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Nandina domestica, the Sacred Bamboo

Nandina domestica

Nandina is a wonderfully beautiful shrub that many find appealing for its colored foliage and early summer blooming.

Nandina key facts

NameNandina domestica
Type – Shrub

Height – 3 to 6 feet (1 to 2 m)
Exposure – full sun, part sun
Soil – ordinary

Foliage – evergreen – Flowering – June-July

Nandina domestica is also called “Sacred bamboo”, because its leaves and stems look like those of bamboo.

Planting Nandina domestica

Planting guide for nandina domesticaIdeally, you’d plant your Nandina domestica in fall or anytime up to spring while avoiding frost spells. If you must plant it in the sun, avoid places that would be too hot and if possible favor light shade. Also keep it away from permanent shade, since direct sunlight is what colors the leaves.

Sacred bamboo growth rate:

Growth for Nandina domestica feels particularly slow at the beginning, but then it tends to speed up once the specimen has settled in well. To ensure proper regrowth and vigor for your Nandina domestica:

  • Water well over the first 2-3 years after planting.
  • Add shrub fertilizer in spring.
  • Mulch the base of the shrub in winter to keep it from freezing.

Caring for Sacred bamboo

Nandina domestica careIt isn’t really necessary to prune Nandina domestica. If you wish to reduce or rebalance the branches, trim your Nandina just after it has finished blooming.

  • If ever your N. domestica has frozen over in winter, it’s possible to cut it back severely at the end of winter: it will grow back from the stump.

Watering schedule for Nandina domestica

Potted Nandina domestica with frost on its leavesNandina domestica tolerates drought quite well.

  • Plan a regular watering, though, over the first 2 years after planting.
  • For Nandina in pots, you should water much more often, especially in summer.
  • After those first 2-3 years, you won’t ever need to water your nandina if it’s growing in the open soil.

Learn more about Nandina domestica

Nandina domestica, when winters are mild enough for it to keep its foliage on the branches all year long, will gracefully color your garden with fire-like hues. White flowers appear at the beginning of summer, but they don’t stand out much compared to those of other shrubs.

Nandina domestica berries are toxic for us but not for birdsNandina domestica also produces red-colored berries at the end of fall which often stay on the tree for the entire winter. Watch out, though: they’re toxic because of one of their compounds called nandenine. All the parts of the plant are in fact toxic for us humans – but not for birds! Birds love them!

Sacred bamboo, perhaps because of its toxicity, has also been used for its health benefits, especially in Asia. There, it’s prescribed as a light sedative, but it also has astringent properties, and is said to greatly help wounded muscles and bones.

It’s an easy shrub to grow, and will also do very well in a pot or garden box on your terrace or balcony. Mulch the base of the shrub to keep it moist and cool. Mulch also helps avoid weed growth, especially for potted specimens.

Interesting varieties of Sacred bamboo, Nandina domestica:

  • Nandina domestica varieties and how to pair them in landscapingAlba‘: its berries are a creamy-white color, and it can grow 6 feet high (2m).
  • Filamentosa‘: one appreciates its mottled leaves with surprising yellow, green and red blotches. This smaller-sized variety excels in pots.
  • Fire Power‘: as for the ‘Filamentosa’, it’s ideal for pots and atop mounds. The red-stained green leaves is extremely ornamental.
  • Harbor Dwarf‘: the perfect Nandina Domestica for ground cover.
  • Lemon lime‘: light, elegant lime-green leaves.
  • Obsessed‘: this Nandina domestica is found attractive for its leaves that change color as seasons come and go.
  • Plum purple ‘: as its name shows, purple is the dominating color here.
  • Purpurea Nana‘: ideal to cover surfaces, or to mound in a pot, it won’t grow any taller than 2 feet (60 cm).
  • Twilight‘: decorative green and red-variegated leaves for this sacred bamboo.
  • Umpqua Chief‘: abundant fruit-bearing, easily grows to over 5 feet (150 cm).

There are so many cultivars that we can’t list them all here, but each one will thrill you with its unique characteristics.

Smart tip about the Sacred Bamboo

Plant daffodil or tulip at the base of the tree to create clustered spots of color in winter.

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY 2.0: Ruth, K M
CC BY-SA 2.0: Quinn Dombrowski
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