The Enchanting Japanese Rose

The Japanese rose, also known as the Easter rose or Kerria japonica, is a stunning deciduous shrub that boasts sunny golden-yellow flowers. While it may not be your typical rose, this beautiful plant belongs to the Rosaceae family and is a sight to behold.

Closeup of Japanese rose blooms.

Native to East Asian countries like Japan, Korea, and China, Japanese roses thrive across the globe due to their resilience and disease resistance. With their elegant growth habit, scrambling canes, and attractive green foliage, these shrubs produce their vibrant yellow blooms during the spring and summer months.

In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about Japanese roses, from identifying and growing them to caring for and decorating with these captivating plants.

A Glimpse into the History of Japanese Roses

While much remains unknown about the history of this exquisite plant, we do know that it originated in East Asia, where it grows naturally. In 1805, William Kerr collected Japanese roses in China and introduced the double-layered Pleniflora cultivar to England. To honor his contribution, these roses were named Kerria japonica.

Key Characteristics of Japanese Roses

Japanese roses stand out from traditional roses because they thrive in shaded areas rather than full sun. Kerria japonica comes in various varieties, but the most well-known are the old-fashioned five-petal variety and the multi-petaled Pleniflora cultivar, which resembles a marigold.

Japanese Rose

Featuring delicate and willowy canes, vibrant green birch-like leaves, and magnificent golden-yellow flowers, these roses can reach heights of 5 to 10 feet and spread between 6 and 10 feet. While they grow wild over rocks and vegetation in their natural habitat, Japanese roses make excellent informal screens and shrub borders in garden settings. Their abundant blooms make them a wonderful addition to your outdoor space during the warmer months of the year.

The Symbolism of Kerria Japonica

Japanese roses hold symbolic meaning, representing wealth, prosperity, royalty, and good fortune in terms of finances. According to legend, centuries ago, a wealthy individual dropped gold coins into a valley, which then transformed into these beautiful yellow flowers.

Growing and Caring for Japanese Rose Bushes

Unlike most roses, Japanese roses prefer partial shade over full sun. They thrive when provided with dappled light and shade, but they can also grow in sunny spots, although they may produce fewer flowers with faster fading.

These shrubs are surprisingly tough and low-maintenance despite their delicate appearance. They can adapt to various soil conditions as long as it is well-draining and moderately fertile. Avoid clay soil, as Japanese roses are not fond of it.

Japanese Rose

While these roses prefer moist soil, they don’t appreciate being overly wet. Over-watering can lead to fungal infections like root rot. They can tolerate a range of temperatures and humidity levels. To help keep them cool during hot periods, mulching is recommended. Over time, the decomposing mulch provides nutrients to the plants.

Japanese roses can thrive without additional feedings or fertilizers in healthy soil. However, giving them some compost occasionally can be beneficial. If you choose to fertilize, use a slow-releasing granular all-purpose fertilizer in early spring or fall.

When to Plant

The best time to plant Japanese roses is in early spring, as they start to exit their dormant period. Make sure to wait until the threat of frost has passed before planting these beauties, as they bloom in April and May, requiring a significant amount of energy.

Japanese Rose

Planting Your Roses

Japanese roses are known for their vigorous suckers, making them excellent candidates for propagation. You can find them as healthy cuttings or container-grown plants at nurseries or garden centers.

When planting these rose bushes, choose a spot with partial sun. Clear away any debris, grass, rocks, or weeds from the area. Dig a hole twice as wide as the plant and as deep as its longest roots. Plants that have not yet established should be planted at the same height they were accustomed to.

Mix compost into the soil and create a small mound in the center of the hole. Place the rose plant on the mound, spreading its roots around it. Fill the hole two-thirds of the way with soil and water thoroughly. Finish filling the hole, ensuring the soil is firmly settled but not overly compacted.

To reduce weeds and retain moisture, spread a 1 to 2-inch layer of mulch around the base of the plant.


Regular pruning is recommended for Japanese roses to maintain their growth and promote healthy new shoots. Pruning also helps prevent overgrowth and allows you to shape the plant as desired.

Another important pruning task is removing suckers to prevent the shrub from spreading uncontrollably, especially in smaller areas.

Japanese Rose

Don’t hesitate to prune these roses, as they grow quickly once established. During your annual pruning session, you can safely remove at least one-third of the plant or even more if you want to rejuvenate older plants.

The best time to prune Japanese roses is after their first spring bloom or when you notice dead areas on the plant. Remember to sterilize and disinfect your pruning tools before use to prevent the spread of diseases or fungi.

Japanese Rose Bush Diseases

Japanese roses can be prone to fungal diseases such as twig and leaf blight. They can also develop root rot if exposed to excessive water. If you observe small red or brown spots on the leaves, it’s best to treat them with fungicide or prune away the affected areas.

To prevent the spread of diseases, avoid leaving pruning debris near the base of your roses. Regularly inspect your plants to monitor their overall health.

Japanese Rose

Varieties of Japanese Roses

Japanese roses come in various captivating varieties, each with its own unique characteristics. Although their growing conditions are similar, they offer diverse appearances.

Kerria Japonica ‘Picta’

The Picta variety features lance-shaped gray and green leaves and deep yellow five-petaled flowers. It is a slower-growing and shorter Japanese rose, reaching a maximum height of 2 feet.

Japanese Rose Picta

Kerria Japonica ‘Pleniflora’

The Pleniflora variety resembles chrysanthemums or marigolds, with double-layered flowers consisting of numerous petals. Also known as Bachelor’s Buttons, these roses have small but abundant flowers and light green, veined leaves. They grow into large bushes.

Japanese Rose Pleniflora

Kerria Japonica ‘Albescens’

With stunning pale-yellow flowers that can almost appear cream-colored, the Albescens variety showcases bright green leaves and delicate, dainty canes. Its small, five-petaled flowers create a beautiful contrast against the foliage.

Japanese Rose Albescens

Kerria Japonica ‘Simplex’

The Simplex variety boasts bold yellow flowers and toothy bright green leaves. It can grow to heights of 6.5 feet and produces solitary five-petaled flowers. This rose variety blooms best in mid-spring.

Japanese Rose Simplex

Kerria Japonica ‘Golden Guinea’

Similar to other single-layered roses, the Golden Guinea Japanese rose exudes an old-fashioned charm with its bright, saturated yellow color. Its attractive veined leaves and arching, tangled canes add to its appeal. This variety is also known for its fantastic fragrance.

Japanese Rose Golden Guinea

Decorating with Japanese Roses

Japanese roses make a striking addition to gardens, adding vibrant splashes of color to the landscape. They also work beautifully as dried flowers, lending themselves well to rustic decor pieces like driftwood, antlers, or other organic structures.

Japanese Roses in Glass Jars

Arrangements with Japanese Roses

Due to the way Japanese roses bloom on their branches, they may not be the best choice for traditional cut flower arrangements. However, their delicate appearance and wild beauty make them perfect for simple indoor arrangements.

To create an elegant arrangement, simply place a few branches of these magnificent roses in a stylish vase or urn. Remember to cut the branches just before the flowers open to maximize their bloom time. You can also complement Japanese roses with other flowers such as quince, forsythia, Oregon grapes, tulips, or witch hazel.

In addition, Japanese roses can be used as filler flowers in wildflower bouquets and other similar arrangements.

Where to Buy Japanese Rose Bushes

If you’re eager to add a Japanese rose to your garden, you can find Kerria japonica ‘Golden Guinea’ and other double-flowering Kerria japonica varieties at Nature Hills Nursery. Visit their website to purchase your very own Japanese rose and enhance your garden this year.

Bring Sunshine to Your Garden with a Japanese Rose

It’s hard not to fall in love with these stunning roses that bloom prolifically and bring a lively burst of color to your garden landscape.

Japanese Rose

Excited to learn more about roses and how to care for them? Keep reading our roses page for more captivating content.