Oriental Garden Plants

Updated July 20, 2017

Many plants that originate in eastern countries like China, Japan and Korea thrive in the many regions of the United States that have suitable conditions. Gardeners may choose to include these plants in a garden with an oriental style, including water features and pebble beds, but oriental plants also have their place in almost any garden type.

Japanese Maple

Introduced to the United States in the early 19th century, the Japanese maple is native to Japan, China and Korea. Gardeners choose the tree for its elegant leaf shape and colourful foliage, which comes in greens, purples and reds. Today, there are hundreds of Japanese maple cultivars, which grow between 6 and 50 feet tall, though most types are in the 15- to 25-foot range. Japanese maples grow successfully in USDA hardiness zones 5 through 8. Some cultivars do best in light shade but others thrive in full sun, as long as they do not dry out. Prune Japanese maples in the winter, removing dead or damaged limbs and shaping the tree as you want it to grow in subsequent seasons.

Oriental Poppy

Originally from Asia, oriental poppies bloom in May and June with flowers in a wide range of colours. The blooms last only a day or two until the petals drop, although the plants, which can grow to 3 feet tall, still have ornamental value with their intricately shaped seed heads. Oriental poppy is best positioned in a bed where other plants will grow in to fill the gap the poppy leaves as it dies back during summer heat. The plants can have a second spurt of growth when temperatures drop in the fall and in some cases they may flower again. A herbaceous perennial, the oriental poppy favours a well-drained location that gets plenty of sunshine.


The herbaceous peony grows to a height of 2 to 4 feet while the tree peony can reach 6 feet. Both originate from China and Japan and produce colourful blooms during the summer, with different cultivars flowering at different times. Bloom colours include red, yellow, white and purple. Peonies tolerate a spot with partial shade but only bloom profusely on a site with full sun, at least six to eight hours each day. Peonies thrive in a well-drained soil mixed with rotted matter and benefit from a spring fertiliser treatment. The plants are hardy and can withstand heavy winter frosts.

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About the Author

Ken Macdonald lives in London and has been a freelance editor and writer since 1999. He has written on topics including travel, food and gardening for UKTV, Expedia and “The Guardian” website. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English studies from Stirling University in Scotland.