Cleyera japonica
Common Name: sakaki 
Type: Broadleaf evergreen
Family: Pentaphylacaceae
Native Range: Japan, Korea, China
Zone: 6 to 9
Height: 10.00 to 15.00 feet
Spread: 8.00 to 10.00 feet
Bloom Time: May to June
Bloom Description: White flowers and black fruit
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Medium
Maintenance: Low
Suggested Use: Hedge
Flower: Showy, Fragrant
Leaf: Evergreen
Other: Winter Interest


Best grown in cool, moist, humusy, well-drained soil in full sun to part shade. Shrubs grown in full sun typically appreciate some shade at the heat of the day in hot summer conditions. Tolerates close to full shade. Established shrubs tolerate some drought. Best sited in locations sheltered from strong winds.

Noteworthy Characteristics

Cleyera japonica, commonly known as Japanese cleyera, is a broadleaf evergreen shrub or small tree that typically grows to 10-15’ tall by 8-10’ wide in cultivation, but may reach 30’ tall in the wild in its native habitat. It is native to forests, thickets, slopes and valleys in Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, northern India, Myanmar, Thailand and Nepal. Simple, leathery-textured, ovate, camellia-like, evergreen leaves (to 3-4” long) are lustrous dark green above and dull pale green below. New growth leaves emerge with a bronze tint. Fragrant, bell-shaped, downward-facing, creamy white flowers (to 1/2” wide) bloom from the leaf axils in late spring. Flowers are solitary or in small clusters of 2-5. Flowers are followed by shiny black fruit.

Tree is known in Japan as Sakaki where it is considered sacred in the Shinto religion (branches are used in Shinto ritual).

Clerya japonica is very similar to Ternstroemia gymnanthera.

Genus name honors Andreas Cleyer (b. 1634 d. 1697 or 1698), German physician and botanist.

Specific epithet indicates shrub is native to Japan.


No serious insect or disease problems. Leaf spot.


Borders, hedges, screens and foundations.