Garden Talk

Rohdea japonica

Horticultural Highlight: Japanese sacred lily

Tess Anderson

In this series, the staff of Duke Gardens highlights plants you’ll find within our 55-acre living collection. This week, assistant horticulturist Tess Anderson shares an evergreen shade plant with eye-catching red berries.

Botanical name: Rohdea japonica
Common name: Japanese sacred lily
Family name: Asparagaceae (Asparagus Family)
Plant type: Perennial
Native range: Japan, China and Korea
Location in Duke Gardens: Tea house garden in the Ruth Mary Meyer Japanese Garden in the Culberson Asiatic Arboretum
Site requirements: Part to full shade
USDA Hardiness Zones: 6-10

Rohdea leaf spot

Rohdea japonica is an evergreen perennial native to Japan, China, and Korea. It is characterized by elongated, strappy, green leaves and bright red berries—my favorite part. The berries grow on a short stalk that can be seen at the base of the plant and come as a nice pop of color in the winter season.

Rohdea do best in part to full shade, forming an upright 1-foot-tall clump that deer don't touch. They thrive in dry shade and are very drought tolerant: great for North Carolina summers!

This perennial can be infected with an anthracnose fungus that produces yellow and brown leaf spots on its foliage. The spread of the fungus can be controlled by cutting the infected leaves at the base of the plant and disposing of them. Another option is liquid copper fungicide, which can be applied weekly on the leaves when the spots start to appear and continued throughout the growing season (follow label instructions).

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Photos by Tess Anderson (lilies) and Clarence Burke (portrait).