Japanese Garden Plants: Pieris japonica


It is not possible or necessary to use all of the plants found in the gardens of Japan. Using Japanese plants does not make your garden a “Japanese Garden.” Rather, it is best to find locally available plants, match them to the site, and strategically place them in the garden to fulfill the proper role.

One important Japanese garden principle is using a high proportion of evergreen and broad-leaved evergreen plants to deciduous plants. A challenge when building Japanese-style gardens in the New York and New Jersey areas is the lack of suitable broad-leaved plants compared to more southern climates. Pieris japonica is one widely available plant that does work for many sites, and should be considered for your Japanese garden.

Other common challenges for Japanese garden enthusiasts in this part of the country is the presence of large deciduous trees that block out sunlight to the gardens below, and also the presence of deer in many areas. Evergreens that might work with more sunlight cannot be planted because of the shade, and some broad-leaved plants that might work would be feasted on by deer. But Pieris is a plant that does well in shade and partial shade, and is also deer resistant.

Pieris is not a plant that will typically fulfill the role of a specimen plant. It also does not work as a sheared plant. The most ideal use is in a supporting role for tea-style gardens or shade gardens and as a natural-shape plant. The color of the new foliage and small flowers provide some ornamental effect.

There are many cultivars of pieris that can be considered, as well as Pieris floribunda that should be considered for use instead of, or in combination with, Pieris japonica. As always, consult a local landscape expert about proper site placement and short-term and long-term care before deciding to use this plant.

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