Japanese Kerria: a Shrub for all Seasons

Originally imported from China and Japan, this hardy shrub is nearly indestructible. The round puffy rose-like bright yellow flowers about the size of ping pong balls appear in the spring in huge numbers along the green stems. Your Japanese Kerria (Kerria japonica) will continue to bloom prolifically for several weeks on the long arching stems before tapering off to sporadic blooming over the balance of the summer. Pruning is best completed after the first heavy blooming period in the spring.

Want earlier blooms? It is as easy to force as forsythia. Want something longer lasting? The Gardening Grannies hear that the blooms can be dried but, admittedly, haven’t tried it yet. The process as was explained to them is to cut the stems and put in a vase with a small amount of water. The stems will gradually absorb the water and then begin to dry. The Grannies plan to try it this summer and will let you know how it works. Japanese Kerria still looks good in the fall when the last of the blooms have faded and the leaves turn to yellow. In the winter, the long green now leafless stems look graceful and exotic in the garden or they can be cut and used indoors in winter flower arrangements.

Japanese Kerria does best in part sun, part shade. In full sun, the flowers can fade more quickly, but the shrub will survive nicely. Generally speaking, it’s not a finicky plant, thriving in a wide range of soil and moisture conditions. It is easily propagated by taking cuttings in the summer or just digging out a few stems from the base of the mother plant to share with a friend.

Granny Griffith’s plant (shown here) actually came from a former neighbor who dug it out from the back of one of his rental properties in Salisbury with a backhoe. He tossed it in the back of his pickup truck and dropped it off at her house in mid-winter, saying only that it was an old type of thornless rose that came over on the Mayflower! The Kerria lived in Granny Griffith’s unheated garage until spring when it was planted out. Not only did it survive with all that rough treatment and neglect, it thrived. While the neighbor’s version of the plant’s history was entertaining, it wasn’t accurate. Thinking that the Kerria is a type of rose is not an uncommon misconception. Another very common misnomer is yellow rose of Texas. It’s not, but we think it’s just as beautiful.

If you decide to acquire a Kerria, it comes in a wide variety of sizes and the blossom colors can range from nearly white to bright yellow. Bloom sizes can vary significantly as well. Search for one that fits your yard and your personality!

The Gardening Grannies are a group of avid and Master Gardeners who live, love and garden on the Delmarva Peninsula. You can reach us at gardeninggrannies@wmdt.com and we look forward to hearing from you.