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What is a Japanese Rose?

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  • Written By: N. Phipps
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 26 September 2016
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The Japanese rose, Kerria japonica, is a spring-blooming shrub with yellow flowers amid its evergreen foliage. While the only species within the genus, two other varieties are known — a white-flowering form and a double blooming variety. The shrub is native to Japan and China but was introduced to the West by William Kerr, an English botanist, for whom it was named. Over the years the plant has been known by many names. These include the Kerria rose, Easter rose, and the yellow rose of Texas.

The term Easter rose came about as a result of the shrub's bloom time. In many areas, this occurs in early spring around the Easter holiday. The name "yellow rose of Texas," which also appears in song, comes from the plant's bloom color and its abundance in that area. In Japan, the Japanese rose is called Yamibuki, or mountain flower. This is due largely in part to its natural growth in mountainous regions along rivers and stream banks.

While the shrub is called a rose, it's actually not a rose at all. It does, however, possess a general likening to one with its rose-like blooms. Japanese roses also have sharp edges and oval-shaped leaves that resemble rose foliage, but no thorns. Since the plant's introduction here in the States, it has become a popular ornamental addition to many landscape settings.

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The shrub can be grown quite easily, especially in woodland or natural gardens. It prefers areas with shade, though may tolerate some sun. Japanese rose responds well to soil that has been previously amended with organic matter, such as compost, but nearly any well-draining soil will suffice. The shrub also needs to be kept uniformly moist throughout its active growth.

In addition, Japanese rose requires annual pruning to keep its abundant growth and appearance maintained. While older branches can be removed in late winter, care should be taken so the current year's buds are not affected, since these grow from year-old stems. Therefore, pruning is best accomplished just after blooming ends. Waiting too late can be a factor as well, leading to damage of next season's bloom cycle. Severely overgrown and unsightly shrubs can be pruned back to the ground to rejuvenate plants and encourage healthier growth.

Anyone wishing to grow a Japanese rose will find this to be a relatively easy task. The shrub spreads through suckers which can be sliced or dug up and placed in pots. This is also an effective means of control. Potted plants can be transferred to the garden once established or given away to fellow gardeners, family, or friends.

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