Ardisia japonica

Common Name: marlberry 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Primulaceae
Native Range: Asia-Temperate
Zone: 8 to 10
Height: 0.50 to 1.00 feet
Spread: 1.00 to 3.00 feet
Bloom Time: July to August
Bloom Description: White to pale pink
Sun: Part shade to full shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Medium
Suggested Use: Ground Cover, Naturalize
Flower: Showy
Leaf: Evergreen
Fruit: Showy
Other: Winter Interest
Tolerate: Heavy Shade


Winter hardy to USDA Zones 8-10 where it is easily grown in average, acidic, moist but well-drained soils in part shade to full shade. Foliage may burn in full sun locations. Prefers organically rich soils. Intolerant of dry soils. Avoid wet soils. Freely self-seeds to the point where it has escaped gardens and has the potential to naturalize in optimum growing conditions.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Ardisia japonica, commonly known as Japanese ardisia or marlberry, is a low-growing, coarsely-textured, stoloniferous, woody evergreen shrub which spreads by underground runners to produce a succession of upright stems rising to 8-12” tall. Stems are clad with thick, glossy, leathery, serrulate-margined, opposite or subwhorled, elliptic to lanceolate leaves (each to 3” long) which are densely concentrated near the branch ends. It is native to mixed forests or bamboo woods, hillsides, and dark damp places in southeastern China, Japan and Korea. Japanese ardisia will rapidly spread by suckers to form a dense ground cover shrub for shady areas of the landscape. It can produce large colonies over time. Small, five-petaled, white to pale pink flowers (each to 3/8” diameter) bloom in July-August in 3-5 flowered panicles. Flowers are followed by showy red drupes which ripen to black in fall.

This plant is one of the 50 Fundamental herbs in Chinese medicine. It is used for a large number of different medical applications including treatment of bronchitis.

Genus name comes from the Greek aradis meaning a point in reference to the pointed anthers of these flowering trees and shrubs.

Specific epithet means from Japan in reference to native habitat.


No serious insect or disease problems.


Ground cover shrub for shrub borders, shade gardens or woodland areas. Also effective in naturalized areas where colonial spread is not a concern. May be grown in containers.