Japanese Gardening Plants

Japanese Gardening Plants Top 10 Picks

Japanese-style gardens are some of the best and most stunning gardens in the world! They look easy on the eyes and usually have some of the most stunning flowers, shrubs, and trees. If you are considering setting up a Japanese-style gardening plant, you will need to add specific plants to make the garden look Japanese. In this post, you will discover the ten best Japanese gardening plants

But before you discover the best plants for your Japanese-style garden, here are some tips to help you set up an authentic-looking Japanese garden.

Tips to help you build a realistic Japanese-style garden 

  1. Minimalism is key. Japanese-style gardens are known for their minimalism. They are known for having only a few types of plants sparsely planted and fused with other garden elements such as stones, water features, mini-bridges, and statues.
  2. Merging is important. Japanese gardens are known to merge seamlessly with their surrounding environments. Therefore, if your home has a stunning view, make your garden look like a part of it. 
  3. Bamboo fencing and the use of stones is important. Japanese gardens feature bamboo fencing with bamboo sticks tied closely together. They also typically feature stones in the form of stepping stones, piled rocks or stone art, and gravel. 
  4. Green is important. While green is not a part of the Japanese flag, it is one of the most common colors in Japanese gardens. Most temple gardens in Japan have moss covering almost every single inch of them making them look green and very serene.
  5. Sitting area.  Japanese gardens typically have a sitting area for sitting down and taking in all the serenity and calmness that they are known for. 

Top 10 Japanese gardening plants

Camellia (Camellia japonica) (Max. height: 15 feet)

This is one of the most beautiful shrubs you can plant in a Japanese-style garden. It is an evergreen shrub with a long lifespan and beautiful glossy green leaves. This makes it perfect for creating serenity and extending the green that is typical of Japanese-style gardens. 

This shrub has been planted in Asia for hundreds of years. There is proof that this shrub was grown in the palace of the Japanese emperor as far back as five centuries ago. This shows how long this shrub has been part of Japanese culture.

The best thing about planting Camellia shrubs in your garden is that they have ornamental and structural beauty, which is important for Japanese-style gardens. They also produce flowers during winter, which can give your garden a unique and interesting look when everything around is dark, dull, or dreary. 

This shrub is typically grown as a specimen plant or in a group to create a stunning floral hedge. It can also sometimes be grown next to fences and walls. 

This plant particularly does well in rich, acidic, and well-draining soil. It also prefers full or partial shade.

Its flowers can be red, pink or white. 

Japanese maple (Acer palmatum) (Max. height: 25 feet)

This tree is one of the most characteristic Japanese garden plants. Some gardening experts claim that no Japanese garden is complete without it. 

Japanese maple is a beautiful plant that is available in many varieties including shrub and tree varieties. The shrub varieties grow to a maximum height of about 4 feet, while the tree varieties can get to 25 feet in height. 

The most interesting thing about this plant is the fact that it is relatively easy to grow. The second most interesting thing about it is the way it looks. It looks elegant even when not pruned or left to grow wildly. 

Japanese maples have vibrant and fresh-looking foliage throughout the year. The foliage is almost always brightly colored – it can be purple, yellow, red, or orange. 

Japanese maples are called Japanese maples because they have seven-point leaves akin to the normal maple tree,

If you decide to have this plant in your garden, you will have no difficulty in maintaining it because it needs very little maintenance. 

This plant particularly does well in partial or full shade and moist soil. In addition to being moist, the soil also needs to be well-draining and low pH.

Hakone grass (Hakonechloa macra) (Max. height: 2 feet tall)

Hakone grass is an ornamental grass that forms beautiful cascading foliage. When added to a garden, it can make it look and feel contemplative and serene especially when its foliage catches a light breeze. 

The most amazing thing about Hakone grass is how it changes color. In summer and spring, its foliage looks bright and green, while in winter and fall, it looks golden-orange. In other words, this grass looks pretty stunning in winter. 

Hakone grass bloom in mid-summer. However, the flowers are tiny and usually do not attract even half as much attention as the plant’s amazing foliage. 

What I love the most about the grass is the fact that it is quite resilient. It can thrive in the full sun or partial shade. It can also thrive in moist or soggy soil. This makes it ideal for planting next to a water feature (remember: water features are a common feature of Japanese gardens).

Hakone grass is also perfect for use as ground cover. 

The grass does well in moist but well-draining soil. It thrives in both partial shade and full shade. 

Mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicas) (Max. height: 1 foot)

Mondo grass is not a grass.  It is an evergreen plant that forms clumps of slender foliage that often grow into a stunning tufted carpet. The carpet is perfect for use as a beautiful groundcover.

Typically, Mondo grass is dark green. However, some varieties are black. Black Mondo grass varieties are often used as a background to brightly colored flowers or foliage.

This grass’s slender leaves allow it to sway in the light breeze making it perfect for increasing serenity and the blissful feel in a Japanese garden. 

You can grow Mondo grass in partial shade or full sun. When growing the grass needs to be watered regularly. However, when fully established, it does not need a lot of watering as it is drought-resistant.

Plantain lily (Hosta sp.) (Max. height: 4 feet)

Plantain lily, also known as giboshi (Japanese), is a beautiful lily that is very common in Japan. Like most lilies, this plant is simple and with big leaves. Its simple and minimalist structure makes it perfect for growing around water features in Japanese-style gardens. 

The fact that plantain lilies are simple does not make them unattractive. The lilies have a heart-shape structure that makes them easy on the eyes. 

Plantain lilies are available in several colors, shapes, and sizes. The most common foliage colors include blue, white, cream, yellow, light green, and dark green. 

In mid-summer, they are known to produce pretty white, blue, or purple flowers depending on their species. The flowers are typically trumpet-shaped and wonderful to look at.

Plantain lilies thrive in moist soil and partial shade. Have these two things in mind when growing them.

Oriental poppy (Papaver orientale) (Max. height: 3 feet)

Oriental poppies are flowers that are easy to grow and looking more than amazing in Japanese-style gardens. Their cheerful flowers are often in white, purple, orange, pink, or red.

The most amazing thing about oriental poppies is the fact that the blooms can have petals that are toothed, flat, or ruffled.

The petals typically look like they are made of crepe. They are delightfully delicate.

Oriental poppies bloom in summer or spring and the flowers usually last for numerous weeks. The flowers are often held up high on tall and slender but strong stems. The stems often remain upright even when supporting quite large blooms.

To grow oriental poppies, find or make a site that has fertile and well-draining soil. Make sure the site or sites are in a partial shade or full sun position.

Japanese timber bamboo (Phyllostachys bambusoides) (Max. height: 70 feet tall)

Japanese timber bamboo plants are synonymous with Japanese gardens. They are typically used to make fences, gates, and structures in gardens. They are also grown for their aesthetic value. 

Japanese timber bamboo is surprisingly not native to Japan. It is native to neighboring China. It is typically grown for its ‘timber’ that is used to make furniture and for construction. It is one of the tallest and most valuable bamboo species.

The best thing about this species is that it is easy to grow. You do not need to put a lot of effort into making it survive and thrive. Because of the tall height this bamboo can grow to, it is perfect for use on the border of gardens for privacy screening. It is also perfect for creating private spaces for relaxation, meditation, or outdoor showering. 

While this plant is easy to grow, it needs fertile soil and good sun to thrive. 

Yoshino cherry tree (Prunus x yedoensis) (Max. height: 35 feet tall)

Everyone loves cherry trees because they look amazing. If you also love cherry trees, you should include the Yoshino cherry tree in your Japanese-style garden. This is because this tree, which is ubiquitous across Japan, is a stunning cherry tree. It does well in temperate climates. Therefore, if you are in the north of the USA or England, it should do well in your garden. 

The tree is small and deciduous. In spring, its bare branches are usually filled with stunning white-pink flowers that look stunning and have a divine fragrance. They make a Japanese-style garden to feel authentic.

When this tree is not blooming, its foliage usually takes all the attention in the garden. Its leaves are deep green and leathery, and often fade with time and turn bronze before shedding in the fall season.

Even when its branches are bare, this tree looks amazing and symmetrical. 

The thing that most people love about it is that it can do well in several types of soil. The soil just has to be well-draining.

In terms of light, the Yoshino cherry tree needs to be planted in a full sun position.

Japanese snowbell (Styras japonicas) (Max. height: 30 feet)

This tree is perfect for Japanese-style gardens because it has an aesthetic and symmetrical appearance. It is also perfect because it produces dozens of expressive flowers in early summer or late spring that look amazing and have a nice fragrance. In short, it is a plant that should be at the core of every Japanese garden. 

Its flowers are shaped like bells and often dangle making them look quite nice. 

The tree’s foliage is quite attractive. It features ovate leaves that are mid-green and glossy. They turn yellow and then copper as seasons go by before dropping off.

This plant is perfect for growing in fertile and well-drained soils. It needs full sun or a partial shade to thrive,

Siebold’s wood fern (Dryopteris sieboldii) (Max. height: 3 feet)

This unique fern is perfect for growing near rocks because it looks nice. Its leaves look long and leathery and are usually greyish blue. They last for a long time without dropping off.

This plant likes organic matter. Therefore, make sure you add compost or mulch to the soil where you plant it to make sure it gets the nutrients it needs to look healthy and stunning.

The final words

As you can see above, there are many unique plants that you can use to create a Japanese-style garden with an authentic Japanese feel. Remember, you should not include all the plants listed above. Just choose a handful that will go well with your landscape and your environment and use them to create a garden. Don’t forget to leave space for other Japanese garden elements such as water and rocks.