How to Grow Nandina – Heavenly Bamboo

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Nandina — commonly called heavenly bamboo–is an evergreen shrub grown widely for its graceful habit and foliage–often bronze-red when young and again in fall. Nandina bears small white flowers in clusters and red berries that persist through winter.

Nandina is a slow to moderate grower and is most useful for its light, airy vertical effects as well as for its narrow growth habit. It is good as a hedge, screen, or tub plant. Nandina needs afternoon shade in the hottest climates. It can complete with tree roots in dry shade.

The Nanadina genus contains a single species, but there are several cultivars and almost all are available at nurseries. Nandina is native to mountain valleys in India, China, and Japan.

Nandina bush with red berries in a clearing by the wall.

Get to know Nandina 

  • Plant type: Evergreen or semi-evergreen shrub. 
  • Growing zones and range: Zones 6 to 10. 
  • Hardiness: Hardy to Zone 6; stems are damaged at 5℉ /-15℃
  • Height and width: 6-8 feet (1.8-2.4m) tall and 5 feet (1.5m) wide. 
  • Foliage: Slightly branched, canelike stems and delicate, handsome, glossy, compound leaves that are pink-bronze when unfurling, green in summer, and red-tinged in winter. Leaves are intricately divided into many 1-2 inches (2.5-5cm), pointed, oval leaflets, creating a lacy pattern.  
  • Flowers: Small white flowers form in loose, erect, 6-12 inches (15-31cm) clusters and if grouped, are followed by bright red fruits that last well into winter; however, single plants seldom fruit heavily.  
  • Bloom time: Midsummer. 
  • Uses: Shrub border, and in masses with heavier-foliaged plants; good for hedge, screen, tub effects as well as for narrow, restricted areas, and to provide winter interest. Dramatic with night lighting. 
  • Garden companions: golden privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium ‘Aereum’
  • Common name: Heavenly bamboo, sacred bamboo
  • Botanical name: Nandina 
  • Family name: Berberidaceae 
  • Origin: India, China, Japan

Where to plant Nandina 

  • Plant Nandina in a sheltered area in full sun.  
  • Nandina needs afternoon shade in the hottest climates.  
  • Plant Nandina in well-drained average to humus-rich soil.  
  • Nandina foliage can become chlorotic in alkaline soil. 
Nandina leaves are reddish-bronze when young and in the fall

When to plant Nandina 

  • Set container-grown Nandina in the garden in spring or autumn.
  • Plant Nandina seed in spring.  

Planting and spacing Nandina 

  • Space Nandina 5 feet (1.5m) apart.
  • Sow seed 1/4 inch deep in evenly prepared soil.

How to water and feed Nandina 

  • Give Nandina moderate water, but its roots can compete with tree roots in dry shade.  
  • Fertilize Nandina with an all-purpose organic fertilizer in spring.

How to care for Nandina 

  • Nandina can be pruned to the ground.  
  • Pruning old Nandina canes yearly will keep growth dense rather than leggy.  

Nandina pests and diseases 

  • Nandina can develop wilt, leaf spot, rot, and viruses. 
  • Nandina have few pest problems.  
Nandina domestica, commonly called heavenly bamboo; berries persist through winter

Nandina propagation 

  • Divide Nandina clumps in spring.  
  • Root Nandina semi-hard cuttings in midsummer.  

Nandina varieties to grow 

  • Nandina domestica, heavenly bamboo: unbranched stems to 6 feet (1.8m) tall form clumps similar to bamboo, with leaves divided into slender leaflets. The late-spring or early-summer flowers are white and borne in foot-long panicles. But they are outdone by the heavy clusters of red berries that last from early autumn through winter, often against bronze-purple or red foliage  
  • N. d. leucocarpa, ‘Alba’, standard size plant with creamy white berries and yellowish-green foliage that turns yellow in fall. More subject to cold damage than the species.  
  • ‘Compacta’. Lower growing than species—4-5 feet (1.2-1.5m)—with narrower, more numerous leaflets; has a very lacy look.  
  • ‘Firepower’. Compact plant to 2 feet (.6m) tall and wide. Red-tinged summer foliage turns bright red in winter.  
  • ‘Gulf Stream’ mounded form to 3 feet (.9m), red leaves in winter.  
  • ‘Harbour Dwarf’. Low growing, sucking form to 3 feet (.9m) tall, freely spreading, graceful, with smaller flower clusters. Underground rhizomes send up stems several inches from the parent plant. Orange-red to bronzy red winter color. Good ground cover. 
  • ‘Plum Passion’ is purple-red in winter; evergreen. 4-5 feet (1.6-2m) tall.  
  • ‘San Gabriel’ Under 2 feet (.6m) tall with narrow leaflets, less cold hardy.  
  • ‘Umpqua Warrior’ erect, 4-6 feet (1.2-1.8m) tall 
  • ‘Wood’s Dwarf’, very compact, red foliage, has excellent winter color. 18 inches (45cm) tall. Often killed to the ground or winter burned in Zone 6. 0 

Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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