Last Updated on December 27, 2022 by Clarisse Walters
List of Japanese plants
- Japanese irises
- Tree peonies
- Japanese maples
- Japanese holly
- Black Bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra)
- Japanese Quince (Chaenomeles japonica)
- Chinese Elm (Ulmus parvifolia)
- Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)
- Garden Juniper (Juniperus procumbens
- Buddha Belly Bamboo (Bambusa ventricosa)
- Japanese Boxwood (Buxus microphylla var. Japonica)
- Japanese Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda)
- Japanese Sedge (Carex morrowii)
- Japanese Cobra Lily (Arisaema sikokianum)
What types of plants are in a Japanese garden?
Japanese gardens are created with a different approach to their Western counterparts. The central idea is balance and the design follows the spiritual aspects of Zen – peace, balance and no extremes.
While there are many colorful Japanese plants specific to the island’s local weather, a Japanese garden often consists of relatively few plants, predominantly green, with an accent on balanced design rather than using plants as ‘space-fillers’.
Typical Japanese garden plants are:
- Japanese irises
- Tree peonies
- Japanese maples
- Japanese holly
Video – 9 Traditional Japanese Plant Types
What are some unique plants in Japan?
In modern times most Japanese plants are grown in many countries in the world, but there are some plants that are unique to Japan.
Without international travel, these plants would probably not have been found elsewhere.
- Tiger Lily
- Paris Tetraphylla
- Japanese Snake Gourd
- Lacecap Hydrangea
- Japanese Snowbell
- Buffalo Burr
What is the most popular plant in Japan?
The Japanese cherry blossom is the national flower of Japan and with good reason.
A small and delicate flower, the Cherry Blossom appears in whites and pinks during the spring. Cherry blossom festivals are organized all over the country to celebrate it’s arrival and it’s passing.
All Japanese flowers have a meaning – for Cherry Blossom the meaning is ‘Accomplishment and Beauty of Heart’.
10 Popular Japanese Plant Varieties
1. Black Bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra)
Black Bamboo grows fast, so fast you can almost see it’s progress from day to day! It’s great for beginning gardeners, as it’s very tolerant to temperature extremes, even down to freezing for short periods of time.
It can grow out or indoors and doesn’t need a lot of care, so a good choice for an exotic addition to any garden. It’s black appearance makes it feel special without being delicate.
Japanese plants indoor – Black Bamboo
It’s a good idea to plant Black Bamboo in big pots outdoors. If your winters are particularly severe, bring the pots indoors – they make great companions!
The young shoots are actually green, but by the second ghrowing year they will have turned to matt black. The green foliage provides a good contrast and makes the plant even more interesting.
With about 12 feet of growth every year, if you let it go, Black Bamboo can reach about 25 feet high. That said, they are easily clipped short, and the cut lengths can be used in crafts as decorations for the home.
2. Japanese Quince (Chaenomeles japonica)
Japanese quince (Chaenomeles japonica) is a deciduous shrub indigenous to Japan and found everywhere in that country. It grows to about 1 m in height, resplendent with colorful of red, white and pink spring flowers.
It’s branches spread wide and it can grow up to 2 meters in height. It is a bulky shrub with thorns and widely spreading branches, which reaches heights of growth of 0.6 to 2.0 meters. The leaves are egg-shaped and flat, toothed around the edges and very smooth. They grow to around 5 inches long and can be up to 3 inches wide.
Japanese bush plant – Quince
It blooms twice, once in winter time and to a lesser extent in summer, with typically a cluster of 2 or 3 orange-red flowers. When fully opened, the flowers are about 3.5 cms wide and later turn into fruits that look a bit like small golden-yellow apples.
You can eat the fruits but they are a bit hard, so better cooked, which also improves the taste. It can be used in jams or pies. Japanese Quince can gorw in most soils, except soils with lots of calcium, which slows it’s growth considerably.
3. Chinese Elm (Ulmus parvifolia)
It is an excellent shade tree and possesses several characteristics which make it most favorable for many landscape applications.
The spreading branches of the Chinese Elm give good shade and are greta for largish gardens. Although native to China, Japan, Vietnam and North Lorea, it can grow in many locations. In some places it’s classed as invasive, it grows so well.
Japanese garden trees – Elm
Chinese Elm has an extensive and deep root system and can reach a height of 80 feet. It’s more common to see tress of about 45 feet. The roots are seen as a problem as they are close to the surface and ramble far away from the tree’s trunk, often cracking or lifting paving slabs or concrete pathways.
They grow pretty quickly – up to 30 inches per season and can reach a mature height of 50 feet in 15 to 20 years. It’s width isn’t as broad as it’s height, so it gives a pleasant vase shape – perfect for hiding from the mid-day sun!
It’s leaves are dark green and shiny on top, and lighter green underneath.
4. Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)
Japanese Maple grows well in full sunshine in most locations as long as the heat is not too extreme, but it’s equally comfortable in shady conditions. Whuile a good amount of sun gives the best foliage colors in every season, it will still thrive in a shady environment.
Japanese maples can be grown in containers in hot and cold countries, bringing the pots indoors if temperatures go too low. They can be difficult to grow, but id tended well they wqill reward you with sturdy and colorful growth.
They exist in many varieties and are a tough plant, adapting to many habitats. Dwarf maples are perfect for growing in tubs and larger varieties of trees look great in an garden, drawing a visitor’s eye.
The roots are not considered to be invasive, meaning they don’t spread far from the main tap root. If you don’t want a large tree simply trim it back regularly and it will also limit root growth even more. It’s a good candidate for locations close to buildings, as it isn’t likely to affect concrete or slab foundations.
Red Dragon variation of Japanese Maple stays red all year round and is very resistant to hot sunshine. The leaves will be colored cherry-pink for spring-time, red in the summer months and become deep red in fall/winter.
5. Garden Juniper (Juniperus procumbens)
The Garden Juniper is a slow-growing plant that’s hardy and grows in most soils. A popular variety spreads outwards rather than upwards and tends to grow at a rate of a few inches per year. The common shrub variety reaches a height of around 20 inches.
Japanese evergreen plants
Garden Junipers like plenty of sun, although they can tolerate some shade. Is starved of sunshine, the branches spread out to try and capture more light, which makes them look sparse and stringy. After losing their shape in this way, it’s very difficult to get it back.
These shrubs are easy to grow and quite happy in moist or dry conditions, but Garden Junipers must have well-drained soil. The roots will rot if resting in water-logged soil.
They are erfect for container growing due to the very slow growth. In fact, you may have to wait 50 years for a Juniper shrub to mature! Plant them in the Autumn iderally, but you can also plant them in the Spring.
6. Buddha Belly Bamboo (Bambusa ventricosa)
Buddha Belly Bamboo is an unusual looking plant with regular bulges that lends itself well to container growth. It’s very decorative. The dwarf variety is often trained in ther Bonsai way, producing attractive miniature clumps.
This variety of bamboo is a ‘clumper’, that is it doesn’t grow straight up, or spread agressively, but prefers to grow in a group or clump of stalks. It grows fast, like all bamboo, but not as fast as some.
Buddha Belly Bamboo originates in Vietnam and thrives in hot humid conditions, However, it will grow well in sub-tropical areas and likes to be well-watered once a week.
You’ll find that the stalks tend to grow across each other, rather than straight up and in parallel. This gives the Buddha Belly another distinctice trait and reason to cultivate it as a decorative addition to your garden.
It will take some years to mature and you give it space and plenty of water, it could reach a good height of around 45 feet with a clump diameter of 12 feet or so.
7. Japanese Boxwood (Buxus microphylla var. Japonica)
Great for hedges, the Japanese Boxwood plant can be grown in sun or shade, it just grows more slowly with direct sunshine. It’s an evergreen with a multitude of bright green shiny leaves, renowned for it’s low maintenance.
It’s Western name of ‘boxwood’ probably comes from the fact that it grows to about 5 feet high and also spreads to 5 feet if left to it’s own growth pattern. It’s easily trimmed into shapes and is often planted along garden boundaries to mark off the garden area.
Japanese plants outdoor – Boxwood
Japanese Boxwood prefers a well-drained soil and plenty of water in it’s first year of growth. After it’s established you can ease up on watering and it will thrive with the natural rainfall, wherever you are. As with all plants, in times of extreme drought, it’s a good idea to treat it to a spraty now and again.
Just like privet hedges commonly found around the gardens of English homes, the shrub is easily trimmed and looks best if you don’t go too deep into the plant. This is where the leaves thin out and the shrub will begin to look bare, with too much wood showing.
8. Japanese Wisteria (Wisteria floribunda)
Japanese Wisteria is a climbing plant with beautiful lilac colored flowers. It’s lovely, but it’s designated invasive in some areas in the U.S. as it can wind around trees and other structures to form thick clumps of growth.
Growth is rapid and the plant puts down roots very quickly wherever the runners touch the ground. This makes it high-maintenance if plantd in you gardem, as it will tend to over-run other plants and trees nearby.
Japanese Wisteria is also quite hard, in that it doens’ mind dry or wet soils. It does, however, prefer sunshine to shade. Don’t plant close to your home, as the shoots tend to grow into any crevice they can find!
It blooms abundantly in Spring with purple, blues or white flowers, leaving brown seed pods hanging until winter time when they’ll drop ready for Spring.
9. Japanese Sedge (Carex morrowii)
Japanese Sedge is a decorative grass indigenous to low-lying areas of Japan. The leaves grow to about a foot long and bend over, giving a shiimering impression when blown by the wind.
It grows in clumps and prefers well-drained soils of any type, although it thrives in shady conditions. It’s a good addition to a garden because it grows in rounded clumps and doesn’t spread away from it’s cohort.
Like most grasses, Japanese Sedge like plenty of water when it’s getting established and a reasonable amount once it’s fully mature. Too much sunshine makes the green color fade quickly, so best planted in a place that gets just a few hours sun each day.
Japanese Sedge needs very little maintenance. It’s natural shape is attractive and compliments it’s neighbors. The best way to propogate a nature plant is to simply seperate a clump of growth and re-plant in enriched soil, giving it plenty of water during the settling in phase.
10. Japanese Cobra Lily (Arisaema sikokianum)
Japanese Cobra Lily is an exotic looking plant that is a favorite of Japanese plant lovers. It’s an insectivore and feasts on flies and other insects attracted to it’s nectar, falling down into it’s interior to be digested.
The flower itself is toxic to humans and animals, but the root and leaves are eaten and used for medicinal purpioses in some countries. Unlike orchids, which they resemble, Japanese Cobra Lilies are hardy and can even thrive in countries like Scotland.
Japanese plants for pots – Cobra Lily
They prefer a rich soil and shady conditions, ideally in the shade of shrube or trees. They grow readily in pots or containers inside or outside.
It’s called Cobra Lily because of the shape of it’s extended flower, designed to lure and welcome it’s insect prey. If well-nourished, it produces bright red berries in the fall. In good conditions, the plant may live 2 years.
Infographic – 5 Popular Types Of Japanese Plants
Japanese shrubs list
- Japanese maples
- Japanese maples
- Black pines
Other resources relating to types of Japanese plants: