Nandina domestica is also known as heavenly bamboo, but it’s actually an evergreen shrub and not a member of the grass family. Nandina’s flowers and bright red berries attract bees, mockingbirds, cedar waxwings and robins, while its foliage provides lovely color for a backyard garden throughout the year. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6 to 10, nandina requires little care to thrive but may need special attention to keeping it from becoming a nuisance.
Nandina makes a lovely ornamental planting, due to its spectacular foliage and fruit. For a dramatic effect, group several together or use as a hedge, border or foundation planting. If possible, locate nandina in an area that receives full sun with some afternoon shade. Nandina is also suitable for growing in pots and makes a bold accent beside water features or entryways. Potted nandina may need protection in the hottest months since the plants can be sensitive to high soil temperatures when grown in containers. Choose the site for your nandina wisely, as nandina plants develop a large root mass, and specimens have been known to live for 100 years.
Nandina is adaptable to a variety of soil types. In general, these shrubs prefer humus soil with a pH range of 3.7 to 6.4 and don’t do as well in sandy soils. However, nandina thrives in parts of Florida with clay and sandy soils and a pH ranging as high as 8. Nandina has also demonstrated a tolerance to salty water used in drip irrigation, but salt water in a sprinkler can cause chlorosis, a condition that leads to yellowing of plant leaves and leaf loss. Foliage may also develop chlorosis if the soil is too alkaline.
Left alone, nandina will grow up to its full height of 8 feet, but pruning in the spring will keep its size more compact and promote denser growth. When pruning, you can safely remove up to one-third of the oldest canes and any weaker growth near the bottom of the shrub. In parts of the U.S., nandina is considered an invasive pest plant due to birds spreading seeds and suckers from the plant that crowd out other nearby plants. Collecting berries from the ground and pruning away suckers can help keep nandina in check.