Heavenly Bamboo, a.k.a. Nandina, is a commonly used evergreen shrub for northwest landscapes. It has earned its reputation as low maintenance by being adaptable to a range of soils and sun exposure, having few pest/disease issues, and being deer and rabbit resistant.
Why We Love Nandina
Sure, Nandina may be considered old-fashioned (maybe even boring) by some, but with the introduction of some unique new varieties and its favorable hardiness, this versatile shrub should undoubtedly be considered for a spot in your garden!
Nandina’s finely textured foliage provides perfect contrast to larger, greener leaves and blends beautifully with conifers and grasses; as its common name alludes, it slightly resembles bamboo. New growth is often colorful as it emerges, and plants frequently turn dramatic colors in fall or winter. Depending on the cultivar, plants may grow 6 to 8+ feet tall, but compact forms are available that mature at less than 3 feet.
How to Grow & Use Nandina
Nandina can be used as a foundation plant, low hedge, or screen, or it can even potted into containers. Growing conditions range from full sun to partial shade, and plants are tolerant of drought, but prefer to be occasionally irrigated.
Nandina has a moderately fast growth rate and spreads by underground rhizomes. Seasonal pruning can be done in late winter or mid-summer by removing oldest, woodiest growth at or near the base of the plant to allow new growth to take its place; this should be done every few years to keep plants looking fresh.
Some varieties produce small white flowers in summer that ripen to orange-red berries in fall (Nandina domestica), but berries are considered toxic, even to birds. Newer cultivars of Nandina are sterile or form few berries, if any, to alleviate this concern.
Tried & True Varieties
- Moyer’s Red: 6+ feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide; green foliage turns shades of dark red to purple in fall/winter; produces dark red berries in winter
- Gulf Stream: compact habit to 3-4 feet tall and slightly wider; new growth is bronze-orange, then matures to soft green and turns shades of red-orange in fall; seldom flowers or forms berries
- Moon Bay: compact habit to about 3 feet tall and wide with fresh green leaves that turn brilliant scarlet in winter; may produce orange berries in winter
- Firepower: one of the smallest varieties; grows to about 2 feet tall/wide; among the most colorful with winter foliage ranging from bright red to orange and maroon; non-flowering; no berries
NEW Cool Glow Series
A new eye-catching series of Nandina is the Cool Glow Series from First Edition Plants. With variously colored new growth and winter color, this series has a compact habit, is well-behaved, and remains attractive year-round. It is moderately fast growing to 3 or 4 feet tall and wide and seldom flowers or produces berries.
- ‘Cool Glow Lime’ has lemon-lime color in fall/winter contrasting with dark green summer foliage
- ‘Cool Glow Pomegranate’ has deep burgundy colored foliage in fall/winter
- ‘Cool Glow Peach’ displays rich sunrise colors of peach and apricot
Nandina ‘Twilight’ has light green leaves mottled with white and bronzy-pink new growth with a fine, delicate texture. Bronze colors intensify in winter before turning pink again in spring. It grows to 3-4 feet tall and wide; best in full sun or light shade (may burn in intense sun).
These plants won’t ask much from you, but they can add a great deal to your garden. With delicate textures, graceful movement, and brilliant fall/winter color, its no wonder Nandina are so popular!