Rohdea Japonica Care: Growing Japanese Sacred Lily

Rohdea japonica or Japanese sacred lily has been cultivated for hundreds of years as a beautiful ornamental ground cover option.

The clumped foliage of the sacred lily


Rohdea japonica is a stellar evergreen herbaceous perennial of the genus Rohdea and is also known Japanese lily or sacred lily. Its dark green foliage dons forest floors of Korea, Japan, and China, slowly spreading across hills and mountain slopes.

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.

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

Quick Care Guide

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, miyako no hana
Scientific NameRohdea japonica
Height & Spread6-12″ (15-30cm) tall and 6-9″ (16-22cm) wide
LightLight to full shade; dry shade is best
SoilWell draining
FertilizerBalanced, slow-release once during growing season
Pests & DiseasesAnthracnose, brown spot, no known pests

All About Rohdea Japonica

Rhodea Japonica is commonly referred to as Nippon lily, sacred lily, Japanese sacred lily, and simply sacred lily. It is native to China, Korea, and Japan. Here it lives in tropical forest understories and spreads through rhizomatic roots.

Sacred lily looks good all year round, especially in a shade garden. The rosettes are elongated with wide, thick, and arching dark green leaves. Tiny blooms have a whitish green to yellow flower color. They turn to bright red attractive berries in fall and winter. These berries persist throughout the winter at the base of the plant.

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.

Clusters of its red berries are produced among the cluster of dark green leaves by the small whitish green flowers after they have bloomed and faded. It’s from these and the rhizomatic roots that this sacred lily reproduces and spreads through a garden area.

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.

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 lily with rough and wavy plastic-like dark 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 full 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.

While the roots of your lily will remain intact in colder climates, the foliage tends to die back in these settings. Heat is no issue as long as you’ve planted it in shady areas, and the plant is primed for sweltering tropical areas.

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. Try not to overwater, as this can damage the roots. During fall and winter you can reduce the frequency of watering as the plant will likely be dormant at this time.

Even though it’s drought-tolerant you may want to water in summers that have little rainfall. At the same time, allow the top few inches of soil to dry before applying irrigation.


Rohdea japonica prefers well-drained soil with a rich loamy or silty composition. Clay loam is also appropriate, as long as it’s well-draining. The ideal pH range is from 5 to 7.8. Ensure your soil doesn’t have too many retention materials in it.

This ground cover plant needs dry soil from time to time. In fact, dry soil is one of the most important things that distinguishes this tropical plant’s care from others like it.


You may fertilize your young plant early in the growing season with a 10-10-10 NPK slow release fertiilzer. Once established, it can do well without fertilizer, and an annual top-dressing is enough. Container grown plants should be treated in the same manner.

Repotting Rohdea Japonica

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. You can simply plant it and let it be a ground cover plant.

If you’re growing it in a pot, you should repot it after it has doubled in size. This may occur once per year. Repot it in a container of one size larger than the previous one. It’s at this time you can divide the plant into other pots or areas of your garden.

Rohdea Japonica Propagation

You can propagate the plant by division or by seeds that come from red berries. 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 of the red berries 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.

When dividing the plant, loose it from the soil and locate growth points on the rhizomatic roots. You can usually pull a growth apart to divide the plant into parts, each of which will become new plants. If you have excess pieces of rhizome with one set of leaves attached, you can cut off the excess rhizome and pot it up in well-drained soil to grow new plants.

Pruning Rohdea Japonica

Pruning of the dark green foliage 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. You can also remove the red berries or the insignificant flowers on the plant if you don’t want them to drop to the soil and germinate.


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

Growing Problems

While it’s really hard to create problems with this plant, placing it in an area that gets too much sun may caused singed leaves. If this occurs, move it to another area of your garden where it can grow under the cover of shade.


There are no known issues of pests with this plant. It’s a rabbit and deer-resistant plant.


In some cases, this plant can get a fungal infection called Colletotrichum liriopes which is an anthracnose disease (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.

Brown spot is a symptom of anthracnose that can arise when treatment of the pathogen that causes the disease has not been treated. If you see water-soaked lesions on the leaves, treat them!

Frequently Asked Questions

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 has insignificant flowers that grow on stems in a cluster. The flower color is pale yellow to greenish-white. They turn into showy cones of red berries in winters.

Q: Are Japanese lilies perennials?

A: Yes! They are evergreen tropical perennials in zones 6 through 10.

Q: Can lilies be left in the ground over winter?

A: Yes. Especially in zones 6 through 10 the rhizomatic roots of this plant should survive in an area with good drainage, even in cold. In more tropical zones it remains green year round.

Q: Do you cut back lilies for winter?

A: Most of the time, they’ll die back to the base of the plant on their own. Let them go in winter, and don’t bother pruning them.

Q: What temperature is too cold for lilies?

A: These lilies are very highly prized because they are cold-hardy and their roots can survive cold down to -25°F.

Q: Do lily bulbs multiply?

A: These particular lilies do spread via their rhizomatic roots.

Q: Do lilies like morning or afternoon sun?

A: These can handle some morning sun, but afternoon sun can be too much. Keep them in partial to full shade, generally.

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