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Japanese spikenard

Flowers and leaves of Sun King Japanese spikenard.

Japanese spikenard is a large, clump-forming perennial with huge clusters of white flowers, massive compound leaves, and showy black berries. A excellent late-summer plant for back of the border, a shade garden, and naturalizing.

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


Botanical name:

Araila cordata

All Common Names:

Japanese spikenard, mountain asparagus, udo, herbal aralia

Family (English):


Family (Botanic):


Tree or Plant Type:

  • Perennial

Native Locale:

  • Non-native

Landscape Uses:

  • Massing,
  • Mixed border,
  • Specimen

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

Soil Preference:

  • Alkaline soil,
  • Moist, well-drained soil


  • Dry sites,
  • Alkaline soil

Season of Interest:

  • Mid summer,
  • Late summer,
  • Early fall

Flower Color & Fragrance:

  • White

Shape or Form:

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

Growth Rate:

  • Fast

More Information:


A colony-forming perennial reaching 6 to 8 feet high and wide

Tree & Plant Care

Best in part shade in humus-rich, well drained organic soil
Tolerant of full sun with adequate moisture
Dies back to ground in fall and resprouts in spring
Not tolerant of drought
Protect from strong winds

Disease, pests, and problems

Root problems in wet soils

Disease, pest, and problem resistance


Native geographic location and habitat

Found in shady forests and slopes in Japan, Korea, and China

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife

Birds, bees and other pollinators

Leaf description

Alternate, oval to heart-shaped,2 to 3 pinnately compound leaves with fine tooth margins
Each leaflet can be 6 inches long

Flower description

Large terminal umbels up to 12 to 18 inches in diameter with spike-like panicles
White flowers bloom in later summer into early fall.

Fruit description

Blue-black berries are poisonous; birds love them.
Reseeds easily

Cultivars and their differences 

Sun King Japanese Spikenard (Aralia cordata 'Sun King'): 3 to 4 feet high and wide; bright golden compound leaves with airy spikes of white flowers. Excellent plant to brighten a shady area.

Location of Araila cordata (Japanese spikenard) at the Arboretum

We do not seem to have this in our living collection.