Ground Cover

Rohdea Japonica Care: Growing Japanese Sacred Lily

The clumped foliage of the sacred lily

Rohdea japonica is a stellar evergreen herbaceous perennial of the genus Rohdea and is also known Japanese sacred lily or sacred lily.

This rare, tropical-looking oriental plant is one of the most highly prized perennials in Japan. It’s native to both Japan and China where it’s naturally found in moist woodlands and on grassy slopes.

Rohdea japonica It has been cultivated in Japan for at least 500 years and probably for just as long in China. It’s considered as a “good fortune” plant and that’s why people use it as a gift for housewarming parties, birthdays, and baby showers.

This perennial grows in clumps of deep green foliage and does especially well in the shade garden when grown in fertilized soil. It’s a slow grower but can be divided as the clumps can grow large.

This plant can serve as an incredible addition to your ornamental landscapes and as a ground cover plant.

Quick Care

Seed head of Rohdea japonica,
Seed head of Rohdea japonica, apparently pollinated by slugs. Source: Ashley Basil
Common Name(s): Nippon lily, sacred lily, Japanese sacred lily, sacred lily
Scientific NameRohdea japonica
Height & Spread:6-12″ (15-30cm) tall and 6-9″ (16-22cm) wide
LightLight to full shade
SoilWell draining
Pests & Diseases:Rabbits and Colletotrichum liriopes

Sacred lily looks good all year round. The rosettes are elongated with wide, thick, and arching green leave. Tiny whitish green flowers turn to bright red attractive berries in fall and winter. These berries persist throughout the winter at the base of the plant.

Types of Rohdea Japonica

This plant is available in a number of varieties. Here are some of the most common ones.

Rohdea Japonica Chirimen Boshi

This is an unusual variety of Japanese sacred lily with rough and wavy plastic-like green leaves with narrow creamy white edges. This plant reaches about 12″ inches tall with a spread of nearly 20″ inches.

Rohdea Japonica Herbie

Rohdea japonica ‘Herbie” has wide rosettes consisting of dark green leaves that are stretching outwards and are bordered with a narrow white band from the tip of the leaf to the base.

Rohdea Japonica ‘Miyako-no-Hana’

This variety grows comparatively faster and can quickly form clumps about 20″ inches tall and 2″ wide. Leaves display an irregular green and creamy blotched pattern that’s mostly seen from the center of the leaf to the tip.

Rohdea Japonica ‘Shiro Botan’

This variety comprises long arching and pointed thick green leaves that are heavily banded with large white blotches. They look great in small woodland rock gardens and even in containers.

Rohdea Japonica Care

The clumped foliage of the sacred lily
The clumped foliage of the sacred lily makes for a striking statement. Source: Ashley Basil

The Japanese sacred lily is a hardy plant so it’s not difficult to grow. Here are some specific care requirements for this plant.

Light & Temperature

It’s mainly a shade loving plant that likes partial to full shade. It should not get the afternoon sun otherwise leaves will burn and die. It grows well in USDA Hardiness Zones 7-10.

Water & Humidity

This plant is drought-tolerant so it has average water needs. You have to water it regularly during summers to keep the soil moist to wet. During winters you can reduce the frequency of watering.


Rohdea japonica prefers well-drained rich loamy soil. The ideal pH range is from 5 to 7.8.


You may fertilize your young plant early in the growing season with a balanced formula. Once established, it can do well without fertilizer.


This plant can be both grown in the ground or in a container. When getting it from a nursery, you will probably find it in a small plant and it will need to be transplanted into well-drained soil.

If you’re growing it in a pot, you won’t have to repot it too often as it is slow-growing. However, if the pot becomes crowded, you will have to repot it in a container of one size larger than the previous one.


You can propagate the plant by division or by seeds. Seeds are best sown in a greenhouse as soon as they are ripe. When they are sufficiently large in size, you need to prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them in the greenhouse for the first winter. You can then plant them in their permanent positions later in spring or in early summer.


Pruning will be mainly for ornamental purposes as the plant is slow growing. If you notice any brownish yellow, dying leaves, you can remove them from the base.


There are no serious growing problems with Rohdea japonica. You just have to make sure they are grown in rich and moist soil and under partially shaded conditions.


There are no known issues of pests with this plant. Sometimes wild rabbits may nibble on the leaves during the winter. So, even though these attacks are rare, you need to keep them protected from any such attack.


In some cases, this plant can get a fungal infection called Colletotrichum liriopes (glomerella species). In case your plant gets affected by this disease, you will have to remove the affected parts and give the plant an anti-fungal treatment using a fungicidal spray. However, if it’s considerably damaged, the plant may have to be removed.


Q. Why are my Rohdea japonica leaves turning yellow?

A. Yellowing of leaves is mostly a sign of underwatering. You should increase the frequency of watering to keep the soil adequately wet especially during summers.

Q. What do Rohdea japonica’s flowers look like?

A. Rohdea japonica flowers grow on stems in a cluster. They are pale yellow in color. They turn into showy cones of red berries in winters.

Rohdea japonica is a rare and beautiful plant native to Japan and China. It can be a nice evergreen addition to your deep shade gardens and will look just as stunning in the winters too. They are ideal woodland plants where they can act as a ground cover or can be used to edge a walkway.

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