Although many plants and flowers work well in an Asian-themed garden, several specific plants bring to mind Japanese, Chinese, zen and Buddhist gardens. Bamboo, water flowers and stylized trees offer a solid foundation around which you can grow other flowers and plants.
Bamboo is available in many sizes, colors and varieties. Dwarf varieties grow between 12 and 18 inches. Other varieties grow more than 60 feet tall. Consider your climate zone when selecting bamboo to grow outdoors. Although some varieties are cold hardy down to -20 degrees F, many won't survive drops in temperature below freezing.
Lotus & Water Lilies
Lotus is a symbolic flower in Buddhism and many Asian cultures, and makes a suitable addition to an Asian-themed garden. Because they are visually similar to lotus, water lilies are often found in gardens in Asia. Both plants grow underwater, either in a pot filled with water or in a pond. Lotus and water lilies are good plants to add visual interest to a koi pond. Although lotus range from white to pink, water lilies come in a variety of colors, including white, yellow, red, orange, pink, purple and blue.
Bonsai & Dwarf Trees
In Asia, most bonsai trees are outdoor trees that are part of a garden. The trees are brought inside for display during their peak periods, such as when blooms are present. To be considered a bonsai, a tree must be kept in a small pot. However, you can apply bonsai styling techniques to trees planted directly in the ground to create dramatic shapes and effects, like windswept junipers or highly stylized pines or deciduous trees. The advantage of styling a tree in the ground, rather than as a bonsai, is that trees planted in the ground have access to natural soil nutrients and don't require the constant fertilization and care of a bonsai.