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Japanese kerria

A Japanese kerria shrub.

Japanese kerria is a lovely 4 to 6 feet high shrub with upright to finely textured arching stems. Plants are especially attractive when abundant bright yellow flowers open in the spring.  The bright green, arched stems add winter interest in a naturalized garden and an excellent choice for perennial shade borders.  A destructive stem blight is making Japanese kerria more difficult to find in the nursery trade.

This plant has some cultivated varieties. Go to list of cultivars.


Botanical name:

Kerria japonica

All common names:

Japanese Kerria

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Shrub

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Specimen

Size Range:

  • Medium shrub (5-8 feet),
  • Small shrub (3-5 feet)

Light Exposure:

  • Partial sun/shade (4-6 hrs light daily),
  • Full shade (4 hrs or less of light daily)

Hardiness Zones:

  • Zone 4,
  • Zone 5 (Chicago),
  • Zone 6,
  • Zone 7,
  • Zone 8,
  • Zone 9

Soil Preference:

  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Alkaline soil,
  • Clay soil

Seasons of Interest:

  • midwinter,
  • late winter,
  • mid spring,
  • late spring,
  • early summer,
  • early fall,
  • mid fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • Yellow

Shape or Form:

  • Arching,
  • Multi-stemmed,
  • Thicket-forming,
  • Upright

Growth Rate:

  • Moderate

More Information:

Size & Form

A 3 to 6 feet high and wide deciduous shrub.
Green stems are upright and arching producing a lots of fine, slender, zig-zag twigs.
Plants sucker freely and forms large colonies.

Tree & Plant Care

Best grown in partial shade in a well-drained, moist, organic rich, loamy soil. When grown in full sun the flowers bleach out.
Avoid over-fertilizing, this will promotes too much leaf growth and reduces flowering.
Overgrown plants can be rejuvenated by cutting plants to the ground after flowering.
Prune out dead tips each spring and remove diseased stems.

Disease, pests, and problems

Stems and leaves are susceptible to phomopsis stem blight and septoria leaf disease.
Stem tips can die back in harsh winters.

Native geographic location and habitat

Native to China and Japan.

Attracts birds & butterflies

Flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Bark color and texture 

Bright green, arched stems stay green all year. Young stems are zig-zag and offer winter interest.

Leaf or needle arrangement, size, shape, and texture

Alternate, simple leaves 2 to 4 inches long; ovate to lance-shaped; leaf margins doubly serrate.
Bright green color changing to lemon yellow in the fall.

Flower arrangement, shape, and size

Flowers on old and new wood.
Showy 5-petaled, bright yellow flowers about 1 1/2 inches across, borne singly in late April and May.
Blooms sporadically throughout the summer.

Fruit, cone, nut, and seed descriptions

Not ornamentally significant.

Cultivars and their differences 

Golden Guinea (Kerria japonica 'Golden Guinea'): notable for the large 2-inch wide flowers that bloom for a long period.

Picta (Kerria japonica 'Picta'):  A variegated form with single yellow flowers.

Pleniflora (Kerria japonica 'Pleniflora', syn. 'Flora Pleno'): A shrubby plant reaching 4-5 feet high and 6 to 9 feet wide. Golden yellow, double flowering, ball-shaped blooms. Flowers well in dense shade or full sun.


Location of Kerria japonica (Japanese kerria) at the Arboretum