6 plants to create a Japanese garden

Certain plants, trees and shrubs are regularly used to create a Japanese garden. Here is a selection.

In France, gardeners sometimes seek to create a “Japanese garden”, that is to say an aesthetic, colorful and harmonious garden in the Japanese style. Niwaki, literally “garden tree”, is the art of cultivating and pruning a plant so as to reproduce in the garden the beautiful landscapes that can be admired in nature. This art is similar to bonsai, its miniaturized version. The Japanese passion for growing trees has been exported internationally. Here are some trees and plants that can help you create a Japanese garden.

Japan cherry tree

The Japanese like to plant small cherry trees, selected above all for the beauty of their flowers. Choose a rather short tree, so that the flowers are at eye level. Maintaining the cherry tree is relatively simple, especially if it is planted in cool, drained soil. The Kanzan and Accolade varieties produce interesting blooms in a Japanese garden.


A cousin of the rhododendron, the azalea has the advantage of being successful in all latitudes. Opt for a Japanese variety, with evergreen foliage, because Chinese varieties lose their leaves after flowering. Azalea flowers will give you red, pink or yellow accents in your garden.


Bamboo is simply essential as it symbolizes Japanese vegetation in the West. It can be placed around a pond, in order to enhance the hedge it constitutes, or as a bonsai on a terrace. Except for limestone soils, bamboo can acclimatize in all soils. It brings verticality and density to your garden, which is ideal as a complement to low flower beds. Be careful though, their roots can be invasive.

Japanese maple

This tree can be the central element of a Japanese garden, as it is majestic and its colors are powerful. It tints the landscape with garnet, ocher or gold depending on the seasons. The trunk of the Japanese maple often separates into wavy branches, which gives all its charm to this tree. This is so appreciated by the Japanese that the observation of its autumn foliage even has a name: momijigari, which means “the hunt for red leaves”. The maple can be replaced by a ginkgo, a magnificent tree with yellow leaves.

Japanese black pine

To ensure that your garden remains a work of art throughout the four seasons, choose a Japanese black pine. This tree with evergreen foliage, which can live for many years (sometimes hundreds of years), thrives on poor soils and does not weaken in periods of drought. Also called pinus thunbergii, it is perfect for practicing the art of niwaki, Japanese pruning, or bonsai, in a large pot. The appearance of black pine is easily modular.

Japanese anemone

A perennial plant, the Japanese anemone produces beautiful white or pink flowers (the latter color being less recommended for a Zen garden). This plant appreciates areas of partial shade where they reach between 50 cm and 1.20 m. The Japanese anemone has many advantages, as it is a delicate and aesthetic plant, but very hardy, which requires little maintenance.

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