212 Nandina domesticaCommon Names: heavenly bamboo, nandina Family: Berberidaceae (barberry Family)
Also known as heavenly bamboo, nandina is an evergreen or semi-evergreen woody shrub often used in landscaping. Its distinctive compound leaves which have lance shaped leaflets are held on multiple nonbranching stems. The whole plant has a very lacy appearance and upright form, growing 6-8 ft (1.8-2.4 m) The species tends to sucker outward, forming ever larger clumps. In spring, there are large panicles of small white flowers at the end of stems followed by green berries which ripen to bright red that are held for many months (unless devoured by birds). The wood is bright yellow. There are several dwarf cultivars that range in height from about 1.5-4 ft (0.5-1.2 m). 'Harbor Dwarf' is a popular dwarf selection that grows to about 3 ft (0.9 m). 'Woods Dwarf' grows as little leafy spheres that are about 1.5 ft (0.5 m) in diameter. They installed a couple hundred 'Firepower' nandinas in the parking lot of the place were I worked in Jacksonville. I admired the low 2 ft (5.1 m) mounds of pretty red and pink foliage all winter and was amazed at its ability to handle hundred degree temperatures and suffocating Florida humidity all summer - and look great while doing it.
Nandina domestica is a native of China and Japan. The species and its dwarf varieties are popular landscape items. Nandina has naturalized and invaded habitats in Florida and other areas - see Warning below.
CulturePrefers reasonably rich soil; does not thrive in sand. Otherwise, this is one of the toughest and most adaptable of plants to a variety of conditions. It knows practically no pests or diseases unless it is direly stressed. Many cultivars have been developed for size, berry color, and fall and winter leaf color, and are available at nurseries. Although cultivars are more delicate than the species and can succumb to leaf spot fungi, they usually overcome it with time and changing weather conditions. Some specimens are known to have lived for more than 100 years. Light: Sun to shade. Moisture: Moist to average; tolerates dry spells once established. Hardiness: USDA Zones 6 - 9. Propagation: From cuttings during warm weather, or from seed.
Nandina is wonderful almost anywhere. It shows up well against light colored buildings and is good to use in a group of three or more as a corner foundation plant. Tucked into a corner, it can reach the eaves. Stems staggered in height with a load of berries give a pleasing vertical accent. Mixed in with other shrubs, nandina can be incorporated into a hedge (cut back the stems if it becomes leggy). Because of its beauty and toughness, the dwarf cultivars are often put to use as low maintenance groundcover for traffic islands and similar commercial landscape applications. It has been used in practically every landscape situation.
Huge panicles of white flowers that turn to attractive orange red berries that are held against bright green lacy foliage make nandina a very handsome plant and earn it another common name, the heavenly bamboo. The bright berries are beloved by birds and attract mockingbirds, cedar waxwings, and robins while the flowers are attractive to bees. While this description may sound like this is indeed a heaven sent plant it turns out this beauty is a bit of a beast...
Nandina is listed as a Class I invasive species by the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council which means that it is "actively disrupting plant communities". Before planting this (or any non-native plant) check locally to make sure that it is not an invasive pest in your area.
Jack Scheper 08/17/97, updated: 03/27/99, 02/01/02, 10/31/04, 03/21/08