Plants for a Chaniwa Garden

In traditional Japanese landscaping, the chaniwa garden leads the visitor to a chashitsu, or tearoom. This chaniwa area often features a stepping-stone pathway, stone lanterns and a tsukubai. The tsukubai contains a water basin, usually made of stone, surrounded by other stones. To landscape these features, use evergreen trees and shrubs, as well as interestingly shaped plants to incorporate a feeling of timelessness, rather than colorful herbaceous perennial or annual plants that disappear in the winter.


A symbol of eternity because of their long lives and evergreen nature, pine trees figure heavily in the chaniwa garden. Larger specimens include the Japanese black pine, which grows up to 100-feet tall, and the yew pine, which grows as tall as 50 feet. Smaller pine choices include the shrubby mugho pine and the shrubby yew pine. In Japanese gardens, a process of training pines known as "candling" involves pinching off all or some of each needle bud, or candle. Removing the entire candle stops each branch from getting longer, while removing half results in increased bushiness and some growth.


Ferns help tie together the boulders and stone basin features of the chaniwa garden with the rest of the landscape. They also make use of shady, moist places under trees and in low-lying areas of the yard, which can be hard to plant. Use lady fern behind larger stone basins and other features. These delicate frond ferns reach up to 4 feet. Place Japanese painted ferns to the sides of boulders or along stepping stones. This fern variety grows about 18-inches tall and offers striking green, silver and burgundy foliage.

Mondo Grass

Fountain-like Mondo grass softens the edges of pathways, boulders or stream banks, while providing the feeling of cascading water. The plant works well as either a specimen plant or grouped as a ground cover. The common variety grows 6- to 18-inches high, while cultivars such as Kyoto Dwarf and Nana only reach two or three inches. The shade-tolerant plants replace grass and choke out weeds under trees. They don't require much in the way of fertilizer or watering but do grow best when mowed or clipped in early spring.


A garden feature that adds a mysterious feeling to pathways, boulders and stone walls, moss can be adapted to your region if you choose the right variety. It prefers shady, moist places and can be planted in plug form or as a dried, powdered material, which gets tamped into soil and moistened.


A traditional backdrop to the tsukubai, bamboo plants come in both clumping and running varieties. Contain running bamboo in concrete or metal underground barriers, or focus on clumping bamboo types, which are far less invasive. Good clumping bamboo varieties include the fountain types, Fargesia nitida and F. murielae, which grow to about 8-feet tall, tolerate shade and don't form invasive colonies. The former is hardy to 0 degrees F, while the latter tolerates winters that dip to -20 degrees F.

Japanese Maples

Several varieties of Japanese maple exist, allowing you to find one that meets your height and soil specifications. All are extremely hardy and boast graceful branches and striking fall colors of red or burgundy. Some have red bark, while others are small enough to grow in a container. Most Japanese maples stay under 20 feet, making them striking choices to set between a dark pine tree and a large boulder.

Japanese Flowering Plums and Cherries

Both flowering plums and cherries are native to Japan, and add springtime color to the chaniwa garden. Both species and their cultivars are small to medium ornamental trees. The flowering plum blossoms with red, white or pink blossoms, while the flowering cherry sports white or pink blooms.

Keywords: chaniwa gardens, Japanese landscaping, tea house gardens, chaniwa plants

About this Author

Melissa Jordan-Reilly has been a writer for 20 years, both as a newspaper reporter and as an editor of nonprofit newsletters. Among the publications in which she has published are, "The Winsted Journal," "Taconic" and "Compass Magazine." A graduate of the University of Connecticut, Jordan-Reilly also pursues sustainable agriculture techniques and tends a market garden at her Northwestern Connecticut home.