Heavenly Bamboo (Nandina)

Nandina, also known as heavenly bamboo, (Nandina domestica) is an evergreen or semi-evergreen broadleaf shrub. It is a tough and durable plant in the landscape.
Nandina can grow 5-7 feet high and spreads 3-5 feet wide. The plant looks like bamboo with its cane-like stems and delicate, fine-textured foliage. Young foliage is a pinkish color then turns to a light green. Foliage is colored red in the winter, especially in full sun.
The flowers appear in May to June and are a pinkish white. Shiny red berries follow the flowers in September and persist into and throughout the winter. Single plants seldom fruit heavily.
Nandinas spread by underground stems called rhizomes. This means the underground stems can form small colonies.
Nandinas prefer moist, fertile soil that is protected from harsh winds. They should be planted in partial shade to full sun. The foliage color depends on the amount of sun the plant receives. Leaves will assume a reddish tint in the winter when grown in full sun. Careful pruning must be practiced. Thin out old stems every year to head back canes at varying lengths to produce a dense plant. To renew neglected shrubs, remove 1/3 of the oldest canes in the spring each year for three years.
Nandina does not have any serious disease or insect problems, and are considered deer resistant. Nandina is an invasive plant in the South East and its cultivars that produce fruit are NOT recommended as landscape plants. However, some dwarf nandina cultivars do not produce fruit and would not present a problem to the landscape.
Certain bird species such as northern mockingbird, American robin, and cedar waxwing will consume the berries in winter when other food sources are not available. The berries contain cyanide and are considered toxic. This can cause bird mortality if consumed in high quantities and aids in the spread of nandina.
If cultivars are listed in catalogs or nurseries without the mention of fruiting, realize these are the fruit-producing nandinas. Fruitless nandina cultivars for SC landscapes include the following: ‘Fire Power’, ‘Gulfstream’, ‘Nana’ or ‘Nana Atropurperea’, Obsession TM, ‘Woods Dwarf’, Sienna Sunrise®, ‘Lemon Lime’, FlirtTM, and Blush PinkTM. Invasive cultivars that produce an abundant amount of fruit and should not be planted include: ‘Alba’, ‘Compacta’, Harbor BelleTM, ‘Harbour Dwarf’, ‘Leucocarpa’, ‘Moon Bay’, ‘Moyer’s Red’, and Plum Passion®.
For more information on nandina, please visit the Home and Garden Information Center website at hgic.clemson.edu. Tune in on Tuesday nights to watch “Making it Grow” at 7 p.m. on SCETV or mig.org. E-mail Outen at callenb@clemson.edu.
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