Japanese kerria blooms brilliantly in shade

This pretty little shrub provides spring blooms and winter interest, and it's shade tolerant to boot! It produces many slender, upright to arching stems, and over time, it forms a spreading clump as suckers arise. Its branches are bright yellowish green, which adds a nice dash of color in the winter landscape.

Japanese kerria's long, pointed, bright green leaves emerge early in the spring, but they don't hide the single, golden yellow flowers that appear for several weeks in April or May.

Take advantage of this shrub's shade tolerance by planting it with shade-tolerant perennials in a woodland garden or any other shady spot in the yard.

Common name: Japanese kerria

Botanical name: Kerria japonica

Plant type: Deciduous shrub

Zones: 4 to 9

Height: 3 to 6 feet

Family: Rosaceae

Growing conditions

• Sun: Partial to full shade

• Soil: Loamy, moderately fertile

• Moisture: Evenly moist, but well drained; somewhat drought-tolerant once established


• Mulch: 2 to 3 inches of organic mulch

• Pruning: Prune in late winter or early spring to remove dead branches or improve form.

• Fertilizer: Apply compost or soluble fertilizer only if needed.


• Cuttings

• Division

Pests and diseases

• No major problems

• Deer resistant


• ‘Geisha' has yellow and white speckled variegated foliage and double flowers.

• ‘Golden Guinea' has especially large (up to 2 inches wide) golden flowers.

• ‘Pleniflora' has showy fully double, long-lasting flowers; it tends to grow a bit taller than the species.

Garden notes

• Japanese kerria is excellent for mass plantings in shady areas.

• Plant Japanese kerria with red-stemmed dogwood (Cornus sericea) for a colorful winter display of green and red stems.

• While Japanese kerria will grow in full sun, the flowers often become unattractively bleached in bright, direct sun.

All in the family

• Japanese kerria is a member of the rose family (Rosaceae), a large family of woody and herbaceous plants.

• Japanese kerria is the sole species in the genus Kerria.

• Other ornamental shrubs in the rose family include roses, ninebark (Physocarpus), potentilla (Potentilla) and spirea (Spiraea spp.).

Where to buy

• Forestfarm, forestfarm.com

• Niche Gardens, nichegardens.com

• Rare Find Nursery, rarefindnursery.com