If you are looking for a shrub that has lacy foliage; colorful fall foliage color, interesting flowers, autumn berries and is evergreen, take a good look at Nandina domestica. Commonly called ‘Heavenly Bamboo’ this plant has just about everything a homeowner could ask for, all in one plant.
Nandina can be used in virtually any part of the landscape. It is especially useful in full or part sun, where the foliage color is superb. However, it will even grow in a shady part of the garden. Of course, the leaf color is not nearly as vibrant and it does not flower as well.
A versatile plant, it can be used by itself or in small group plantings for spot color. Groups of three to five plants are especially effective when combined with other evergreens that have different leaf textures. For example, the combination of heavenly bamboo with Viburnum davidi and low growing heather or Junipers or string Cypress is splendid for a sunny or semi-sunny spot.
Nandina is a very popular plant in Japanese gardens, because of its leaf texture and color. In the Japanese home garden this plant will often be found near the front or back door, as they consider it the ‘friendship plant’.
If the plant can be used in the garden near night lights, it will cast a beautiful silhouette.
Probably the most outstanding characteristic of this plant is the attractive, lacy foliage, which resembles bamboo leaves. The new growth is often bronze to rose in color, becoming green with age. In the fall and winter, the growth takes on autumn leaf colors: red, orange, bronze and pink. The plant has added value in that it provides cut branches for use in floral arrangements all 12 months of the year.
As the plant matures, it’s not unusual for it to develop late summer and early-fall flowers that eventually may produce red berries. The flower clusters are quite large – 8 to 12 inches high – and can be dried for arrangements.
Unlike most plants we call ‘bamboo’ Nandina is not a nuisance plant. Actually, it’s not even a bamboo at all, but a member of the barberry family. The stalks are not like bamboo, but the foliage is. One advantage of Nandina is that it does not send underground sprouts all over the garden like bamboo does. The stems emerge right from the base of the plants.
In most plantings, the plant remains quite compact. There are several varieties, but if needed, the taller stems can be pruned to lower the height of the plants. Pruning can be done at any time throughout the year. The cut stems are very popular to use in flower arranging and will last for several days.
Heavenly Bamboo is a relatively easy plant to grow in Pacific Northwest gardens. Its only requirement is that it be planted in well-drained soil. Prepare the soil by mixing generous amounts of organic-humus, like peat moss, compost or processed manure with your existing soil.
Container grown plants can be planted at any time throughout the year. If there is a need to transplant an established plant, it is best done during the fall or winter months. When planting or transplanting be sure to set the root ball at the same level at which the plant was previously growing. A very light layer of bark mulch over the soil will help retain moisture and also help control weed growth.
Nandina will benefit from a yearly, light feeding of a Rhododendron or Evergreen type of fertilizer. Apply the fertilizer in late February or early June. Be sure to water-in the fertilizer thoroughly after application, or it is apt to burn the roots and do more damage than good.
See the list below for some of the great varieties of Nandina available at most Meadows Farms locations.