Content Detail

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.

  • Family (English) Aralia
  • Family (botanic) Araliaceae
  • Tree or plant type Perennial
  • Native locale Non-native
  • Size range Large plant (more than 24 inches)
  • 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 (Northern Illinois), Zone 6 (City of Chicago), Zone 7, Zone 8
  • Soil preference Alkaline soil, Moist, well-drained soil
  • Tolerances Alkaline soil, Dry sites
  • Season of interest midsummer, late summer, early fall
  • Flower color and fragrance White
  • Shape or form Multi-stemmed, Thicket-forming, Upright
  • Growth rate Fast

Native geographic location and habitat:

Japanese spikenard is found in shady forests and on slopes in Japan, Korea, and China.

Attracts birds, pollinators, or wildlife:

Attractive to birds, bees, and other pollinators.

Leaf description:

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

Flower description:

Flowers are large terminal umbels up to 12 to 18 inches in diameter with spike-like panicles. They are white and bloom in late summer into early fall.

Fruit description:

The blue-black berries are poisonous, but the birds love them. It reseeds easily.

Plant care:

Japanese spikenard does best in part shade in humus-rich, well-drained, organic soil. It is tolerant of full sun with adequate moisture but is not tolerant of drought. Dies back to the ground in fall and resprouts in spring. Requires protection from strong winds.

List of pests, diseases, tolerances and resistance:

Root problems in wet soils. It is resistant to rabbits and deer.

Sun King Japanese spikenard (Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’):

A cultivar that grows 3 to 4 feet high and wide with bright golden compound leaves and airy spikes of white flowers. An  excellent plant to brighten a shady area.


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