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What Plants are in a Japanese Garden?

One of the most important trees in a Japanese garden is the Japanese maple.
Japanese maples are often featured in Japanese gardens.
Moss is important to a Japanese garden.
Mosses, like that growing between these cobblestones, is often used as ground cover in a Japanese garden.
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  • Last Modified Date: 28 September 2014
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Japanese gardens are celebrated around the world, and they are noted for their minimalist approach. In addition to featuring certain types of plants the idea of space and emptiness is often used. What isn’t there is almost as important as what is. Thus, if looking for plants for a Japanese garden, people should first be advised not to overfill their garden. A few plants, carefully placed, do much more than tons of plants that can detract from the sense of peace many find in such gardens.

Sometimes people think of a Japanese garden as being absent of flowering plants. This is definitely not true, and azaleas of many types are commonly used. Depending upon region, azaleas may provide lovely green foliage year round, and they have beautiful blooms. A few azalea types will bloom twice per year, and the flowers are very long lasting. Japanese irises are another popular plant that provides extensive color. Flowering or ornamental quince is a good choice too because it offers color in mid winter.

Various types of ground cover are very important in a Japanese garden and chief among choices is moss. There are plenty of different mosses to choose. Other acceptable ground cover can include things like baby tears, a moss like plant with a known capacity for spreading and with evergreen leaves.

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Certain flowering trees may be popular in Japanese gardens. These can include cherry and plum trees, often of the ornamental variety. Much is said about cherry trees and Asian gardens, but gardens don’t have to include them. Other flowering trees that gardeners might consider are the crepe myrtle, though this is arguably one of the messiest trees people can choose, since it sheds leaves, flowers and bark at different times of the year.

Some of the most important plants in a Japanese garden are various types of Japanese maples. Many gardening stores will have lots of choices and varieties of these. Just as important are conifers, usually smaller pine trees that can be shaped and trimmed as needed. Large bushes like bamboo are popular too, and other bushes to consider can include rhododendrons. Very large gardens may accommodate much larger trees like willows, but these may make a small garden seem crowded and overwhelmed.

Though stone gardens are usually considered as separate from Japanese gardens with plants, it’s a good idea to look at garden design to see how stones and sometimes smaller rocks are utilized. Anything from gravel to larger rocks may be part of a Japanese garden. Footpaths and stepping stones can also be integrated into design scheme and should be considered.

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gimbell
Post 4

Would it be bad if my Japanese garden plans included bonsai trees? I know they're usually grown in pots, but I have this great idea for a Japanese garden with different mini trees placed around on high spots between the regular plants. I'm curious if the Japanese would find that really untraditional and strange...

SkittisH
Post 3

Hi, maybe somebody here can answer my question. I've got a Seattle Japanese garden, and I was wondering if it might be too cold for some of the plants mentioned here to grow well. Isn't bamboo tropical or something? I want a definite Japanese garden, but it would be terrible if I planted everything and it just died in the first frost. Any advice on what grows well in a rainy, dreary environment?

hanley79
Post 2

I am a huge fan of Japanese gardens, though my place is too small to grow a proper one right now. If I had my dream Japanese garden, I'd put in a small koi pond. For the Japanese garden neophytes out there, a koi pond is a pool, usually rounded in shape, where you can raise koi fish – is a popular element in Japanese garden landscaping.

The water is a nice way to add more plants without going overkill; Japanese flowering lilies with lilypads make beautiful additions to the garden, and give the koi fish something to hide under. Fancier Japanese gardens have large koi ponds with the traditional curving red Japanese-style bridge over them, but you don't have to have a lot of space to have a koi pond in your garden.

Maybe one day I'll have one of my own...

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