How to grow Nandina common name Heavenly Bamboo

How to grow Nandina, common name Heavenly Bamboo

Nandina is one of the best evergreen shrubs for a garden with all year round interest. It's common name is Heavenly Bamboo but it is not a bamboo or in any way related to a Bamboo, so quite safe and not a garden thug. It is known as Heavenly Bamboo because it has religious associations in China where it is used to decorate alters and it is also very popular in Japan.

It makes a great addition to the garden because it has a lovely light form, delicate leaves which are pointed on branches with an arching habit. It does look a little like a bamboo in that the stems are bamboo like in appearance.

Heavenly Bamboo has colour; the leaves take a red tint when they open, and deeper reds in the autumn. In a good summer, as Nandina like it hot, they will flower white as in the image left, and profusely if happy where it is growing, followed by bright red berries as in the central image. The colourful nature of the shrub is shown in the image far right. Nandina has a lot going for it and not a difficult shrub to grow, despite its delicate appearance. 

It originates from the mountain valleys of Japan, China and India and it is fully hardy to H5. Although fully hardy it does have a preference for a sheltered spot away from cold winds and on well drained soil. Generally Nandina is happy on most soils which are neither too wet or too dry, and tends to prefer soil on the acid side.

One of the most popular varieties to grow is Nandina domestica 'Fire power' which as the name suggests has strong autumn/winter colour. To get berries the shrub needs a good amount of sun and warmth and so performs better during good summers. Not all Nandina produce berries, some of the N. domestica varieties do, and in particular 'Richmond' which has the AGM reputedly for more reliably producing berries, N.'Fire Power' is widely grown in the UK which has good colour but not so good on the berry front. There are also varieties where the foliage colour tends to be more bronzed than red such as N. 'Seika' (needs winter protection) and 'Sunset' with purple tinges to the foliage. There are smaller varieties suitable for growing in containers such as 'Tuscan Flame' which grows to around 35 cms.

One of the real benefits of Nandina, the heavenly bamboo, is that when it has the lovely autumn colour it keeps its leaves as an evergreen, unlike so many shrubs which are attractive in the autumn, such as Acers, which drop their leaves. Although classified as evergreen, it may loose some leaves in a cold winter.

Nandina really do make an attractive shrub and I would recommend  planting where the shrub will stand out.  I have one growing alongside a couple of other shrubs and I rather regret it as the Nandina tends to get overshadowed and if planting again, or indeed another, I would give it more space to be admired. 

It is a low maintenance shrub which does not require feeding or pruning. If it does become overgrown it should be pruned in April or May, or after flowering.

Be aware the berries are toxic to cats, although safe and loved by birds.