Plants Found in a Japanese Garden

A Japanese garden is designed to encourage the visitor to wander along the paths deep in thought and reflection. The design is a blend of harmony and tranquility among the plants. The goal of a Japanese garden is to use asymmetry and simplicity to preserve nature in a manmade setting. Elements like bridges, ponds, fountains, waterfalls, lanterns, paths, benches, sand and pebbles are commonly found in these styles of gardens. Japanese gardens play host to hundreds of different types of plants.

Coral Berry

Coral berry (Ardisia crenata) is called manryo in Japanese. It is an upright shrub growing 6 feet tall and forming clumps of dark green, glossy leaves. White and pink blossoms with enlarged centers and petals pulled back develop in downward-facing clusters. The bright red berry clusters that appear after the flowers have faded attract songbirds to the garden. Coral berry is highly invasive, so it needs heavy maintenance for control.

Flowering Cherry

Flowering cherry trees (Prunus spp.) are the famous sakura trees in Japan. These deciduous trees reach 15 to 25 feet tall with a spreading canopy of 15 to 20 feet wide. In May, white and pink cherry blossoms cover the branches. Oval, 2- to 5-inch leaves have sharply tapering ends. These green leaves turn bronze and red in the autumn. Flowering cherry trees are commonly trained to develop trailing branches. This short-lived tree rarely sets fruit.

Japanese Red Pine

Japanese red pine (Pinus densiflora) is called akamatsu in Japan. This evergreen tree slowly grows up to 100 feet tall and develops multiple trunks. The foliage consists of bright green, 3- to 4-inch needles growing in pairs and clustered on top of stems. Tan, 2-inch long pine cones stay on the tree for two years. The bark is flaky and red when young, and then it turns gray as it ages. Japanese red pine trees prefer full sun. This pine tree has no salt tolerance, so fails to thrive in coastal areas.

Japanese Serrisa

Japanese serrisa (Serissa foetida) is a semi-evergreen shrub known as hakuchoge in Japan. This shrub keeps its leaves year-round in warm climates and grows 3 to 4 feet tall. This bush has a natural round shape with tightly packed branches covered with 1- to 1 1/2-inch, deep green leaves with yellow edges. Small white, star-shaped flowers cover the foliage in spring. Japanese serrisa is not fragrant and thrives in full sun to partial shade. This is a shrub that can withstand arid conditions.


Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) is known in Japanese as hasu. This aquatic plant thrives in full sunlight and needs lots of space to grow. Lotus reaches 5 to 8 feet tall and spreads 4 to 8 feet wide. Most of the plant structure is below the water line. This fast-growing plant produces leaves about 2 feet across. Rose, pink, orange, yellow and pale yellow blossoms grow on top of a tall flower stalk. The blossoms can reach up to 8 inches across. The lotus is a very aggressive and invasive plant, so grow it in a container to keep it under control.

Keywords: Japanese garden, Japanese plants, Japanese garden plants

About this Author

Karen Carter has spent the last three years working as a technology specialist in the public school system. This position included hardware/software installation, customer support, and writing training manuals. She also spent four years as a newspaper editor/reporter at the Willapa Harbor Herald.