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How to Choose Plants for a Japanese Style Garden

NinaDanielle
Published on August 21st 2021
7
Japanese Garden, Bonsai Tree, Japanese cherry, Zen by domin_domin (All rights reserved)
A close up of a garden
If you'd like to transform your garden into a more mindful space to help you relax and find peace, perhaps a Japanese style garden can offer you some inspiration.

What is a Japanese garden style?

Japanese garden design dates back hundreds of years, embracing Buddhist, Shinto, and Taoist philosophies. Japanese gardens aim to encourage peaceful contemplation and self-reflection. Their simplistic design typically incorporates plants, water, and rocks, carefully balancing stillness with movement.
In contrast to formal gardens, Japanese gardens are highly asymmetric. Rather than filling the space with colourful blooms, Japanese gardens involve a fusion of greens. Trees and shrubs may be pruned into shapes that resemble clouds, and carpets of green moss are left to cover boulders and other stone structures.
A person lying on the ground
Pictured: A Japanese rock garden with lines drawn in the gravel
Browse plants for a Japanese garden in the collection:

Japanese Style Garden

Shop
GardeningExpress
Wisteria floribunda 'Domino' (Issai) - Japanese - Approx. 5ft including the pot
£87.95
GardeningExpress
Camellia japonica 'Brushfield Yellow' - Double Flowered Brushfield Camellia - 2-3L container
£25.24
Bali-Hai Nursery
Hosta 'Love Pat' - Bare Root Plant - Hardy
£13
Free delivery
GardeningExpress
Fatsia japonica 'Spiders Web' - hardy evergreen - Approx 2-3 Litre container
£21.94
John Cullen Gardens
Pennisetum al.' Little Bunny' 1ltr (Fountain Grass)
£5£7.50
John Cullen Gardens
Pennisetum alopecuroides 'Hameln' 1ltr (Chinese Fountain Grass)
£5£7.50
Other key features of Japanese gardens include:
  • Water features with fish
  • Rocks, boulders, gravel and sand
  • Bridges
  • Stone lanterns and water basins
  • Garden fences and gates
Top 3 planting tips:
  1. Try to select plants with a Japanese or Chinese origin.
  2. Less is more. Stick to a few kinds of plants throughout the garden and don't overcrowd spaces.
  3. Show off the surrounding landscape rather than covering up views.
A close up of a garden

Our 10 Favourite Plants For A Japanese-inspired Garden

1) Japanese Acer or Maple

Japanese Maple

Acer palmatum

One of the first plants that spring to mind when we think of a Japanese-style garden is the Maple tree. Japanese Acer was originally cultivated in Japan, and it continues to be a popular choice of ornamental tree grown in Western gardens today.
The elegant leaves are pointed and hand-shaped, fading to spectacular red, yellow, and orange hues throughout the autumn months.
Get yours here:
A plant in a garden

2) Hydrangea

In Japan, Hydrangeas are adored for their beautiful features and striking blossoms. Huge blooms surround temples such as Meigetsu-in Kamakura and have become a must-see stop for tourists during their visit. So if you are looking to add a touch of colour and tranquillity to your Japanese-style garden, you can't go wrong with blue Hydrangea.
Explore all Hydrangeas:

3) Tree Peonies

Peonies originate from Asia, Europe and Western North America. They were highly cultivated in China for thousands of years and were first transported to Japan for their medicinal properties.
The attractive flowers of Tree Peony are great for adding colour and sweet scent to gardens in late spring and summer. They grow best in full to partial sun and prefer moist soil.

4) Bonsai

The word 'Bonsai' translates to mean tree in a pot in English. Special techniques such as trimming roots and wiring to control the plant growth above the ground keep the tree small but still realistic of a tree found growing in its natural environment.
Like trees in nature, Bonsai plants change through the seasons and symbolise Eastern philosophies of harmony between man, the soul and nature. This theme runs strongly throughout Japanese gardens.
Find a bonsai plant for your garden and home:

A train traveling down train tracks near a forest

5) Wisteria

Wisteria looks beautiful when draped from a large and sturdy garden surface or when grown as an espalier. In Japan-style gardens, Wisteria is grown over large arbours and arches.
Chosen for their lilac, grape-like blooms, they are used to create magnificent tunnels of purple in national gardens across Japan.
Learn how to prune Wisteria plants below:
Or buy one for your garden here:

6) Cherries

Although they're not a typical choice in traditional Japanese gardens, the blossom of cherry is one of the most recognised symbols of Japan and the arrival of spring. Today, Cherries are frequently incorporated in the design of Western Japanese-style gardens.
Choose Cherry for enchanting spring confetti-like blossom and fabulous, fiery tones of red and orange come autumn.
Find a Cherry tree for your garden here:

7) Euonymus

Euonymus is a plant typically grown for hedging or as a topiary garden feature in formal-style gardens. Most varieties are fairly hardy plants, and their attractive autumnal foliage makes them a garden favourite.
For a Japanese style garden, prune Euonymus in a smooth, rounded fashion, at a low to medium height.

A japanese style garden with a pond and stepping stones

8) Ferns

Ferns fit the Japanese garden theme well and look beautiful when grown alongside other shade-loving plants. To fit the true aesthetic, grow alongside Hostas and other low-growing plants.

9) Bamboo

Bamboo is a great way to create natural barriers if you are working with a small space and want to style your garden in line with Japanese influences.
A close up of a garden

10) Hosta

Hostas originate from East-Central China but frequently occur in Japanese-style garden displays. Hostas look great when grown alongside ferns and ornamental grasses. Their hardy nature means they can be grown in just about any garden.

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