Japanese Water Garden Plants

Japanese gardens are used on landscapes to balance out nature and harmony. In particular, Japanese water gardens use water to bring together spirituality, essential elements in nature and a natural flow of order. Usually, water gardens revolve around specifics such as not only water, but also plants, bridges and stones. When choosing plants for a Japanese water garden, it is important to keep in mind the particular meanings of plants in Japanese culture and what they bring to the garden.


Choosing the right tree for the water garden will create a feeling of an enclosed sanctuary and an aesthetic value with colors and shade. They also represent a long life. Common trees found in a Japanese water garden includes varieties such as Japanese red maple, cherry, flowering plum, coastal redwood, cedar, willow and Japanese black pine. Many of these trees provide shade and an attractive value year-round, especially when colors turn in fall.


Flowers are not usually a large element of Japanese water gardens, but when they are included, they are usually flowers that flourish straight out of the water and represent the Japanese culture. Popular water garden flowers include water lilies, the Japanese water iris, lily pads, lotus and other water-standing perennials. Flowers add splashes of color in the water and a graceful presence.

Moss and Groundcover

Nothing adds a rich, lush, comfortable element to a garden as moss and other groundcover plants. For Japanese water gardens, moss is an important element as it can flourish on the rocks, water banks and on tree trunks with little to no maintenance. Popular Japanese water garden mosses are sheet moss (full shade, medium green color, easiest to work with); rock cap moss (grows best on rocks and banks, very thick and emerald green); and cushion moss (prefers sandy soil, grows in full shade to partial sun, light green silvery color). Ground cover plants can provide a texture like moss, but also more splashes of color with varieties such as baby's tears and Japanese ardisia.

Keywords: Japanese garden plants, water garden design, water plants, zen water 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.