Japanese Garden Trailing Plants

Updated May 01, 2017

A trailing plant is one that has the potential to climb. In a Japanese garden, trailing plants and vines are often trained to grow on trellises or archways leading from one section of garden to another section. Depending on the type of garden, these trailing plants can boast large, colourful blooms or produce tiny, delicate, pastel buds more suitable for a meditative landscape.

Trumpet Vine

In the traditional Tsukiyama-style Japanese garden, trumpet vines (Distictis buccinatoria) are used to provide bold colour contrast. The vines can grow to 30 feet long, and they grow rapidly on trellises, gates and other structures. They are frost-resistant but cannot take sustained below-freezing temperatures. Also called blood red trumpet vines, the plants produce flowers that are red or bright orange. They do best with plenty of water and a southern exposure.


Ivy is also a great climber, following the outline of buildings, wrapping itself around trees and climbing trellises and entry gates. It grows so fast that it must be trimmed regularly or it will overtake anything in its path. If the stems are allowed to touch the ground, they will keep growing until the vine finds the next available object to climb. Boston ivy, also called the Japanese creeper (Parthenocissus tricuspidata) turns a brilliant orange-red in autumn. The plant likes plenty of water and tolerates shade. If ivy is planted with a southern exposure and not given enough water, it may burn in warm climates.

Pink Jasmine

Pink jasmine (Jasminium polyanthum) is often planted along curving pathways in Japanese gardens. This technique entices the nose before the eyes get a look at the fragrant white blossoms and unopened pink buds. Jasmine planted along the ground takes root from the several nodes along its vines. If it is planted on a trellis with or without another plant, it will take over that trellis. Fast growing and requiring little water, pink jasmine needs to be trimmed regularly. Japanese gardens are known for their meticulous management, and so pink jasmine does not usually become a problem plant.


In Japanese tea gardens, known as Chianwa gardens, trailing plants that produce muted or pastel shades are preferred. These are meditative gardens, meant to soothe the spirit before venturing into the tea house and taking part in the Japanese tea ceremony. The Chinese wisteria plant (Wisteria sinensis blue) produces small, bluish-purple pastel flowers that cascade on trailing stems. Another variety of Chinese wisteria produces tiny white flowers. Wisteria is often planted on the entry gates leading to the tea garden or on or around the tea house. The plant is sometimes referred to as Japanese wisteria.

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About the Author

Monica Wachman is a former editor and writer for FishersTravelSOS, and Bonsai Ireland. She has an AA degree in travel from Career Com Technical and is an avid RV buff and gardener. In 2014, she published "Mouschie and the Big White Box" about an RV trip across North America.