Common Plants Found in a Japanese Garden

Japanese gardens can be a meditative place or a work of art. The two main types of Japanese gardens include the hill and pond garden and the stroll garden. For the hill and pond style, the environment is relaxed and consists of groups of plants scattered around small hills and a pond, with shrubs pruned to resemble clouds. The stroll garden style has a path that lets visitors walk through the garden, looking at different focal points, usually having to do with history or art. It is important to have a variety of plants for your Japanese garden.


Trees can benefit a Japanese garden by providing shade, color and the atmosphere of an enclosed sanctuary. They also represent a long life. Some common trees found in a Japanese garden includes cherry, flowering plum or a Japanese maple tree. The maple leaves on this variety are attractive all season long, varying between dark green to fiery red on the small spreading crown branches. Evergreen plants are also used often in Japanese gardens, such as coastal redwood, cedar, Himalayan white pine and Japanese black pine and deciduous trees like scarlet maple, willow and water oak.


Although flowers are not a very important element in Japanese gardens, they can provide some color and Japanese culture. Flowers that flourish in water are most common for these gardens, such as water lilies, the Japanese water iris (a long dark green stem with spiky pink petals), lily pads and the lotus.

Moss and Groundcover

Moss is one of the most important additions to Japanese gardens, especially those with water; it is easy to maintain and the garden will have a lush green appearance all year on rocks, the ground or the trees. Common mosses found in Japanese gardens includes sheet moss (thrives in shade, medium green color, easiest to work with); rock cap moss (grows best on rocks and the ground, very dense and dark green); hair cap moss (thrives in partial sun with well-drained soil); and cushion moss (likes sandy soil, thrives in shade to partial sun, light green silvery color). Ground cover is also a beneficial way to add more color, texture and style to a Japanese garden. Although moss is a preferred ground cover in these gardens, others common ones include baby's tears, Japanese ardisia and sweet flag.

Shrubs and Hedges

Most often in Japanese gardens, shrubs represent different shapes and focal points, since they can be pruned so easily. They also help provide some depth and textural variety in the garden, depending on size, leaves and flowers. Shrubs and hedges that are popular in these gardens are Japanese barberry, flowering quince, yew and Japanese pittosporum.

Keywords: Japanese garden design, Japanese plants, garden plants

About this Author

Lauren Wise has more than eight years' experience as a writer, editor, copywriter and columnist. She specializes in food, wine, music and pop culture. Her writing has appeared in various magazines, including "Runway," "A2Z," "Scottsdale Luxury Living" and "True West." Wise holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Arizona State University.