Serissa Bonsai: Japanese Sun Rose Care

Interested in growing a bonsai plant? Try a Serissa bonsai, commonly known as Japanese snow rose or Tree of a Thousand Stars.

Ask the Experts: Serissa Bonsai Care

14 Jeanettebrenna Bbxmay19Courtesy Jeanette Brenna
A reader needed expert help to identify her Serissa bonsai plant

“I’ve had this plant (above) for more than 20 years. It’s so pretty and the bees love it! Can you help identify it?” asks Birds & Blooms reader Jeanette Brenna of Dade City, Florida.

Horticultural expert Melinda Myers says, “Your plant looks like a Japanese snow rose (Serissa). This shrub is hardy in Zones 7 to 9, evergreen in milder climates and often used in bonsai. In the landscape, it prefers moist, well-draining soil and part shade. It doesn’t tolerate overly wet or drought-like soil conditions. You may see it drop leaves if temperatures are too hot or too cold and with extremes in soil moisture.”

  • Common name: Japanese Snow Rose, Tree of a Thousand Stars
  • Scientific name: Serissa japonica (formerly Serissa foetida)
  • Growing zones: 7 to 9
  • Light needs: Part sun to part shade
  • Soil: Moist, well-draining soil
  • Size: 2 to 4 feet high and 3 to 5 feet wide

Learn how to grow a desert rose plant.

What Does a Japanese Snow Rose Look Like?

Snowrose the tree of thousand starsHidanhid/Getty Images
A Serissa bonsai prefers afternoon shade and consistent temperatures

Despite its common name, the Japanese snow rose is not related to flowering plants in the rose family (Rosa) such as the popular Knock Out roses. Instead, this evergreen (or semi-evergreen, depending on your growing zone) shrub is actually in the coffee plant family. Characteristics include a gnarled trunk, small leaves and lots of star-shaped white or pink flowers from spring through fall. Just don’t expect it to produce any coffee beans. 

Unlike succulents such as haworthia these somewhat finicky plants will not thrive if the soil dries out completely, so make sure you stick to a regular watering schedule.

Next, learn how to grow and care for moss rose plants.

Lori Vanover
Lori has 20 years of experience writing and editing home, garden, birding and lifestyle content for several publishers. As Birds & Blooms senior digital editor, she leads a team of writers and editors sharing birding tips and expert gardening advice. Since joining Trusted Media Brands 13 years ago, she has held roles in digital and print, editing magazines and books, curating special interest publications, managing social media accounts, creating digital content and newsletters, and working with the Field Editors—Birds & Blooms network of more than 50 backyard birders. Passionate about animals and nature, Lori has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural and Environmental Communications from the University of Illinois. In 2023, she became certified as a Wisconsin Extension Master Gardener, and she is a member of the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology and sits on the organization's Publications Advisory Committee. She frequently checks on her bird feeders while working from home and tests new varieties of perennials, herbs and vegetable plants in her ever-growing backyard gardens.