When we are creating a garden we want the customer to get as much out of it as possible. We endeavour to design Japanese gardens that visually appeal 365 days of the year. We achieve this through mainly working with evergreen plants chosen for their colour and leaf shape. To help create a changing scenery through the seasons we look to include plants that flower at various time of the year.

We have sat down and collated a few of our favourite plants to include in a Japanese garden to maintain a colourful, interesting year-round garden. For more information about these plants, or planting in general, please get in touch. We are more than happy to help.  


Japanese Maples display vibrant colours from spring time onwards with some varieties displaying more striking foliage during the spring than other varieties. Our favourite species for vibrant leaf colour would be species such as Acer Palmatum ‘Orange Dream’ for its golden-yellow with pink edged leaves or the Acer Palmatum ‘Orangeola’ with its dramatic orange-red leaves in spring. With over 160 (and counting) species of Japanese maples, the options for leaf colour and tree shape are vast, too many to list here!

A perennial such as Hellebore flowers late winter through to early spring, whilst their foliage provides strong evergreen architecture throughout the year. Hellebores present elegant flowers ranging in colour depending on the variety.

Sarcococca Humilis is a low growing evergreen shrub that produces small sweet scented white flowers in spring. Throughout the year they display glossy dark green, lance-shaped leaves.

The Japanese cherry, also known as cherry blossom is one of the more commonly associated trees within a Japanese Garden. Cherry blossoms bloom in the spring time, providing an abundance of small white or light pink (depending on the variety) flowers. They work as an attractive centre piece or back drop in your garden.

Azealas and larger Rhododendrons inject your garden with powerful bursts of colour in the spring time. Flowers can range from shades of pink to blue to purple to yellow, the colour variations are endless!


One of our favourite plants to incorporate in any garden is ‘Bloombux’. An  evergreen rhododendron, suited to being used in groups to form cloud planting around a specimen stone or as a low hedge along a pathway. During late spring and early summer they display attractive pink/white clustered flowers, not only attracting our attention but the attention of bees, butteries and other wildlife. 

During the summer months, Japanese Maples usually display shades of red or green leaves, depending on the variety. Another factor to consider when choosing an Acer is their branch structure. Acer Palmatum ‘Garnet’ for example is a naturally low, weeping style of Japanese Maple. They are ideally suited to being planted in a tall pot, by a stream or on a bank. Upright Acers such as Acer Palmatum ‘Bloodgood’ or Acer Palmatum ‘Red Emperor’ can grow up to 15ft and 20ft tall, respectively. However, you can prune them after leaf fall in late Autumn to maintain them at a high you desire.

Enkianthus is a large deciduous shrub with small green elliptic leaves (turning a red/orange colour in autumn). During late spring to mid summer, small clusters of cream, red-tinged bell shaped flowers appear, injecting colour of the purist form to the garden. We would use Enkianthus as a specimen plant.

Another popular shrub is the hydrangea, which blooms mid-summer through to autumn and is suited to grow in a border or in a container. There are several varieties of hydrangeas which determine the colour and size of flower heads. Colours vary from shades of blues, pinks and reds. Some even, like the varieties ‘mophead’ and ‘lacecap’ change colour depending on the acidity of the soil they are in!

The majority of Jasmine varieties produce white small scented flowers, appearing in spring and are on show throughout summer. They work well as a climber. We often use these on a shoji style trellis.


During autumn we see greenery within our garden turning into fiery colours, the last injection of colour for the year before deciduous plants lose their leaves.

Pittosporum ‘Tom Thumb’ is a slow growing evergreen shrub with light green foliage that turns rich purple-brown as they mature. We predominately use ‘Tom Thumb’ as a specimen plant and to inject colour into the garden. It is popular due to the colour of the leaves making a good contrast to other foliage within the garden.

With shortening days and a change in weather, we tend to experience less sunlight during autumn when compared to summer. Sunlight influences the colours of Japanese Maples, which is why we observe our maple leaves changing colour before they ultimately fall in preparation for winter. Varieties such as Acer Palmatum ‘Osakazuki’ is a perfect example of this. In spring and summer the Osakazuki is green, turning a fiery scarlet colour in autumn. If you are looking for an Acer with dramatic autumnal colours, green acers are often regarded as providing longer lasting striking autumn colours than red leafed acers. However, these too can produce attractive autumn foliage. Acer Palmatum ‘Sango-kaku’ is unique, as when the leaves fall it exposes the coral bark tree structure. The coral bark intensifies in the autumn and winter to a bright red, creating a contrast with the leaves and providing an attractive focal to the tree once the leaves have fallen.

Euonymus fortunei ‘Emerald Gaiety’ is known for its green, white-edged foliage. As an evergreen, the foliage provides colour within the garden throughout the year. We use Euonymus to create ‘cloud’ planting.


During the winter a lot of the plants in our gardens lie dormant, but that doesn’t have to mean your garden looks boring. Planting evergreens is an effective way of maintaining colour and interest when deciduous trees or plants have lost their leaves. Evergreens such as Pinus Mugo ‘Carsten’s Wintergold’ or ‘Ophir’ have short needles that make the foliage pads look dense. Green needles in the summer, with the tips of the needles turning a vibrant golden-yellow colour in the winter. Pinus mugo ‘Gnom’ and Pinus Mugo ‘mops’ are just a few examples of slow growing dwarf mountain pines. We find these to be most attractive when used as a specimen plant/garden bonsai.

Evergreen shrubs such as Nandina Domestica ‘Richmond’ produce bold red berries in the winter which are most attractive when rimed with frost. Contrastingly Ilex Crenata ‘covexa’ produces bold black berries. Both, along with other shrubs such as Pieris Japonica ‘carnaval’, ‘cupido’ and ‘debutante’ and Ilex Crenata ‘Golden Gem’ and ‘Glory Gem’ are amongst our favourite evergreen shrubs to incorporate in designs for a Japanese Garden. Aside from the Nandina Domestica, we use the other plants suggested above as garden bonsai, also known as cloud trees.

There are several winter flowering plants that can add life to your garden. We use Jasmine frequently, and prefer it best incorporated as a climber. Jasmine flowers twice in the year, first in the summer and then in the winter both times presenting delicate white flowers with a light scent.

Camellia Japonica, or Japanese Camellia as it is also known, is an evergreen shrub with leathery long leaves. The foliage retains its shiny green appearance throughout the year, making it an attractive option for hedging or a small tree. The variety of the Camellia effects the size and colour of the flowers. Flowers can be small (approx. 4cm) to around 12cm in shades ranging from white to pinks to reds. Flowers usually last for four weeks and can be seen in the winter or spring time.

These are suggestions of typical plants that can be incorporated within a Japanese style garden. Ultimately the soil type and positioning of plants in respect to levels of sun light are key factors when considering what plants to use.

We have been designing and constructing gardens for over 26 years. As a result we are able to provide expert knowledge to our customers about which plants could work well in their garden. All the plants mentioned above, including others, are used frequently by us, but due to changing stock levels they are not always on show at our garden centre to purchase. If you are interested in more information about Japanese planting that could work for you or to know what our current stock levels are, please get in touch by phone or email. Equally, feel free to leave a comment below and we will gladly respond to any questions you may have.