Revised by Joey Williamson, HGIC Horticulture Extension Agent, Clemson University, 10/15. Originally prepared by Marjan Kluepfel, HGIC Information Specialist, and Bob Polomski, Extension Consumer Horticulturist, Clemson University. New 05/99. Images added 03/07.
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 (Nandina domestica) last from fall through spring.
Karen Russ, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension
Nandina grows 5 to 7 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.
Nandinas are rhizomatous, especially the straight species because of its larger size. This means that they spread slowly by underground stems to form small colonies.
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.
Suggested uses for nandina include border, specimen plant and foundation, depending on the cultivar.
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. Nandinas should be planted 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. Nandinas do well in USDA zones 6 through 9. Once established, nandinas are very drought tolerant plants.
Nandina does not have any serious diseases or insect problems, and are considered deer resistant.
Nandina domestica is considered an invasive plant in the Southeast US. Because of this potential, Nandina domestica and its cultivars that produce fruit are not recommended as suggested landscape plants*. However, some dwarf nandina cultivars do not produce fruit and would not present a problem.
Some bird species, such as cedar waxwing, northern mockingbird and American robin, will consume the berries in winter when other food sources are not available. The berries are toxic, as they contain cyanide, and can cause bird mortality if consumed in quantity**. Bird consumption of nandina fruit also aids in the spread of this plant.
The most commonly produced cultivars are included in the following sections. The cultivars producing fruit are listed last for purely educational purposes. If cultivars are listed in catalogs or in nurseries without of the mention of fruiting, SC residents will realize that these are indeed fruit-producing nandinas.
Brilliant red leaf color of ‘Fire Power’ Nandina in winter.
Karen Russ, ©2007 HGIC, Clemson Extension
*The Southeast Exotic Pest Plant Council
**Woldemeskel, M. and E.L. Styler. Feeding Behavior-Related Toxicity due to Nandina domestica in Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum). Vet Med Int., Dec. 9, 2010.
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This information is supplied with the understanding that no discrimination is intended and no endorsement of brand names or registered trademarks by the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service is implied, nor is any discrimination intended by the exclusion of products or manufacturers not named. All recommendations are for South Carolina conditions and may not apply to other areas. Use pesticides only according to the directions on the label. All recommendations for pesticide use are for South Carolina only and were legal at the time of publication, but the status of registration and use patterns are subject to change by action of state and federal regulatory agencies. Follow all directions, precautions and restrictions that are listed.