Japanese Garden Ideas

Japanese Garden Ideas

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For many of us, our backyards are places we go to relax, unwind, and remove ourselves from the chaos of the world as we reconnect with nature. While that is possible in any outdoor space, to truly access the calm serenity that nature possesses, you might consider creating a Japanese garden at home.

Combining an appreciation of nature’s most foundational beauty – plants, water, and rocks – with clean lines, gentle curves and shapes, these have long been used as spiritual havens – a place to find peace and harmony in a busy or war-torn world.

If this sounds like the kind of outdoor space you need, read on for the best backyard Japanese garden design ideas. These ideas can be adapted to yards of any shape and size, from a small, urban balcony to a rolling countryside garden. This is because what makes a Japanese plot special is the care and attention behind it.

Therefore, whether you only have space for a single bonsai tree or can create your own Japanese pond, it is still always possible to create the tranquility, calmness, and zen nature of this most sacred of spaces. Read on to learn how.

How to build a Japanese garden

Traditional Japanese garden plans have been centuries in the making, refined over the years to create the most tranquil and serene oasis in which one can meander, meditate, and reflect.

When thinking of how to design a Japanese garden, it’s important to acknowledge the purpose of these spaces in Japanese history and culture. Unlike other plots, Japanese garden landscape ideas are about more than covering your yard with pretty flowers and a kaleidoscope of bright shrubs and flora.

On the contrary, Japanese garden structures seek to calm instead of delight and so take a minimalist approach. Every object in the plot must enrich it in some way. Every addition is important and deliberate and this shows in how each structure or plant is laid out.

Big flowers and vivacious colors are not the focus in these plots. Instead, Japanese backyard garden ideas center on three main elements: water, which is the source of life; rocks and stones which signify the landscape; and plants that demonstrate the changing of the seasons.

Incorporating these three elements into your is the first step in creating an authentic and peaceful Japanese front yard. Here’s how to do this.

Shrubs and trees for a backyard Japanese garden


Unsurprisingly, one of the best Japanese garden shrubs is bamboo. These hardy and fast-growing plants immediately create ambience in a Japanese garden design layout. Bamboo is unbeatable for providing structure, privacy, bordering, and screening, making it a functional as well as delightful feature.

Related post: How to Care for an Indoor Bamboo Plant


Bonsai trees add spiritual meaning as well as serene beauty to a Japanese style backyard. This tree carries much symbolic meaning in Japanese culture, representing the harmony between nature, humankind and the soul.

Plant bonsais in containers that you can dot around your garden and you’ll instantly be creating a Japanese garden to be proud of. Find out everything you need to know about bonsai plant care here.

Trees for Japanese gardens

A single tree planted in a Japanese garden is striking, simple, and symbolic. It honors and commemorates the changing seasons. Plant a cherry tree – the flower of life in Japan – or a Japanese maple tree for a traditional feature that will offer beautiful snowing blooms in Spring and fiery leaves of red and yellow in autumn.

Flowers for Japanese gardens

Azaleas and camellias are flowering shrubs popular in creating Japanese gardens due to their year-round waxy foliage and transient flowering in winter and early spring.

Related Post: How to Care for Azaleas

Similar to trees, whatever flowers you use in your garden are supposed to represent the transient and ever-changing nature of life. Flowering periods are supposed to be brief with the verdant foliage year-round taking just as much precedence as any blooms. 

Camellia’s hold particular significance as symbols of love and, in older times, the noble death of samurai and warriors. Find inspiration for the perfect Japanese flowers and plants to include in your garden with this guide to Japanese flowers and their symbolism.

Water in Japanese gardens

Water is a key feature in both traditional and modern Japanese garden design and there are so many ways to honor and represent it in your own backyard. Create a pond filled with koi carp as a centerpiece of tranquility, construct a zigzag bridge to cross a pool, add a simple water feature surrounded by pebbles to create a quiet space for reflection.

Japanese rock garden ideas

The options for creating rock and stone features in your backyard are equally as open as they are for water features. Zen garden ideas would typically incorporate a rock garden. This is a sacred space where Zen monks would undertake their daily practice and so is a place of peace and meditation.

This kind of rock garden can be created by putting large stones or boulders in gravel or sand that is raked to look like ripples of water. Covering these stones with moss is also a part of rock garden design.

Stepping stones and winding stone paths are also good ways to bring stone imagery into our design, as well as represent the journey we are each on in life.

Of course, one of the key principles of a Japanese garden is the regular and mindful upkeep of all of its features. Caring for the garden is a Zen practice, and seen as an additional feature and benefit of the garden instead of a chore. However, if this isn’t feasible for you, don’t forget you can still bring the Japanese garden elements of tranquility and peace into your home by purchasing a bonsai or bamboo tree as a houseplant.

Or, for the flower lovers, order bouquets featuring some of Japan’s symbolic flowers like chrysanthemums or camellia at one of the flower delivery services below!

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