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What is a Japanese Shrub?

By Todd M.
Updated May 17, 2024
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Japanese shrubs are a set of shrubs native to Japan that are used in gardens and landscapes throughout world. Although most of these shrubs are not related to one another, they are all used in a traditional style of gardening inspired by Japanese gardeners that emphasizes form, balance, and simplicity. The most common types of Japanese shrubs include the Japanese boxwood shrub, the Japanese willow shrub, and the Japanese holly shrub. Gardeners often pay close attention to detail in the care of a Japanese shrub so that it retains the formal look found in a Japanese garden.

The Japanese boxwood shrub, Buxus microphylla japonica, is a popular Japanese shrub that is used extensively for formal hedges along sidewalks or gardens. Japanese boxwoods are a fairly tolerant shrub that can be used in wide variety of settings. They can thrive in either sandy or gravely soil, and grow well in either dry or moist soil. This Japanese shrub grows best in full sun to partial shade, but can be grown in full shade if properly cared for. Most gardeners prune their Japanese boxwoods extensively to manage the formal borders that boxwoods create so well.

Known as a fast-growing Japanese shrub, the Japanese dappled willow, Salix integra, is commonly grown as an ornamental shrub in many gardens due to its heavily variegated foliage. Due to how quickly it grows and its generally attractive leaves, the Japanese dappled willow can be an excellent plant to grow on a property line to provide homeowners with privacy. The Japanese dappled willow typically can be propagated easily by a gardener from the cuttings of a mature plant. Japanese dappled willows prefer full sun and moist soil, and the shrub thrives in hardiness zones six through ten.

Japanese holly, Ilex crenata, is a perennial Japanese shrub that provides gardeners with dense evergreen foliage that can add a bright splash of color to a winter landscape. Japanese holly can grow as much as 10 feet (about 3.05 m) tall, but dwarf cultivars of the Japanese shrub generally are available for areas where space is limited. Usually, it should be planted between late spring and early fall in any spot that offers the plant plenty of natural drainage. Once a Japanese holly has become well established, this Japanese shrub generally requires only a minimal amount of maintenance and occasional pruning in order to thrive.

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