Heavenly bamboo, sacred bamboo or Chinese sacred bamboo, Nandina domestica, is an elegant evergreen or semi-evergreen shrub that looks good in every season. Its delicate, evergreen foliage has red or purple tints in spring and in summer, the plant bears sprays of tiny white flowers. In summer, the foliage turns pale green, and green berries begin to appear. These turn bright red in autumn, as the foliage takes on fiery red or bronze tints. The berries and foliage remain on the plant throughout winter, giving colour and interest. Birds love the berries.
Despite its name, heavenly bamboo isn’t actually isn’t a bamboo at all. It looks similar, but it is actually a member of the Berberis family, Berberidaceae. It is, however, a good alternative to bamboo in the garden – not only does it provide more interest but it is not invasive, as some bamboos can be.
Nandinas are compact shrubs, perfect for smaller gardens and pots. Larger varieties reach 2m, and smaller varieties less than one metre. They are low maintenance, needing just a light trim in spring. Nandina domestica looks particularly good in an urban or contemporary garden or in a jungle-style planting scheme. There are different cultivars to choose from that offer a variety of leaf colours.
How to grow nandina
Nandina domestica is low maintenance and easy to grow. Plant in spring or autumn, in a sunny, well drained spot that is sheltered from cold, drying winds. Nandinas do best in a slightly acidic soil, so mulch with bark chippings after planting. Nandina doesn’t need pruning but can be lightly trimmed and tidied up in spring.
More on growing Nandina domestica:
Nandinas: jump links
- Where to grow nandina
- How to care for nandina
- How to propagate nandina
- Nandina problem-solving
- Where to buy nandina
- Varieties of nandina to grow
Where to grow nandina
Nandina grows best in moist but well-drained soil that is slightly acidic. Choose a sheltered spot, with some sun to encourage good colouring up of the foliage.
How to plant nandina
Dig a generous hole adding in well-rotted compost and a handful of grit for added drainage as nandina does not do well in cold, wet winter conditions.
How to care for nandina
Nandina is a slow growing shrub and doesn’t need too much special care. It rarely needs pruning, bit it’s worth giving it a general trim in spring to maintain its shape and form.
How to propagate nandina
The most reliable method of propagating nandina is from cuttings. Take semi-ripe cuttings in summer and keep them in a heated propagator until they root. Protect from winter weather.
It’s also possible to propagate nandina from runners that have formed roots – these can be cut and replanted.
Growing nandina: problem solving
Nandina is generally untroubled by pest and diseases. The berries can be mildly toxic for pet animals, but birds love them.
Great nandina varieties to grow
- Nandina domestica – the species plant is an elegant, upright, evergreen shrub with reddish foliage that is very similar to bamboo leaves. However, unlike bamboo it grows slowly and doesn’t spread and rarely reaches its maximum proportions of 2m in the UK. It has white flowers followed by red berries, typical of the species
- Nandina domestica ‘Fire Power’ – a is much more compact with brilliant red and bronze foliage in autumn. It is a good shrub for a small garden or a container
- Nandina domestica ‘Obsessed’ – the foliage of this cultivar is a fiery red at first, turning green through the summer and red again in autumn. Typical white flowers appear in summer
- Nandina domestica ‘Magical Lemon and Lime’ – the new foliage starts off yellowy green, turning deeper lime green as it matures. Grow in sun to maintain this zingy coloured foliage, as in shade it will turn darker
- Nandina domestica ‘Gulf Stream’ – the new foliage is bronze coloured and turns green through the summer, reddening again in the autumn and winter