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Scientific: Nandina domestica
Common: heavenly bamboo
Family: Berberidaceae
Origin: China

Pronounciation: Nan-DEE-na doe-MESS-tee-ka

Hardiness zones
USDA 7-11

Landscape Use: Accent, informal hedge, edging, ground cover, entryway, foundation plant, oriental to tropical effect in the landscape, mesic and oasis landscape design motifs. Some dwarf Nandina cultivars make nice edging plants for landscape borders.

Form & Character: Graceful, bamboo like, strongly upright and stiff, ranging from tufted and dome like (dwarf cultivars) to bamboo like (tall and vigorous cultivars). This is a shrub of much landscape interest and gives most any garden a pronounced oriental effect.

Growth Habit: Evergreen woody perennial shrub, clumps and occasionally spreads from underground rhizomes, rarely branches. Heavenly bamboo height depends on cultivar and ranges from 18-inches to 10-feet tall.

Foliage/Texture: Heavenly bamboo leaves are multiple (2 to 3 times) pinnately compound. New foliage is often colored bronze to red. In winter, the cold temperatures turns foliage a scarlet red, though this rarely occurs in central Arizona deserts; mostly fine to medium texture.

Flowers & Fruits: Small white flowers born in terminal clusters followed by terminal clusters of green when immature, then red when mature (fruits can be white in color too!). Here is an image of red fruits on a heavenly bamboo shrub in Kardjali, Bulgaria (image taken by famous artist and photographer, Hari Atanasov).

Seasonal Color: Heavenly bamboo produces seasonal color throughout the year. It produces white flowers in mid spring, red fruit in fall and winter, copper-colored new foliage turning to green then turning to red foliage in winter if temperatures consistently fall below 40oF.

Temperature: Hardy to 10oF, will freeze to the ground in USDA 7 climate winters, but will recover quickly in spring if roots are undamaged by frozen soil. Heavenly bamboo struggles during the summer heat in Phoenix landscapes if exposed to almost any amount of sun. Not surprisingly, it performs better in Tucson as it is generally about 5o to 10oF cooler there during the summer than in Phoenix.

Light: Full shade to partial sun in Phoenix. Avoid full sun in Phoenix and especially avoid west exposures and reflected light.

Soil: Prone to iron chlorosis and marginal tip burn in alkaline, saline desert soils. Heavenly bamboo is quite salt sensitive. Saline soils will cause premature leaf senescence.

Watering: Heavenly bamboo is not drought tolerant in the Phoenix area. It must receive regular and frequent irrigations to look good.

Pruning: For upright cultivars, selectively remove older 'canes' to 1/4 of length during late winter to early spring to maintain a full appearance. Older upright plants can be stooled (pruned to near ground level) to regenerate. Dwarf cultivars need no pruning. Heavenly bamboo is one shrub that people should NEVER SHEAR!!

Propagation: Seed, cutting, division, and tissue culture.

Disease and Pests: None

Additional comments: Heavenly bamboo is an old-fashioned, serviceable shrub that was a landscape staple during the 20th century. Its resurgent popularity in recent years is due to the proliferation of dwarf cultivars. Heavenly bamboo is a shrub with many seasonal accents.

Some popular heavenly bamboo cultivars include:

Biochemical factoids: All barberry family plants have high concentrations of berberine, a bright yellow alkaloid. The presence of berberine renders both root and bark bitter tasting. The flowers also contain volatile oils and the berries contain malic acid and cyanide.