9 Flowers for Japanese Gardens

Last Updated on February 2, 2023 by Derek

What should be in a Japanese garden?
What kind of flowers are traditional for Japanese gardens?

Japanese gardens are a national treasure and reflect the traditional oriental way of contemplation and peace in all things. Otherwise known as Zen Gardens, it’s important to have the balance between form and color, choosing plants and flowers that provided contrast but also complement each other.

This article suggests some flowers and plants suitable for planting and growing your own Japanese-style garden.

Japanese flowering plants

Flowers really intends to describe relatively small plants that grow from bulbs or seeds, but shrubs and tres also have flowers – we call them blossoms. if the flowers give way to fruits. Before growing anything, put together Japanese shrubs list and choose the ones with the best looking flowers.

Japanese flowering trees and shrubs list

  1. Fatsia japonica
  2. Pittosporum Tom Thumb
  3. Sarcococca
  4. Pittosporum Variegatum
  5. Choisya
  6. Euonymus
  7. Mahonia soft caress
  8. Pine
  9. Japanese Maple
  10. Hinoki Cypress
  11. Nandina domestica
  12. Bamboo
  13. Camellia
  14. Plum Yew

Japanese plants indoor are a great idea if you want to have the taste of a garden indoors and can’t create one outdoors. Japanese plants for pots include dwarf shrubs such as Juniper, Cedar and other conifers.

What flowers go in a Japanese garden?

Plants for Zen gardens should be carefully chosen for balance, of form and color. The idea of balance is vital in Japanese philosophy and culture i.e. Yin Yang, or the opposite cycles that make physical existence possible.

A full sun Japanese garden needs a combination of different size ground-based flowers, grasses, ferns, shrubs and trees. Look for plants that are traditionally grown in Japan but will also thrive in you particular location.

Video – Top 11 Plants for a Japanese Zen Garden

What flowers are in a Zen garden?

What should be in a Japanese garden?

Before choosing flowers for your Zen garden, it’s important to understand to ideas behind this particularly oriental venture. Japanese philosophy values balance in all things and understands the cyclical nature of our world.

The plants chosen should capture this idea of balance by contrasting and complementing each other. If this is one correctly, then the synergy of the overall visual effect of the garden will be much greater than the sum of the effect of all the individual plants.

6 elements of a Japanese garden

The 6 main elements of a Japanese garden are:

  1. Water
  2. Rocks
  3. Bridges and fences
  4. Fish
  5. Trees and Flowers
  6. Stone lanterns and water basins

Let’s expand on that a little:

  • Rocks may be smaller in the form of large pebbles with grass or ferns growing, or set in sand or semi-submerged in water.
  • Sand (Suna) can be a feature in a corner of your Zen garden, often raked into pleasing patterns.
  • Water (Mizu) is often present in the form of a Waterfall (Taki), or as still ponds which reflect the plants, flowers and blossoms
  • Plants (Hana) – it goes without saying that flowers, grasses, shrubs, trees and blossoms are the staple of a garden.
  • Bridge (Hashi) represents passing over from a mortal life to a spiritual existence. It signifies understanding and peace.

Japanese garden ideas for front yard

One of the main ideas is running water and round stones, so these can be easily added to a front yard. Add some select dwarf shrubs and flowers in containers and pots and the effect will be attractive and calming, which is one of the main ideas behind a Japanese garden.

Japanese garden ideas for small spaces

The same principles apply for smaller gardens, except that large trees have to be avoided, and it probably won’t be possible to have a small wooden bridge over a stream of running water!

Of course, most flowers and shrubs can be used. Luckily, dwarf trees and shrubs are part of the Japanese culture, so there is a huge selection of small varieties to choose from if you have limited garden space.

What plants are in a traditional Japanese garden?

The best flowers and plants for a Japanese garden are ones that traditionally grow in Japan. The list below give a good balance of color and style, from simple flowers to the beautiful Cherry blossom.

It’s important to have a combination of plants, from tiny delicate flowers, to shrubs and trees. Tress with white and pink blossoms are a strong tradition in Japan.

Note: If you have difficulty growing some of these plants in your area, try and replace them with a more hardy plant with the same color and flower type. Some parts of Japan are humid and hot, while others are more moderate.

Japanese garden plants pictures

The plant picture below show some flowers that are strong contenders for Japanese garden space:

Rhododendrons (Azelia)

Rhododendrons look great in a Zen garden
White and Pink flowers of the Rhododendron bush – always a Japanese Garden Favorite

There are hundreds of Rhododendron varieties to choose from with a range flower colors. The can be a short type great for ground cover or some varieties can grow up to 25 feet, so you won’t have any trouble finding just the right one for you garden.

A rich, well-drained soil is essential and it’s normally necessary to add compost or other nutrients to ensure good growth, particularly after planting, either from seeds or cuttings.

Black pine

Trees for Japanese gardens - Black Pine
Black Pine – cones and leaves for a Japanese ‘Zen’ feel!

Hakonechloa (Japanese Forest Grass)

Hakonechloa is Japanese forest grass suitable for oriental garden
Hakonechloa set in stones or bark shavings.

Quince tree

Quince fruit is a Japanese favorite
Quince looks good in a Japanese Garden – and you can eat it too!

Wisteria floribunda

Wisteria floribunda – Japanese Gardens need contrast, Wisteria against colored grasses and small ground-based flowers.

Araiostegia parvipinnata

Araiostegia parvipinnata looks like a delicate fern but it's a garden shrub.
Araiostegia perfectly reflects an elements of all Japanese gardens – intricate patterns and delicate colors.

Japanese maple tree

Japanese maple tree is chosen for it's colorful display in Autumn
Japanese Maples gives an awesome display of autumnal crimson and russet, ensuring seasonal color in a Japanese garden.

Styrax shrub blossoms

Styrax - Asian garden blossoms
White styrax blossoms are a delicate and pretty addition to any oriental-style garden

Cherrie blossom

Falling Cherry blossoms - the basis for famous Japanese poems
No Japanese garden would be complete without the National Japanese Flower – pink and white Cherry Blossoms

Japanese garden shrubs

Japanese plants for pots

Japanese evergreen plants

  • Sarcococca
  • Pittosporum Tom Thumb
  • Pittosporum Variegatum
  • Nandina domestica
  • Choisya
  • Euonymus
  • Fatsia japonica
  • Mahonia soft caress


What flowers are in a Zen garden?

A zen garden is a place of contrast so should included a great variety of plants and flowers from trees to the smallest flowers.

No Zen garden would be complete without the Cherry Tree and its blossoms, often set in the midst of a blanket of pink and white flower surrounding it.

Roes, ferns and grasses are also firm favorites, while fungus makes little appearance. While rich soil is essential, Zen gardens have an abundance of rocks and smaller pebbles set in separate areas, again for contrast.

Do Japanese gardens have roses?

Yes, all types of roses are very popular in Japan. Just like in the West, they come in all kinds of colors and sizes. Wabara roses are often grown and new varieties are constantly emerging.

What is the most popular plant in Japan?

The most popular plant is probably the Cherry Tree with its pink and white blossoms. In fact, it’s the Japanese national flower, so its popularity is also a little patriotic.

Azaleas (Rhododendron), Bamboo (Fargesia) and Camellia (Camellia Japonica) are also favored.

Other resources relating to Japanese garden flowers

Japanese Garden Plants | HGTV

12 Traditional Japanese Plants For Your Backyard Zen Garden

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