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Ardisia japonica is often confused with:
Ardisia crenata Plant in bloom
Native alternative(s) for Ardisia japonica:
Ilex glabra Leaves
Mitchella repens Mitchella repens
Plants that fill a similar niche:
Arctostaphylos uva-ursi Arctistaphylos uvaursi - hedge plant
Helleborus x hybridus Helleborus x hybridus
Viola sororia Viola papilionacea

Ardisia japonica

Common Name(s):

Previously known as:

  • Ardisia odontophylla
  • Bladhia japonica
  • Bladhia japonica f. leucocarpa
  • Tinus japonica
Phonetic Spelling
ar-DIS-ee-ah jah-PON-ih-kah
Description

Marlberry or Japanese Ardisia is an evergreen, low-growing shrub that measures 8-12 inches in height. The shrub spreads rapidly by runners that form a groundcover for shady areas. It can produce large colonies over time. There are multiple cultivars, but the variegated cultivars tend to be less cold hardy.

The shrub is native to China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan and is found in mixed forests or bamboo woods. Marlberry is typically used in Chinese herbal medicine.

The genus name, Ardisia, is Greek for "Ardis." Translated means "point." This refers to the pointed anthers of its flowers. The species name, japonica, refers to its native habitat.

The foliage is dark green, glossy, and densely concentrated at the end of the shrub's branches. The flowers are clusters of small, white to pale pink, star-shaped blooms. The flowers are present from July to August. The fruits are tiny, bright red drupes that appear in September and mature from October to November.  The fruits may persist through the winter. The plant seeds freely and may result in naturalization.

The Marlberry shrub provides good groundcover for shady or partly shady woodland gardens. It does not tolerate foot traffic, flooding, or drought. It prefers acidic soil, and excessive sun causes leaf burn. The plant is not prone to disease or pests and is considered deer resistant.

The plant is propagated by division, cuttings, or seeds. Cutting should be taken between June and September. 

The Marlberry is a close relative to the Coralberry (Ardisia crenata). It is a small upright evergreen that may grow up to 6 feet tall. The Coralberry is considered invasive in Florida.

The Marlberry escaped cultivation in the early 2000s. It is not recommended for planting in northern Florida due to its invasive nature and inability to control. Please consider native alternatives such as the Gallberry (Ilex glabra), Shiny Blueberry (Vaccinum myrsinites), or Partridgeberry (Mitchella repens) in place of the Marlberry.

 

 

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Angyo Pixie'
    narrow green leaves, tiny pink flowers, smaller form
  • 'Chirimen'
    green form, more cold tolerate--Zones 6-9
  • 'Hakuokan'
    variegated gray-green leaves and wide, white leaf margins
  • 'Hinode'
    variegated, broad band of yellow in the center of the leaves
  • 'Ito-Fukurin'
    variegated gray-green leaves and thin, white leaf margins
  • 'Nishiki'
    variegated rosy-pink leaves on new growth, yellow margins when mature
  • 'Sures marginata'
  • "White cap'
    variegated gray-green leaves with thin white leaf margins
'Angyo Pixie', 'Chirimen', 'Hakuokan', 'Hinode', 'Ito-Fukurin', 'Nishiki', 'Sures marginata', "White cap'
Tags:
#evergreen#showy flowers#low growing#white flowers#pink flowers#shade garden#winter interest#spreading#mat#low growing plant#red fruits#groundcover#partial shade tolerant#heavy shade tolerant
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
  • 'Angyo Pixie'
    narrow green leaves, tiny pink flowers, smaller form
  • 'Chirimen'
    green form, more cold tolerate--Zones 6-9
  • 'Hakuokan'
    variegated gray-green leaves and wide, white leaf margins
  • 'Hinode'
    variegated, broad band of yellow in the center of the leaves
  • 'Ito-Fukurin'
    variegated gray-green leaves and thin, white leaf margins
  • 'Nishiki'
    variegated rosy-pink leaves on new growth, yellow margins when mature
  • 'Sures marginata'
  • "White cap'
    variegated gray-green leaves with thin white leaf margins
'Angyo Pixie', 'Chirimen', 'Hakuokan', 'Hinode', 'Ito-Fukurin', 'Nishiki', 'Sures marginata', "White cap'
Tags:
#evergreen#showy flowers#low growing#white flowers#pink flowers#shade garden#winter interest#spreading#mat#low growing plant#red fruits#groundcover#partial shade tolerant#heavy shade tolerant
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Ardisia
    Species:
    japonica
    Family:
    Primulaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    The plant is used in Chinese medicine. Medical applications include bronchitis.
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Division
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Central and South China to temperate east Asia
    Distribution:
    Native: North-Central China, South-Central China, Southeast China, Japan, Korea, and Taiwan Introduced: Assam, Bangladesh, and the United States--LA and TX
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Deer resistant and shade tolerant
    Dimensions:
    Height: 0 ft. 6 in. - 1 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 1 ft. 0 in. - 3 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Ground Cover
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Spreading
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Medium
    Texture:
    Coarse
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Soil pH:
    Acid (<6.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Available Space To Plant:
    3 feet-6 feet
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    8b, 8a, 9b, 9a, 10b, 10a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Black
    Red/Burgundy
    Fruit Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Display/Harvest Time:
    Fall
    Winter
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruits appear in September and mature from October to November. They may remain on the shrub throughout the winter. They are bright red drupes and measure 0.25 inches in diameter. They have a fleshy outer covering with a hardened pit or stone in the center that contains the seed.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Pink
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Panicle
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Summer
    Flower Shape:
    Star
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    The white to pale pink flower blooms from July to August. The bloom is small and measures 3/8 inch in diameter. It is star-shaped and formed in racemes under the new foliage.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Broadleaf Evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Leaf Feel:
    Glossy
    Leathery
    Smooth
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Opposite
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Lanceolate
    Obovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Serrate
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The leaves are dark green, thick, glossy, leathery with serrated margins. They are simple, alternate, and elliptic to lanceolate in shape. They measure 1.5 to 3 inches in length and 0.6 to 1.5 inches in width. The leaves appear densely concentrated at the end of the shrub's branches. In the spring, the new growth is light green, copper, or bronze.
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Surface:
    Smooth (glabrous)
    Stem Description:
    The stems measure 8-12 inches long. Mature stems are glabrescent, but young stems have fine, soft hairs.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Container
    Landscape Theme:
    Shade Garden
    Winter Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Heavy Shade
    Problems:
    Weedy