What Types of Flowers Do You Use for Japanese Ikebana/Kado?

Written by heidi cardenas
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What Types of Flowers Do You Use for Japanese Ikebana/Kado?
Ikebana, also called kado, the Japanese art of flower arranging, is practised in silence. (Hemera Technologies/AbleStock.com/Getty Images)

Ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arranging, meaning "living flowers, is also called kado, "the way of flowers." It is derived from Buddhist rituals and has been practised for hundreds of years. It is an honoured art form which brings together art and humanity to develop a closeness to nature. The Ikebana artist uses branches, leaves, fruits, flowers and grasses to create a meaningful sculpture both beautiful and symbolic. Ikebana practitioners are patient, tolerant and appreciative of nature. They learn the symbolism and meaning of the flowers and plant materials they use and they study the spiritual and artistic aspects of their craft.

Plant Materials and Form

Ikebana emphasises form and minimalism over colour in floral arrangement. Flowers and plant materials are selected for their form according to the style of Ikebana being practised. Some Ikebana styles, such as the Moribana (slanting), use a lot of horizontal branches and stems, and flowers that look best sideways rather than upright are used. Flowers and plant materials used for horizontal placement include flowering tree branches and pine branches, and flowers with large stems in which flexible wire can be inserted for bending and holding in place, such as tulips. Some Ikebana styles, such as the Moribana and Nageire (both are upright styles), use straight flowers and plant materials, such as iris flowers and their swordlike leaves and bamboo canes. Other plant materials used artistically or symbolically in Ikebana include fruit and seed pods.

Large Flowers

Chrysanthemums, peonies and lotus flowers are three large flowers used in Ikebana. Chrysanthemums symbolise longevity because their blooms last so long. They also symbolise the sun and are the heraldic flowers of Japan used on crests of the imperial family and in the military. Peonies symbolise riches and splendour. Lotus flowers symbolise purity and immortality. The flowers represent the present, the buds represent the future and the seed pods represent the past.

Flowering Branches

Flowering branches are used in Ikebana both vertically and horizontally. They create height and length and represent flowing movement. Flowering cherry, plum and peach branches are commonly used in Ikebana. Cherry blossoms represent clouds and mortality. Plum blossoms represent hope and resistance to injury.

Other Flowers

Ikebana is a revered art form in Japan that is taught and practised widely, and is a part of Japanese reverence for nature. Besides chrysanthemums, peonies, lotus flowers and fruit tree blossoms, other flowers used in Ikebana include wisteria, forsythia, camellia, orchids, jasmine, narcissus, rose, azalea, aster and magnolia.

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