
  • Foliage plants for damp shade
  • 10 trees with beautiful spring blossom

We pick some of the key plants to grow in a Japanese garden, below.


Hakonechloa macra

Japanese forest grass, Hakonechloa macra, is a gorgeous shade-loving grass that will gently rustle as it catches a breeze. Plant it in swathes or bold clumps to soften the hard edges of paths and steps.


Cydonia oblonga

Quince (Cydonia oblonga) makes a beautiful additions to Japanese-style planting schemes. In spring it produces cup-shaped flowers, followed by golden fruits in autumn. Quince can also be trained as a deciduous bonsai tree.


Azalea ‘Rosebud’

Clipped into neat mounds or domes, azaleas and rhododendrons are bedecked in dazzling flowers come spring. They need neutral to acidic soil to thrive, however, so grow in pots of peat-free ericaceous compost if you have alkaline soil.

Araiostegia parvipinnata

Araiostegia parvipinnata

This beautiful fern and other species in the genus are known as hare’s foot ferns, which spread by creeping rhizomes. Intersperse with ground cover moss or hakonechloa. Araiostegia parvipinnata needs a moist, shady spot.


Prunus ‘Pink Shell’

This list wouldn’t be complete without mention of ornamental cherry trees, or sakura. Japan is renowned for its spectacular cherry blossom festivals in March and April. Lots of cherry species can be used for sakura, including Prunus x yedoensis, Prunus serrulata and Prunus padus.

Japanese maples

Acer palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’

Japanese maples come in a huge variety of leaf colours and shapes, all of them gorgeous in autumn. Underplant with clipped, rounded shrubs or hakonechloa.


Wisteria floribunda ‘Multijuga’

Japanese wisteria, Wisteria floribunda, works well in many settings, but in Japanese gardens it’s often grown over large arbours and arches. Walking beneath these structures is the perfect way to enjoy the scent of the pendulous flowers. Prune twice a year, in summer and winter, to get the best flower displays.

  • How to prune wisteria in summer
  • How to prune wisteria in winter


Tree peony ‘Shimane-sedai’

Showy, ornamental flowers like peonies and chrysanthemums are great for bringing splashes of colour to Japanese gardens. Pink varieties of Paeonia suffruticosa (pictured) and Paeonia lactiflora are particularly popular.

Black pines

Pinus thunbergii ‘Thunderhead’

Black or Japanese pines, Pinus thunbergii, are a useful source of evergreen colour. They’re often ‘cloud pruned’ – a technique that involves shaping the crown into soft, cloud-like forms. As old needles are dropped they help to acidify the soil below – particularly beneficial to azaleas and rhododendrons planted directly beneath.


Styrax japonicus Advertisement

Styrax species like Styrax japonicus (pictured) and Styrax obassia are Japanese natives with white, bell-shaped flowers appearing in the summer months. They look beautiful planted next to water or paths.

Using water

Water can be used in even the smallest of gardens, adding to the ambience through trickling sounds and pretty reflections. Ponds can be planted with waterlilies and Japanese flag irises, Iris ensata. For smaller gardens, consider garden water bowls or trickling water features.

Ideas of plants for a Japanese garden

Plants in Japanese gardens

Green trees

Forest-type trees are prefered in Japanese garden. Both, deciduous and evergreen trees are planted in Japanese garden. Deciduous trees show beautiful colour in autumn.

  • See trees planted in Japanese garden

Flower trees

Some flower trees are planted. Basicaly, they are showy naturally, some cultivars or double-flower are ocassionaly planted though.

  • See trees planted in Japanese garden


Some distinctive or showy shrubs are planted.
But they are not principal in Japanese gardens.

  • See popular shrubs in Japanese garden
  • See distinctive shrubs

Flowers, ferns, bamboos, mosses

Here, I write down other kind of plant, e.g. Bamboo, mosses and ground covers.

  • See more

Plants ideas

Japanese gardening is based on capturing the beauty of nature.

In nature, evergreen trees grow under deciduous trees. Evergreen trees grows gradually. Eventually, forests become evergreen forests. This means deciduous trees finish the life under evergreen trees. This is the nature forest transition in Japan.

Therefore, to follow the above story is the best for planting idea. Of course, in transition, some evergereen trees become taller than deciduous. In the garden, some evergreen trees may taller than deciduous trees.

The aboves are nature picture in Japan.

The bellows are Japanese garden in Japan.
The left picture is temple garden in Kyoto . The right picture is a tea garden.

Both, nature and human created garden have green and nature atmosphire.

Japanese Landscaping Plant Guide Your plants are used for recreating nature!

Japanese landscaping gardens provide visitors with a tranquil environment where landscaping features, such as bridges, paths and ponds, combine with trees, shrubs and flowers to create a meditative setting.
Plants are a symbolic part of Japanese gardens even though they may not be the most prominent feature of the outdoor space. Subtle colors and pastel hues are common, blending with the serene atmosphere of the oriental style.

Japanese Landscape Design – Koishikawa Korakuen Garden
Tokyo, Japan

Benzai Tenno Miya Shrine on Horaijima (Horai Island)

In Japanese landscaping garden design, plants are used for recreating nature, echoing larger themes and most importantly they serve as focal points too. Depending on your country climate, the focal point plants that work well within your Japanese garden may include:
Japanese maple – Deciduous tree for Japanese gardens Japanese Maple or Smooth Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum) is a species of woody plant native to Japan, North Korea, South Korea, China, eastern Mongolia, and southeast Russia.

Landscape Plant Guide – Japanese Maple Foliage
Acer palmatum – Japanese Maple Leaves by Kurt Stueber (Wikipedia)

Japanese maple is a must for any garden of Japanese landscaping style; it is one of the most versatile trees for any yard, patio, garden and landscape.
Japanese maple changes with the seasons – represents the continuous changes in life, it has long been appreciated by the people of Japan in literature and the arts.
Japanese maple comes in numerous varieties of all kinds of shapes and sizes, they are often grown for its unique 7-palmed green or red colored leaf, fine leaf texture and muscular-looking multiple trunks.

Japanese Landscaping Plant Guides – Japanese Maple Tree
The John J. Tyler Arboretum located at 515 Painter Road, Media, Pennsylvania – USA by Derek Ramsey (Wikipedia)

The maples have extraordinary fall colors – delicate green foliage turns vivid autumnal colors – that range from bright yellow through orange and red.
Japanese maples are uniquely striking even they are grown in total shade, both the fresh young leaves of spring and early summer as well as the ripening autumn leaves in glowing crimson and oranges turn the landscape ablaze with color beyond description of words.
Other deciduous trees that need lots of water grow well near the pond are used as border and focal trees as well include: Maidenhair tree, Scarlet Maple, Tulip tree, Water Oak, and Willow.

Japanese Landscaping Plant Guide:
Acer palmatum ssp – Example of leaf variation among various cultivars of Japanese Maple by Abrahami (Wikipedia)

Acer palmatum cultivars – from left to right:
Acer palmatum wild type, Acer palmatum ‘Amoenum’, and Acer palmatum ‘Matsumurae’ (‘Dissectum’ is similar to ‘Matsumurae’).
Japenese black pine – Evergreen tree for Japanese gardens The hardy Japanese black pine is increasing in popularity – symbolizing stability with its evergreen leaves.The black pine is the masculine symbol, and the red pine is the feminine.
Japanese black pine with its free form growth, and dramatic 3 to 4 inch needles make it an exceptional specimen plant in Japanese gardens.
Easy to maintain and virtually pest free, the Japanese black pine is also a perfect choice for gardeners with limited time.
Another popular evergreen western and Asian plants for background trees in Japanese landscape gardens are: Canadian Hemlock, Cedar, Coastal Redwood, and Himalayan White Pine.

Japanese Black Pine
at Manyo botanical garden in Ichikawa, Chiba, Japan by Namazu tron (Wikipedia)

Bamboo Bamboo conjures up thoughts of peaceful and relaxing atmospheres in the beautifully designed gardens of Japan. It is usually abundant and may serve as a privacy barrier in various areas of the garden.
Japanese Gardens using bamboo elements offer a soothing and tranquil design for any outdoor space.

Bamboo Plants Selection Guide – Timor Black Bamboo in landscape
by www.bamboos.com.au

Good clumping bamboos include Timor Black (Bambusa lako), Slender Weavers’ Bamboo (Bambusa textiles var. ‘Gracilis’), Buddha’s Belly (Bambusa ventricosa), Himalayan Weeping Bamboo (Drepanostachyum falcatum), and Murray Island Bamboo (Schizostachyum sp. ‘Murray Island’).

Carefully kept small and trained bonsai plants have been developed to capture the beauty of nature on a smaller scale; bonsai can be literally translated as ‘tray planting’ or ‘tree in a tray”.
Bonsai is a great interest, hobby or even profession to undertake; cultivating bonsai trees is a very involved and complex hobby, and it requires much patience.
Bonsai is an art involving miniaturizing tiny woody plants that are fashioned into tree form. The art of bonsai comprises of cutting, trimming, shaping, watering, and re-potting in different types of ‘bons’, or tray-type pots.
Although famous theologians have claimed that it is actually 90% art to a meager 10% of horticulture, it has to be said that a successful bonsai is most definitely a horticultural masterpiece.
To our world now, bonsai is viewed as a hobby that allows a greater understanding and being with nature and also a way to enhance our gardens.

Japanese Plants – Well-known Bonsai Trees
Japanese White Pine Bonsai “Hiroshima Survivor” 1625 – 2007,
on display at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the United States National Arboretum

Note: The Japanese White Pine (Pinus parviflora ‘Miyajima’) bonsai sometimes known as Hiroshima Survivor, on display at the National Bonsai & Penjing Museum at the United States National Arboretum. According to the tree’s display placard, it has been in training since 1625. It survived the atomic blast in Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, and was donated by Masaru Yamaki.
Flowers and shrub plants for Japanese gardens Low maintenance flowers and shrubs that provide seasonal color including Azaleas, Camellia, Coprosma, Ilex Crenata, Japanese Irises, Mums, Japanese tree Peonies, and Sacred Bamboo (Nandina domestica).

Japanese Plant Guides – Flowering Shrubs
Japanese Irises – Iris ensata
Suigo Sawara aquatic botanical garden, Katori, Japan

These colorful plants and flowers come in varying sizes and colors are all wonderful ways to add color to the garden.

Japanese Landscape Plant Guide:

Japanese Plant Selection Guide – Azaleas

Japanese Landscaping Plant Guide –
Christmas Camellia – Camellia sasanqua
is a popular plant with many uses

Leaves of Camellia sinensis – also known as the tea plant by Wikipedia

Japanese Landscape Plant Guide
Shrubs – Yellow mums

Evergreen Shrubs –
Ilex crenata – Japanese Holly or Box-leaved Holly
– an evergreen shrub or small tree growing to a height of 3-5 m (rarely 10 m) tall, with a trunk diameter up to 20cm
– Photo from Longwood Gardens

Evergreen Shrubs – Ilex crenata’s foliage

Japanese Garden Plant Picture Guide –
Nandina domestica – at Arhus Botanical Garden

Nandina domestica commonly known as
heavenly bamboo or sacred bamboo
– a suckering shrub in the Barberry family, Berberidaceae
– Berlin Botanical Gardens
– Berlin Dahlem


Topiary is the horticultural practice of training of live perennial plants, by clipping the foliage and twigs of trees, shrubs and sub-shrubs to develop and maintain clearly defined shapes, perhaps geometric or fanciful; and plants which have been shaped in this way.

Pruning Shrubs –
Netherlands – Tsubo-en main garden O-karikomi, hako zukuri topiary

The plants used in topiary are evergreen, mostly woody, have small leaves or needles, produce dense foliage, and have compact and/or columnar (e.g. fastigiate) growth habits.

Pruning Shrubs:
Netherlands – Close-up of the center part of the Tsubo-en
main garden O-Karikomi,
topiary sculpture, covered with snow.

Groundcover for Japanese gardens Ground cover plants are a nice way to add more texture and color to the garden – like making a carpet of ferns and mosses. These plants include Japanese Ardisia, Baby’s Tears, Moss, Spurge, Japanese Sweet Flag, and Japanese Tassel Fern.

Japanese Groundcover Plant Guide – Japanese Tassel Fern – Polystichum Polyblepharum

Japanese tassel fern is a very adaptable evergreen fern with shiny dark green bipinnate fronds that are a more subdued, paler green on the reverse side. It offers rare beauty, form and texture in the landscape and should be mandatory for all shade or woodland gardens.

Japanese Landscape Plant Guide –
Groundcover Plants – Saihouji Kokedera Pond by Wikimedia

Hedges for Japanese gardens Hedges are also wonderful plants for Japanese landscaping, especially when trimmed in the traditional patterns include Japanese Barberry, Japanese Pittosporum, Flowering Quince, Weigela, and Yew.

Privacy Hedges: Berberis thunbergii – Japanese barberry or Thunberg’s Barberry,
also Red Barberry is a species of Berberis, native to Japan and eastern Asia
– Berberis thunbergii shoot with fruit.

Hedges – Flowering twig of Japanese Cheesewood Pittosporum tobira

Japanese flowering quince photos – Chaenomeles in flower

Japanese Lantern Plant – Weigela florida

Pictures – Japanese Yew Trees or Spreading Yew Tree
– Taxus cuspidata is a member of the genus Taxus, native to Japan, Korea, northeast China and the extreme southeast of Russia.

Best hedges to plant – Yew Berries
– Backlit ‘berries’ (strictly, fleshy arils) of Taxus baccata, (English or common yew) in churchyard at Oakham, Rutland, UK

Pines Much attention and care are given the pines in a Japanese garden, in fact Pines are the major structural elements in their gardens. Being evergreen, pines express both long life and happiness.

Japanese pine trees tower over rock garden
at Takamatsu’s Ritsurin Park

Pines are a much loved tree in Japan and the symbol of dignified old age. They are picturesquely sculpted by the elements into wonderful shapes in nature.

by Il. monte (Dreamstime.com)

In the Japanese landscape garden, this appreciation for the wild beauty of nature is sought after in the aged and weathered look of pines.

Pine trees with snow pictures –
Winter view of the Japanese mountain Yatsugadake

Other trees like Conifers, Himilayan magnolia and the cherry tree, are also common in Japanese landscape designs.

Pine – European Black by Franz Eugen Kohler

Pine – Scots by Franz Eugen Kohler

Japanese Garden designs evoke a strong feeling of tranquility and peace of mind. Japanese garden is all about harmony & balance, as well as using the right components.
When you have decided to use Japanese influence landscape design, it is really a challenge for you to harmoniously balance the flowers and control pruning plants to make the garden look as natural as possible.
Japanese landscape garden design emphasis on garden structure and plant form are more important than flowers and mass borders of colour – in fact there is a principle of ‘less is more’. Individual trees or shrubs pruned can therefore become the dominant features of a garden.

“Bamboos and related plants,evergreens including Japanese black pine, and such deciduous trees as maples grow above a carpet of ferns and mosses.”

Japanese Garden Design:

The Art of Japanese Landscape Design reflects the real beauty of nature, many people loved this carefully planned Asian garden style. In actual, it is intended to give us a tranquil and reflective experience.

The Japanese Rock gardens were made from just two primary elements: rocks and a fine, light colored gravel. The idea is to find rocks that are interesting and in different shapes and sizes; rocks that you would not mind spend hours looking at.

Japanese Zen gardens with its simplicity and tranquility nature, are famous because of their effective use in meditation – help us to still our mind after a busy day. A Zen Garden can go on your desk too : )

Japanese Garden Design – Types of Japanese Garden Design by tradition they can be broadly categorized into three types, Tsukiyama Gardens (Hill Gardens), Karesansui Gardens (Dry Gardens) and Chaniwa Gardens (Tea Gardens). I love the tranquil and simplistic design of the Japanese gardens that offered me the calming effect.

Elements of a Japanese Garden You need to have at least some internal peace before you are able to start enjoying the beauty of Japanese garden design and see each little element at its own. Carefully planned design with the correct combination of these elements in which they are being used, is what brings a Japanese garden to life!

In Japanese landscape garden – Japanese lantern is one of the most identifiable garden ornament amongst all. That is true! Whenever we think of a Japanese garden, the first thing always spring to our mind is a stone lantern. These lanterns are usually carved from granite.

In Japanese landscaping garden design, plants are used for recreating nature, echoing larger themes and most importantly they serve as focal points too. Depending on your country climate, the focal point plants that work well within your Japanese garden may include …

Japanese Tea Garden is a tranquil and yet practical place, the outer garden is entered first and is designed as waiting place to set the mood before enter the inner area for the tea ceremony.

Japanese garden ornaments are a beautiful accent to your garden. Japanese garden ornaments include things such as Koi ponds, ornamental bridges, bamboo fencing, granite sculptures, and traditional Japanese lanterns.

Japanese gardening tools require special care. Whether for the use of Japanese hill garden (Tsukiyama) or flat garden (Hiraniwa) type, there are the right Japanese gardening tools designed for each specific job and made versatile enough for all gardening enthusiast to enjoy.

Creating a Japanese garden in a small space

Japan is high on the must-see list for holidaymakers. Many travellers return with new visions for their gardens, inspired by Japanese temples or the natural landscape. Take-home elements for a Japanese garden include simplicity, a balance of open and planted space, the idea of taking a journey and the use of hard and soft landscaping elements (or more simply, rocks and gravel with plants) in a way that mimics the wider landscape such as mountains and plains.

Of course, Japanese gardens represent centuries of development and deep aesthetic concepts, and their gardeners are highly skilled. However, anyone bowled over by the simple beauty of a Japanese garden can interpret the idea in their own space.

Clipping and shaping

The basic elements of Japanese style can be adapted into any garden. They work particularly well, however, as a starting point for a small garden such as a courtyard or small yard. Plants include small trees, shrubs and perennials, but most are clipped and shaped to manage the garden’s look and feel. Beds of gravel are raked.

Shrubby plants may be clipped to create mounds in a Japanese garden, but trees are also shaped. Rather than offering a dense shape, however, evergreen trees may have their trunks and branch structure revealed through cloud pruning.

A tree exhibiting the cloud pruning technique that is very popular in Japanese gardening.

Plant choices

Japanese gardens can, of course, be created using traditional Japanese plants. A traditional plant palette includes conifers, which are joined by deciduous trees such Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) and flowering trees including cherry, flowering peach, flowering almond and crabapples. These are under-planted with shrubs such as Kurume azaleas, Japanese pittosporum (Pittosporum tobira), camellias and hydrangeas, as well as perennials such as Japanese iris (Iris ensata) and hosta. Bamboo and wisteria are also traditionally found in Japanese gardens, as are mosses, ferns and Japanese zoysia or temple grass.

It isn’t necessary to stay with plants that are native to Japan, though. There are many outdoor plants that you can clip and shape to give the controlled effect achieved by a Japanese planting scheme, including Australian natives. Among these, correa (Correa alba), banksias such as Banksia ‘Coastal Cushions’ and Davidson’s plum (Podocarpus elatus) are excellent choices.

From left: A small Japanese-inspired garden featuring pieris and azaleas; a larger space making great use of Japanese maple trees.


While large-scale Japanese gardens can include pagodas, tea houses, waterfalls and bridges, small gardens need to concentrate on smaller elements. Japanese-inspired ornaments including wind chimes, pots or bowls along with carefully selected natural features such as rocks and pebbles can help add to the effect. Even a waterfall may be possible if incorporated into a wall, but water in a Japanese garden can be as simple as a shallow bowl.

In very small spaces, a display of bonsai plants in a courtyard can provide all the elements of Japanese gardens in miniature.


A visit to Japan is the ultimate inspiration for creating a Japanese garden, but there are Japanese gardens in Australia to give local inspiration. Top of my list is the Japanese garden within Western Sydney’s Auburn Botanic Gardens.

How to make a Japanese garden

Tips for how to make a Japanese garden

  1. Less is more: stick to just a few types of plants. Japanese gardens are often sparsely planted, so the spaces around the plants are as important as the plants themselves. This can also help to create the effect of a bigger garden.
  2. Japanese gardens often ‘borrow’ the landscape around them. So if you have a good view, frame it with some choice Japanese maples.
  3. Hard landscaping can include gravel, rocks and stepping stones. Try tying pieces of bamboo together with twine to create Japanese-style fences.
  4. Encourage mosses to spread in nooks and crannies. Japanese gardens often showcase the different shades of green and moss is used in many Japanese temple gardens.
  5. Think calming and serene: Japanese gardens are used for contemplation. For inspiration, look at tea gardens and the temple gardens of Kyoto.

10 best Japanese garden plants

1. Japanese maple, Acer palmatum ‘Sango-Kaku’ (syn ‘Senkaki’)

Think of Japan and you’ll immediately bring to mind the beautiful autumn colours of the Japanese maple. Acer palmatum is a small tree with hundreds of cultivars, but this one is popular for its magenta pink stems and bright green leaves with pink tints. It doesn’t disappoint in autumn, either: the leaves turn yellow-orange and seem to glow when viewed from a distance. Slow growing, it’s good for small gardens where it will eventually reach 6m. Other trees for Japanese gardens include Pinus thunbergii or flowering cherries, such as Prunus ‘Shogetsu’.

2. Siebold’s wood fern, Dryopteris sieboldii

This unusual Japanese fern looks good when planted near rocks or under a tree canopy. Its grey-blue divided leaves are long and leathery, and while not truly evergreen, they last long into the winter. It likes a lot of organic matter in the soil, so dig some in before planting and add mulch around its base in the winter. It likes a bit of moisture but is also quite happy in drier conditions as long as it’s in shade.

3. Japanese forest grass, Hakonechloa macra ‘Aureola’

Japanese forest grass has mounds of arching stems tipped with bright yellowy-green, slightly variegated leaves that turn slightly red in autumn. This cultivar is low growing (to 40cm) and looks fantastic allowed to spill over the sides of a large pot. Giving its best lemony colour in moist soils in full sun or partial shade, it grows slowly but is worth the effort. Use it with Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ to line pathways or dot among rocks. It also looks good in a gravel or pebble garden.

4. Black mondo grass, Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’ AGM

Also known as black mondo grass, this isn’t actually a grass! A superb contrast plant, its black foliage, low-growing and slowly spreading habit create a foil for other brightly coloured plants. Small purple flowers are followed by black berries. It does best in moist soils in full sun but will also tolerate some shade. It is also possible to buy green mondo grass, Ophiopogon japonicus, which has the same form but with dark green leaves.

5. Lilies

Perhaps surprisingly, a lot of lilies are native to woodland areas in Asia, where they grow in sunny clearings or in dappled shade. They like deep, humus-rich but well-drained soil but also do well in pots. Surround them with sharp sand when planting to aid drainage. Choice Japanese species to look out for include Lilium leichtlinii, which has golden yellow recurved flowers with brown speckles, and Lilium speciosum, which is usually available as a pink cultivar, ‘Uchida’. Lilium longiflorum is tall, with highly fragrant trumpet-shaped white flowers, while Lilium auratum’s white flowers have a yellow stripe and a spicy scent.

6. Pachysandra terminalis

While it won’t win any awards for showiness, this Japanese woodland plant is incredibly useful as ground cover, gradually colonising areas without crowding out plants already growing there. It prefers shade otherwise its leaves will bleach. There is also a variegated version, which will brighten up a shady understory. It has small white flowers in early summer.

7. Azaleas

What’s more Japanese than mounds of azaleas covered in brightly coloured flowers? A huge range of eye-popping colours are available, from ice white through to deepest red and fiery orange. Neatly pruned or allowed to sprawl, they are essential to an authentic Japanese garden. However, if you don’t have the acid or neutral soils they prefer, try Japanese quince (Chaenomeles) or heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) for a similar effect.

8. Japanese woodland primrose, Primula sieboldii

The tiny, frilly flowers of the Japanese woodland primrose, Primula sieboldii, are perfect for brightening up a shady corner. From crisp white through pastel pink and mauve to brightest purple, they seem to glow in the gloom, and often have a different colour on the back of the petals. The leaves are bright green, with scalloped edges. If planting in sun, ensure there is plenty of moisture in the soil, otherwise the plants will be happy with partial shade and lots of organic matter. It’ll also do well in a damp spot.

9. Japanese catmint, Nepeta subsessilis

A relative of the catmint so often seen in UK gardens, but with bigger leaves, larger flowers and a more upright habit. In Japan it’s found in mountainous areas and grassy meadows near streams, so it will thrive in a range of garden situations. Blooming in midsummer, the flowers are generally blue, but pink and white cultivars are also available. Very easy to grow from seed, it’s a great source of nectar for bees and beneficial insects. Unfortunately it is also very attractive to cats, so be wary if your garden is full of felines!

10. Kirengeshoma palmata

Want something really unusual for your Japanese-style garden? With its waxy yellow flowers held above dark green, sycamore-shaped leaves, Kirengeshoma palmata fits the bill. A real specimen plant, it’ll grow happily in the shade under trees as long as it has plenty of organic matter and moisture. It can reach 1m tall and wide so give it plenty of room; try pairing it with toad lilies (Tricyrtis) or Anemonopsis for a woodland effect. Keep an eye out for slugs and snails, which are fond of its leaves.

‘How to make a Japanese garden’ written by Emma Pearce, Horticultural Scientist (Conservation) at the Eden Project

A Japanese-style garden can be created with Australian natives by selecting plants with properties similar to the traditional choices.


Dichondra repens – in shade with summer water
Eremophila glabra (low compact form or Roseworthy form) – in dry sunny areas
E. serpens – in dry areas with filtered shade
E. biserrata, E. subteritifolia – in dry areas with sun or shade


Poa labillardieri
Cymbopogon ambiguum – Scented grass


Asplenium nudum – Birds’ nest fern in shade with summer water
Blechnum nudus – needs damp shade
Dicksonia antarctica – needs damp semi-shade

Strappy leaves:

Dianella – many forms, some prefer dry shade, others more lush with summer water
Dietes robinsonia – in dappled shade, summer water
Diplarenna moraea – in dappled shade, summer water
Orthrosanthos polystachus – in dappled shade, summer water
Anigozanthos flavida – in sandy soil with summer water
Lomandra sp. – Most very hardy, some with very fine leaves e.g. “Tanika”, “Lime Wave”.

Small shrubs:

Acacia cognata “Limelight”
Correa sp. – many forms which can be clipped, dappled shade or morning sun, some summer water
Baeckea sp. – some summer water, may be clipped
Eremophila drummondii – in dry sun
E. weldii – in dry sun, clip to shape
Grevillea thelemanniana – in sun, may be clipped
Syzigium “Little Trev”

Medium shrubs:

Melaleuca huegelii (fine leaf form) – in sun, may be shaped
Correa alba – sun or semi-shade, keep clipped
Philotheca myoporoides – dappled shade, summer water, may be trimmed


Acacia cognata
Allocasuarina torulosa – good in group of vertical trunks, where room available
Callitris sp. – several forms and shapes
Hymenosporum flavum
Syzigium sp. – Many different types from small to large, some summer water

Feature Plants:

Cycad sp.
Nymphaea sp. – in ponds

Where do I get plants from?

Plants may be available from our Plants Sales. Check our webiste in the week before the Adelaide Plant sale for a list of plants we are expecting to be available at the Adelaide Showgrounds Expo and Plants Sale.

List of Japanese Trees

Chris McGrath/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Gardens have been an important part of Japan’s history, with archaeological remains of sixth century palace gardens in evidence. Japanese gardeners developed many tree cultivars and hybrids during centuries of plant breeding, and they have been introduced to other countries. Native species of Japanese trees also grow in gardens worldwide. Japan has a mostly temperate climate, with U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones ranging primarily from 3 through 8, with some coastal areas in zone 9.

Deciduous Varieties

mtreasure/iStock/Getty Images

Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) and Japanese zelkova (Zelkova serrata) are both deciduous trees, losing their leaves for winter. Japanese maple is usually 10 to 25 feet tall and hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8. Many cultivars exist, with some growing 40 feet tall. In most cultivars, the palmate, five- to nine-lobed leaves provide vivid fall coloration of reddish purple, yellow and bronze. Japanese maple grows best in an area protected from winds and late frosts, and where it receives dappled shade. Japanese zelkova, also hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8, is suitable as a shade or street tree and requires full sun. This member of the elm family reaches 50 to 80 feet tall and as wide. It has few problems and is resistant to Dutch elm disease. The disease kills American elm (Ulmus americana), which otherwise is hardy in USDA zones 2 through 9.

Evergreen Types

lilly3/iStock/Getty Images

Two kinds of Japanese evergreen trees are common in cultivation: Japanese black pine (Pinus thunbergii) and Japanese white pine (Pinus parviflora). Japanese black pine is native to coastal Japan and grows 20 to 60 feet tall and 12 to 20 feet wide. Its long, dark-green needles contrast with its whitish, new terminal branch growth. The tree has a conical shape and is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8. Also conical when young, Japanese white pine develops a flattened canopy with age. Its needles are typically blue or bluish-green and are stiff and twisted. This tree grows 25 to 50 feet tall and wide in USDA zones 4b through 7a. Both pines are traditional bonsai subjects and require full-sun exposure.

Showy Flowering Specimens

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Some Japanese trees produce ornamental flowers. One example is Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata), which grows either as a small tree or large shrub, having a maximum height of 30 feet and a spread of 15 feet. Creamy white flowers that smell something like privet flowers appear in large clusters at the plant’s branch ends in early summer. Shape a Japanese tree lilac as a multi-trunked or single-trunked specimen. Its dense canopy is rounded. Well-suited as an accent plant, patio tree or street tree, Japanese tree lilac is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 7a and needs a full-sun site. Another small tree or large shrub that offers ornamental flowers is Oyama magnolia (Magnolia sieboldii). Its large, white, fragrant, nodding flowers are centered by a mass of crimson stamens. The flowers are followed by oval, 3-inch-long pink fruits, and the tree’s leaves turn deep yellow in fall. Growing 10 to 15 feet tall and wide, Oyama magnolia requires partial shade to full sun and is hardy in USDA zones 6 through 8.

Newsworthy Offerings

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Flowering cherry trees (Prunus spp.) made international news in 1912 when the Japanese government donated thousands of them on behalf of the City of Tokyo to the United States for planting in Washington, D.C. The two main varieties are “Kwanzan” (Prunus serrulata “Kwanzan”) and “Yoshino” (Prunus x yedoensis). “Kwanzan” is hardy in USDA zones 5b through 9a and grows 15 to 25 feet tall and wide. “Yoshino” is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 8, reaching 50 feet tall and 40 feet wide. More plantings followed the original ones in Washington, D.C.. Many varieties and hybrids have been developed from the Japanese flowering cherry, and the trees hold a special place in Japanese culture.

The Japanese garden style is presently a favorite among garden enthusiasts. This is due to the fact that this garden design offers tranquility and balance to whoever is admiring the view. With its Eastern charm, a Japanese garden combines particular elements, traditions, and concepts to its distinctive style. Additionally, in contrast to a Western garden, a Japanese garden is constructed to be enjoyed in all types of seasons. Visitors delight in what the gardens offer whether its summer, winter, or fall.

What is a Japanese Garden?

Important to realize when it comes to Japanese Garden is that less is more in this kind of gardening style. Others look at it as empty, however, for the Japanese; space is an element that allows defining the concepts it encloses. Furthermore, components found in the garden embody natural landscapes. Notably, huge rocks are considered mountains and ponds are viewed as oceans. With this in mind, lines and angles should not feel fabricated. It must be natural and rounded to create asymmetry. Besides that, you will notice that Japanese gardens are ordinarily enclosed. It is rare to see these gardens open to the world. Customarily, gardens like these are surrounded by walls to ensure that outside factors will not disturb its balance.

Generally speaking, there are various kinds of Japanese gardens, such as Tea Gardens, Zen or Dry Rock Gardens, Stroll Gardens, etc. Though natural asymmetric and dry rock gardens are the best choice for your home and backyard, what matters is your ingenuity and innovativeness in combining various design ideas.

15 Japanese Garden Design Ideas

If you are looking into designing your own Japanese garden, here are a few concepts that you can adapt to your own space. Remember you can blend garden styles in coming up with your personal Japanese garden.

1. Naturally asymmetric Japanese Garden

Water features like ponds are prevalent in Japanese gardens. Oftentimes, it has Koi fish in it which increases texture and life to space. Shown below is a naturally asymmetric Japanese garden.

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2. Japanese Garden with an arched bridge

Symbolic to Japanese gardens are bridged with arch. It presents a man-made element to the design but still keeping the lines smooth and natural. Arched bridges are commonly made of wood, stained colored, or portrayed darker with red accents.

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3. Wabi-Sabi Japanese Garden

Prominent to the Japanese garden style is the element of “Wabi” and “Sabi”. Wabi translates to solitary. On the other hand, Sabi means patina. In adopting this element to your garden, it entails a standout piece highlighting your space. Significantly it can be a tree, a Japanese lantern, or an exceptionally valuable rock. All of these components aged or new represent the spirit of the garden and exemplifies a balanced Wabi-Sabi garden.

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4. Stone lanterns and bamboo in a Japanese Garden

As has been noted, stone lanterns and bamboos are eminent in the Japanese influence. You can see it here in this balanced Japanese garden.

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5. Japanese Garden showcasing waterfalls

Another pervasive aspect of the Japanese style is the water feature. A waterfall in a Japanese garden provides movement and acoustics in the space which is pivotal to this style. It is immensely intrinsic that is why you will greatly see waterfalls and bamboo fountains featured in this type of garden.

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6. Simple bamboo fountain in a Japanese Garden

Besides bamboo plants, adding bamboo fountains are standard to a Japanese garden. It offers a feeling of not only motion but also serenity in your space. Water pouring from the fountain supports the natural flow of the area.

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7. Japanese Stroll Garden

In the meantime, Stroll gardens are likewise common with Japanese designs. It typically consists of a stone path, gravel beds, and rope fences. Visitors will relish their time savoring the garden while enjoying its ecological and natural feel.

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8. Small house in a Japanese Garden

A small house or building is not unusual in a Japanese garden. As a matter of fact, these types of structures are ideal for meditating or appreciating nature. Others likewise celebrate tea parties in it.

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9. Japanese Garden with moss-covered stone

Moss offers a sense of old age in a Japanese garden. As mentioned earlier, the element of Sabi focuses on age and time. Introducing moss on your garden highly touches that aspect.

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10. Japanese Garden in the middle of a body of water

Nonetheless, a Japanese garden is not necessarily landlocked. Here is an amazing dry rock garden located in the middle of a body of water. It combines several integral elements of the Japanese design which results in a captivating garden.

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11. Japanese Garden outlined by massive rocks

You can likewise decide to create your dry rock garden separated from the rest of your space. Do this by outlining it with massive rocks that are symbolic in the Japanese culture. Rocks in principle are more substantial than trees.

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12. Japanese Yin Yang Garden

When you think of Japanese influence, the Yin and Yang concept is always part of the list. Here is a Japanese garden showcasing the very same element.

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13. Old stone lantern within a Japanese Garden

In constructing a Japanese garden, you can likewise bring into it a sizable old stone lantern. Again, this illustrates the Wabi/Sabi principles of Japanese culture.

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14. Japanese Garden with a stone bench

Since Japanese gardens are famous for providing a space for meditating and contemplating, why not add a bench? You can relax in this space while appreciating your swirling raked patterns. Furthermore, you can install outside garden lights to allow you to unwind at night.

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15. Sea of stones in a Japanese Garden

To put things differently, instead of the little island of rocks which are widely common with Japanese gardens, you can opt for a solid enormous sea of stones. This type of garden is suitable for those with generous space and it still shows the asymmetry and balance concept. See how soothing this space is?

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Japanese Tea Garden

In essence, Tea Gardens are blended with Japanese Gardens. You will observe that these kinds of gardens are commonly modest and functional. The Japanese Tea Garden is consists of an inner and outer garden. For the most part, the outer garden includes a low gate and a stone path leading to the entryway of the Teahouse where tea parties are being held. There is now countless Tea Garden in Japan nowadays; however, it is merged into a broader garden design.

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Japanese Rock Garden

The Japanese Rock Garden is also known as a dry rock garden or landscape garden. However, it is distinguishable from the common rock garden since instead of being surrounded with plant life the Japanese rock garden includes minimal or no plants at all. Normally comprised of dry rock, gravel, sand, and huge standing rocks, this garden style is meant as a personal project which illustrates one’s reflections. Fundamentally, gravel or sand embodies water and sizable rocks signify islands.

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Bonus: Famous Japanese Gardens

Anderson Japanese Gardens

Located in Rockford, Illinois USA, the Anderson Japanese Gardens opened in 1978. Founder John R. Anderson took inspiration from his travels to Japan and Portland Japanese Garden. This famous garden showcases pristine design, wonderful walkways, and an assortment of fish, minks, and ducks.

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Shofuso Japanese House and Garden

This famous Japanese Garden is situated in West Fairmount Park, Philadelphia USA. It boasts of breathtaking scenery, serene ponds, and a classic Japanese house. Moreover, it is known as part of the best three Japanese gardens in the United States. Visit and watch traditional shows and productions hosted in the house.

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Portland Japanese Garden

A stunning Japanese Garden opened in 1967 in Portland, Oregon USA. This renowned garden is designed by Professor Takuma Tono. Pictures of its spectacular maple trees have gone viral all over the world. In visiting this garden, you will encounter a variety of plants, stroll paths, and pristine design.

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Adachi Museum of Art

The Adachi Museum of Art in Yasugi, Japan boasts of the modern Japanese art collection. However, aside from this, a myriad of visitors flock to its remarkable lush garden encircling the museum. This popular site has frequently received accolades from gardening magazines as one of the best Japanese gardens.

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Rikugien Garden

This marvelous garden’s name alludes to the fact that it captures scenes from famed Japanese poems. Found in Tokyo, the Rikugien Japanese Garden features hills surrounding a large pond and intertwining trails. It is a surprisingly serene area in the busiest city in Japan.

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Japanese Garden Plants


For Japanese gardeners blessed with water features, the Lotus plant is a vital addition. Seeing a mature Lotus blooming is admirable. It has grown leaves that are three feet in diameter. Home gardeners also should not dismay because they can produce dwarf varieties of the plant in wood barrels or midsize ponds. In this case, gardeners must be careful that the roots do not freeze.

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If plagued with a sodden area in your garden, you can opt to plant Japanese irises that thrive on moist all throughout the year. This plant is continually starving not only for fertilizer but also for water. Be that as it may, it will compensate you with flower stalks that are up to five feet tall. The only thing left for you to do is separate old clumps per three years.

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Bamboos are a regular figure with Japanese gardens. It is because Bamboos are in fact paramount to the Japanese culture. For example, when harvesting Timber bamboos, it’s utilized at home for use such as chopsticks, fences, and fans. Remember when choosing bamboos to use opt for the clumping type instead of the ones that spread by runners. Those types are invasive and even prohibited in some regions. Like any other plant, Japanese bamboos prosper on a shade and frequent moisture; however, avoid watering beyond the normal limits.

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On one hand, you will see these trumpet-shaped flowers in various hues of yellow, salmon, pink, red, white and violet. For centuries, Japanese gardeners cultivated Azaleas; however, at present, modern hybridizers have discovered reblooming azaleas. No need to wait for spring to adore this thriving shrub. Take note that these plants flourish in moisture, however, it will perish in damp winter soils.

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Last, in our list are Hosta plants. The naturalized types found throughout Japan are reputable compared to the North American hybrids. Selecting this plant in various sizes, shade, shape, and appearance can build you a rich garden wholly comprised of Hostas. While irrigation is substantial in growing Hosta, however, keep in mind this Japanese plant is vulnerable to fungal disease and crown rot brought on by excessive wet conditions.

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Final Thoughts on Japanese Gardens

To sum up, Japanese gardens are primarily organic and natural in design. Substantial in achieving this Japanese style garden is to include the principles and elements which are particular in its culture. Adding these aspects will ensure that you will attain that tranquility and balance renowned with this kind of garden. In either case, while the garden design ideas provided above will assist you in starting your garden project, however, it is still your ingenuity and innovativeness that will matter in creating your space.

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Equally important in Japanese gardens is the balance. The elements you include in your garden should work well with the other components present in your garden. You will normally see stone lanterns, Japanese plants, or other Asian structures incorporated into the design but take note that these are strategically placed to keep the balance of the style. Additionally, in caring for the plants in your garden, ensure that it is considerably irrigated but not overwhelming that it will suffer from diseases or rot.

Again, the Japanese garden is prominent in providing a place for practitioners of the self-healing arts to meditate and contemplate. Thus, it is vital that the space they are in is serene and tranquil in nature so that it can help them fully concentrate.

From a simple penchant for yellow flowers as a child to becoming a full-time gardener, nature advocate, and garden designer, I am extremely happy to finally have a platform for me to successfully spread knowledge and expertise in the garden. After highschool graduation, I took many courses related to garden design to feed myself with more knowledge and expertise other than what I learned from my mom growing up. Soon as I finished courses, I gained more experience through internships and most especially, garden shows! I also tried to join as many garden design competitions locally. For any garden design inquiries, ping me!

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