Nandina

Prepared by Marjan Kluepfel, HGIC Information Specialist, and Bob Polomski, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Clemson University. (New 05/99. Images added 03/07.)

HGIC 1071

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Nandina or heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) is an evergreen or semi-evergreen broadleaf shrub, which is tough and durable. Large plants have been growing in South Carolina for 100 or more years without any care.

Bright berries of nandina last from fall through spring.
Bright berries of nandina last from fall through spring.
Karen Russ, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension

Mature Height/Spread

Nandina grows 6 to 10 feet high and spreads 3 to 5 feet. The plant looks like bamboo in its lightly branched, cane-like stems and delicate, fine-textured foliage. The leaves are divided into many 1- to 2- inch, pointed, oval leaflets, creating a lacy pattern. Young foliage is pinkish, then turns to soft light green. The foliage is tinged red in winter, especially in full sun and with some frost. The flowers appear in May to June and are pinkish white. Each flower is ¼ to ½ inch across, appearing in loose, erect, 6- to 12-inch clusters at the end of the branches. If plants are grouped, shiny red berries, 1/3 inch in diameter, follow the flowers in September and persist into and through the winter. Single plants seldom fruit heavily.

Growth Rate

Nandina is a slow- to moderate-growing shrub. It grows 12 to 24 inches per year, depending on conditions, including location, light, fertility and water.

Landscape Use

Suggested uses for nandina include border, specimen plant and foundation, depending on the cultivar.

Cultivation

Nandina is easily transplanted from containers. It has fleshy roots, which aid in rapid recovery from transplanting. It can be moved at any time except midsummer. Nandina prefers moist, fertile soil, protected from harsh winds. Plant nandina in partial shade to full sun. The color of the foliage varies depending on the amount of sun the plant receives. Leaves assume a reddish tint in winter when grown in full sun.

Nandina loses its leaves at 10 °F. Stems are damaged at 5 °F, but the plant usually recovers fast. Careful pruning must be practiced. It is best to thin out old stems every year or head back old canes at varying lengths to produce a dense plant. Renew neglected shrubs by removing 1/3 of the oldest canes in the spring of each year for three years.

Problems

Nandina does not have any serious diseases or insect problems.

Cultivars and Varieties

  • 'Alba' is a 4- to 6-inch shrub with white berries and yellowish-green foliage, which turns yellow in fall. This cultivar is more susceptible to cold damage than the species.
  • 'Compacta' or dwarf nandina only reaches 4 to 5 feet in height and has lacy foliage, which turns red in fall.
  • 'Fire Power' is a very compact plant to 2 feet tall and wide. It has red-tinged leaves in summer and bright red leaves in winter.

Brilliant red leaf color of 'Fire Power' Nandina in winter.

Brilliant red leaf color of 'Fire Power' Nandina in winter.
Karen Russ, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension

  • 'Gulf Stream' or 'Compacta Nana' is a slow-growing, 3- to 4- foot shrub with dark blue-green summer foliage and red winter foliage. It does not have any berries.
  • 'Harbor Dwarf' is a freely spreading, low-growing (to 2 feet) plant. In some types, underground stems or rhizomes send up stems several inches from the parent plant, making it a good groundcover. Winter foliage ranges in color from orange red to bronzy red.
  • 'Moyer's Red' is a tall-growing form, maturing to a height of 6 feet, which develops good cold weather red pigment in the leaves. The flowers and fruits are also pinker and redder than the species.
  • 'Nana' or 'Nana Purpurea' or 'Atropurpurea Nana' grows to 2 feet with mottled green foliage that turns purplish-red in winter. This plant does not flower or set fruit.
  • 'Woods Dwarf' is a rounded form to 4 feet with dense, crimson red foliage in winter.
  • 'Yellow Berries' is similar to the species but the foliage lacks the typical reddish tinge. The berries are yellow.

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