8 Exciting Japanese Flowers - Photos, Uses, and Care Guides

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by Max - last update on September 8, 2020, 8:19 am
Japanese Flowers

If you're looking for some flowers to brighten up your Japanese style garden, then consider those flowering plants that are native to Japan. There are many beautiful flowers that grow in the wild in Japan and other parts of Asia that are well suited to cultivation in home gardens. There are many common flowers such as azaleas and camellias that you may not realize originated in Japan, as well as some other exciting flowering plants that are not very well known outside of Asia, such as the Japanese hydrangea vine.

This list details some of the best types of Japanese flowers, their uses, and their care needs.

1. Japanese Camellia

Japanese Camellia

 

Scientific Name: Camellia japonica

USDA Hardiness Zone: 7-9

Mature Size: Up to 15 feet tall

Light: Partial sun to full shade

Water: Maintain moist soil

Soil: Well-draining, acidic, organically rich

Cultivars and Varieties: Camellia japonica 'Apple Blossom', Camellia japonica 'Drama Girl', Camellia japonica 'Korean Fire', Camellia japonica 'Spring Sonnet'

Japanese camellia is one of the most common and widely known species of camellia, so much so that it is often called 'common camellia' or simply 'camellia.' It is widely cultivated across the world, with over 2000 varieties and cultivars in existence. Natively, it grows in southern Japan, southern Korea, and mainland China. Japanese camellia can be grown as either a small tree or a shrub. It produces branches that are purple when new but become gray as they mature. From these branches, leather-like foliage arrives, which is deep green on the upper surface, and pale green beneath. The foliage of this plant and its structure are attractive year-round, but camellias are most prized for their stunning flowers.

Japanese camellias can produce a variety of different types of flowers, from single to fully double blooms. They come in a range of colors but are most commonly shades of pink or white. Typically, flowers are large, measuring several inches across. The most popular varieties of Japanese camellia have peony-like flowers, which are elegant and showy. In the wild, they bloom from January to March, which has given rise to the common name 'rose of winter.' However, in cultivation, Japanese camellia are available in early, mid, or late-season varieties. For a long floral display, choose a selection of camellia's that bloom at different points throughout the year.

One of the most widely grown Japanese camellia plants is the 'Alba Plena,' which produces white flowers and will bloom for four or five consecutive months each year. These plants are ideal for brightening up dark spaces in the garden as they grow well in partial shade or full shade. Avoid allowing the plant from having direct sun during afternoons, as this can cause damage. It should be sheltered from strong winds, especially when in bud or in bloom. The plant performs best in acidic soils that are well-draining and kept consistently moist. It works well as a specimen plant and can also be grown as an informal hedge or privacy screen.


2. Japanese Iris

Japanese Iris

 

Scientific Name: Iris ensata

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-9

Mature Size: Up to 4 feet tall

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Low to high moisture needs

Soil: Acidic, well-draining

Cultivars and Varieties: Iris ensata' Frilled Enchantment', Iris ensata 'Pink Frost', Iris ensata 'Returning Tide', Iris ensata 'Alpine Majesty'

These plants can be found growing in the wild in the wetlands of Japan, and they are commonly cultivated in Japanese gardens. They grow from rhizomes, producing large strap-like foliage in mid-to deep green. The foliage forms clumps and has obvious ribbing. It is considered to be as attractive as the plant's flowers, which bloom in early to mid-summer. Blooms are typically large, with drooping outer petals, and upright or closed inner petals.

Flowers can come in a range of colors, with most being shades of purple, white, pink, or yellow. These flowers perform best in acidic soil that is high in organic content. There are three different types of Japanese iris, and this determines the level of moisture they need in their soil. Hanashōbu and Kakitsubata types of Japanese iris grow best in moist to soggy soil, often growing natively in bogs. Ayame Japanese irises will not tolerate wet soil, and instead, prefer for soil to be dry. These flowers work well in borders, adding color and height. They grow easily and can be divided to create new plants when clumps become too big.


3. Japanese Peony

Japanese Peony

 

Scientific Name: Paeonia japonica

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-8

Mature Size: Up to 2 feet tall

Light: Partial shade

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining

These peony plants are native to Japan, where they grow in woodland areas. They are known for their compact habit and pretty flowers. They are perennials that form in clumps, producing attractive foliage that is gray-green and appears on the red-purple stems. These plants will typically grow to a height of around 18 inches by mid-spring, before flowering. Unlike many other types of peonies, the leaves of the Japanese peony have smooth edges and are produced in groups of three with plenty of space between each leaf.

The flowers are single, with large central yellow discs, and pure white rounded petals that form a low cup shape measuring up to three inches across. The flowers bloom in May, with each flower lasting between one and two weeks. The flowers can also make lovely cut flower bouquets. After flowering, the blooms give way to attractive seed pods. You can leave fading flowers to transform into these pods or deadhead them.

Most types of peonies need plenty of sun to gain good height and produce a good floral display, but Japanese peonies actually prefer partial shade, which makes them more versatile for many areas of the garden. Ideally, they would receive morning sun, and then be shaded during the more intense light of the afternoon. Alternatively, you can recreate their natural habitat of dappled shade by growing them underneath the canopy of a sparsely branched tree.

By fall, the plant will die back to the ground but will reappear the following spring. Japanese peonies have long life expectancies of many decades. They will reliably return year on year, without spreading or requiring much maintenance. They do not need to be divided, but they can be divided or transplanted if you wish, typically with good success. These plants have very few problems with pests or disease and do not need to be staked or supported. They grow best in well-draining soil.


4. Oriental Poppy

Oriental Poppy

 

Scientific Name: Papaver orientale

USDA Hardiness Zone: 3-9

Mature Size: Up to 4 feet tall

Light: Full sun

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining, rich, fertile

Cultivars and Varieties: Papaver orientale 'Helen Elizabeth', Papaver orientale 'Plum Pudding', Papaver orientale 'Prince of Orange', Papaver orientale' Burning Heart', Papaver orientale' Beauty of Livermore'

These perennial plants produce showy flowers that can vary in color and style. The blooms all share petals that have a crepe-like texture, and these can be smooth, ruffled, or fringed. They often take the shape of large, deep cups, but in some cases, have flowers that are spread wide open. The most popular oriental poppies have fully double flowers. They typically come in shades of pink, red, purple, and orange, and they arrive on tall, chunky stems in early summer.

The foliage of the plant is considered to be somewhat unattractive. Leaves are hairy and coarse, forming large mounds at the base of the flowers. Oriental poppies can be grown from seed easily, simply by scattering seeds over moist soil in fall. These plants need light to germinate, so don't cover them over with soil. They grow best in a full sun position, though they will tolerate some hours of very light shade.

Be sure to plant these flowers in a permanent position, as they resent being moved and do not transplant well. They enjoy moist to dry soil and will not tolerate wet feet. These plants go dormant in the middle of summer, so don't panic when the flowers die back, and the foliage ceases to grow. The leaves will remain throughout winter, and new growth will begin the following spring.


5. Japanese Wisteria

Japanese Wisteria

 

Scientific Name: Wisteria floribunda

USDA Hardiness Zone: 5-9

Mature Size: Up to 30 feet tall

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining

Cultivars and Varieties: Wisteria floribunda 'Geisha', Wisteria floribunda' Kuchi Beni', Wisteria floribunda 'Royal Purple', Wisteria floribunda 'Ivory Tower', Wisteria floribunda ‘Murasaki Noda’

This iconic climbing plant is native to Japan, but was brought to North America during the 1830s, and has been a desirable flower in temperate regions ever since. The outstanding feature of this plant is its stunning racemes of blooms in various shades of purple and white. The racemes droop down from the climbing vines, bursting with vibrant flowers, and measuring up to 20 inches long.

Japanese wisteria is known to have the longest flower clusters of any type of wisteria. They bloom in mid-spring or early summer and have an alluring yet mild fragrance that is similar to the scent of grapes. Each flower is small and delicate, with a similar look to the flowers of pea plants. The foliage of the plant is also attractive, with graceful looking leaves in a fresh shade of light green.

This plant is a vigorous climber with a long life expectancy. It twines itself around nearby structures, such as pergolas and trellises. It is also commonly grown against fences and the walls of houses. This plant needs to be regularly pruned to encourage flowering and maintain a good shape. It thrives in well-drained, moist soils, but is drought-tolerant once well established. Position this plant in a position of full sun or partial shade.


6. Japanese Hydrangea Vine

Japanese Hydrangea Vine

 

Scientific Name: Hydrangea hydrangeoides

USDA Hardiness Zone: 6-9

Mature Size: Up to 30 feet long

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining

Cultivars and Varieties: Hydrangea hydrangeoides' Moonlight', Hydrangea hydrangeoides' Roseum'

This plant is not widely known outside of Asia, but it is cultivated in gardens throughout Japan and is commonly found growing throughout Japanese forests. It is a deciduous climbing vine, though it does not naturally climb well on vertical structures, and instead prefers to climb along the ground or other flat surfaces. It holds itself onto surfaces through tiny aerial roots, along with adhesive discs it produces called holdfasts. It can be grown vertically on fencing or trellis but will need consistent support such as plant ties.

The foliage of this plant is broad and heart-shaped, in a shade of gray-green with dark green veining. It blooms in early to midsummer with white flowers in large clusters that look like lacecap hydrangea flowers. Blooms are fragrant, with a scent that is said to be like a cross between lilies and apples. This plant is slow to reach maturity, and it typically takes around seven years before it will produce a heavy display of flowers, though once mature, it will reliably bloom dramatically each year.

This plant is very versatile in terms of where it will grow, as it can survive any lighting exposure, from full sun to full shade. For best results, grow the vine in partial shade, ideally with full sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon. Japanese hydrangea vine likes to grow in well-draining soil that is evenly moist, though it can tolerate drought once it is well established. It will not survive in wet or waterlogged soils


7. Japanese Azalea

Japanese Azalea

 

Scientific Name: Rhododendron japonicum

USDA Hardiness Zone: 4-8

Mature Size: Up to 7 feet tall

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining, sandy, loamy

This is a deciduous shrub that is commonly found growing in mountainous regions of southern Japan. It is widely cultivated in Japanese style gardens for its stunning flowers, which bloom from April to May. This plant has a bushy growth habit that will form dense mounds of attractive foliage, but the main appeal of the Japanese azalea is its large and brightly colored blooms. Outside of Japan, other types of Azaleas are commonly grown in Japanese style gardens, as these plants have an exotic look about them that works well with Asian themes; however, the Japanese Azalea is the only type of azalea that is native to Japan.

Azaleas come in a wide range of colors, including pink, red, white, and orange. The flowers bloom in clusters to put on a dramatic display. They also work well as cut flowers in floral bouquets.

The Japanese azalea grows best in acidic soil that is kept evenly moist. Soil should be well-draining. The plant can thrive in both light and sandy soils or medium loamy soils, but will not tolerate heavy clay soils. You can grow this plant in full sun or partial shade, though those kept in full sun will be more prolific bloomers. Hotter climates will need to provide some afternoon shade for the Japanese azalea. Avoid growing ground cover or other plants close to this shrub, as it dislikes having root interference. The area around this plant should also be kept well weeded to avoid competing roots.


8. Orange Osmanthus

Orange Osmanthus

 

Scientific Name: Osmanthus fragrans var. aurantiacus

USDA Hardiness Zone: 7-10

Mature Size: Up to 15 feet tall

Light: Full sun to partial shade

Water: Average moisture needs

Soil: Well-draining

Cultivars and Varieties: Osmanthus fragrans' Fudingzhu', Osmanthus fragrans' Conger Yellow'

This is a small tree or shrub that also goes by the common name of fragrant olive, sweet olive, and sweet osmanthus. It is native to southern Japan, southern China, and other areas of Asia, including Thailand and Taiwan. It is popularly cultivated in Japanese gardens as an ornamental plant, which is appreciated for its beautiful and heavily fragrant flowers. The blooms are bright orange, and they arrive in clusters that cover the many branches of the plant during late summer and fall. Each flower is small and dainty, measuring under half an inch, but when gathered in clusters, they put on a showy display. The flowers have a distinct and delicious scent, which is reminiscent of apricots.

The foliage of the plant is evergreen, with leaves that have a leathery texture and are ovate in shape. The plant itself has an upright habit and forms a column shape with rounded edges. It has a dense and heavily branched growth habit, which can be accentuated by pinching back branches to create even bushier growth.

This plant grows well in containers and can also be planted in rows to create hedging. It is adaptable to a wide range of soils, including clay soil and poor soil. It performs best when soil is kept consistently moist, but once the plant is mature, it is able to withstand periods of drought. It grows easily in both full sun or partial shade and rarely suffers from pest infestations.

 

8 Exciting Japanese Flowers - Photos, Uses, and Care Guides

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