How to Grow Heavenly Bamboo

heavenly bamboo

The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy

Despite its common name, heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) is not a bamboo at all, but a species of flowering, evergreen shrub native to eastern Asia. Grown as an ornamental shrub, it is characterized by cane-like stems and finely textured leaves that resemble those of bamboo, which is how Nandina domestica got its common name.

Heavenly bamboo sports a dazzling and changing show of color all year round, with leaves that turn from pink to green to red as the seasons change. In the spring, dainty white flowers are followed by bright red berries that persist throughout the winter. Add this striking, low-maintenance plant to your garden by planting or transplanting it in the cooler fall months. It grows about 1 or 2 feet annually until it reaches its mature height.

Botanical Name Nandina domestica
Common Name Heavenly bamboo, sacred bamboo
Plant Type Shrub
Mature Size 7 ft. tall, 5 ft. wide
Sun Exposure Full sun, partial sun
Soil Type Rich, well-draining
Soil pH 3.7-6.4
Bloom Time Spring
Flower Color Cream, white
Hardiness Zones 6 to 9 (USDA)
Native Area Eastern Asia
Toxicity Toxic to animals
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Watch Now: How to Grow and Care for Heavenly Bamboo

Heavenly Bamboo Care

Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) is an ornamental evergreen shrub in the Berberidaceae family. It does well when grown in slightly humid, bright conditions and is hardy in USDA zones 6 through 9. Heavenly bamboo can survive in temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit (or -12 degrees Celsius) but does not survive very long in freezing temperatures. Once established, heavenly bamboo is generally a low-maintenance, pest-, and disease-free plant. This tough shrub is commonly used in foundation plantings, informal hedges, shrub borders, and in container gardens.

heavenly bamboo
The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy
heavenly bamboo
The Spruce / Gyscha Rendy
Berries of a heavenly bamboo (nandina domestica) close up.
 Jenny Dettrick / Getty Images

Invasive Species

Heavenly bamboo has been classified as an invasive species by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in some Southeastern states. It's also on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council’s (FLEPPC) Invasive Plant List.

Light

Heavenly bamboo is adaptable to a variety of light conditions from full sun to partial shade. However, to achieve the most vibrant colors, heavenly bamboo should be grown in full sun

Soil

Heavenly bamboo is not picky when it comes to soil, however, a moist, nutrient-rich, well-draining soil will provide the best results. Adding perlite, sand, or well-composted materials will help to improve drainage if needed. 

Water

During its first growing season, water a heavenly bamboo deeply and regularly to establish an extensive root system. Ensure the soil is kept consistently moist but never waterlogged. Keep in mind that heavenly bamboo grown in containers will need to be watered even more frequently than plants grown in the garden. Once well-established, mature heavenly bamboo plants are more resistant to drought and can tolerate short periods of drought more readily. After the first growing season, water as needed.

Temperature and Humidity

Ideally, heavenly bamboo is grown in a warm, slightly humid, wind-protected environment. While heavenly bamboo can tolerate temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit, they will not survive long in such frigid conditions. For gardeners from regions with cold winters, heavenly bamboo is best grown in containers so it can be Despite its common name, heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) is not a bamboo at all, but a species of flowering, evergreen shrub native to eastern Asia.

Grown as an ornamental shrub, it is characterized by cane-like stems and finely textured leaves that resemble those of bamboo, which is how Nandina domestica got its common name.

Fertilizer

Regular fertilizing helps to encourage blooming and preserve a heavenly bamboo’s vibrant color. Apply a fertilizer designed for ornamental shrubs twice a year in the early spring and early summer for the best results.

Heavenly Bamboo Varieties

There are several cultivators of heavenly bamboo, many of which are dwarf varieties. The most popular cultivators include:

  • Nandina domestica ‘Firecracker’ or 'Fire Power' is a dwarf variety whose leaves turn deep red in winter.
  • Nandina domestica ‘Richmond’, known for its heavy berry production, grows up to 5 feet tall.
  • Nandina domestica ‘Pygmea’ (or ‘Nana’), characterized by its dense foliage and small size, grows only 2 to 4 feet tall. It does not produce many berries.

Pruning

Heavenly bamboo does best when it is allowed to grow in its natural form rather than being heavily pruned or sheared as a formal hedge. However, lightly pruning the canes of a heavenly bamboo plant once per year will help to keep it looking full. Prune the canes to varying heights for the best results.

Propagating Heavenly Bamboo

Heavenly bamboo is most readily propagated through cuttings. Both softwood (new growth) and semi-hardwood cuttings work for propagating heavenly bamboo.

To take a softwood cutting in warmer weather, follow these steps:

  1. Cut the stem of a heavenly bamboo plant where the newest growth begins. There is often a noticeable difference between last year’s growth and the current year’s growth. The stem should be soft and green.
  2. Dip the end of the cutting in a rooting hormone.
  3. Plant the cutting in a container.
  4. Keep the soil moist until roots sprout. 

Semi-hardwood cuttings are best taken in the summer or early fall. Semi-hardwood is the part of the stem that is partially, but not fully mature. Take these steps:

  1. Cut part of the cane that is relatively firm but still flexible enough to bend.
  2. Dip the end of the cutting in rooting hormone.
  3. Place the cutting in a container.
  4. Cover the container with plastic wrap to keep in the humidity until roots sprout.

How to Grow Heavenly Bamboo From Seed

Cuttings work best, but you can grow heavenly bamboo if you start with fresh seeds. Older seeds can take much longer to germinate, sometimes a year or more. Cleaned and cold-stored seeds can be purchased or the freshest seeds can be harvested from the plant in the fall:

  1. Pluck berries from plants when they are bright red in the fall.
  2. Soak berries overnight to soften; then extract the seeds buried in the berries.
  3. In a seed tray, add well-drained, sandy soil.
  4. Leave the tray in a cool spot outside (no heat necessary).
  5. Keep the tray moist.
  6. Fresh/preserved seeds potentially germinate in about two months.

Potting and Repotting Heavenly Bamboo

If you are looking to start a container garden, heavenly bamboo is an excellent choice. When grown in a container, a heavenly bamboo plant should only need repotting every two to three years. Remember to keep the soil consistently moist. Heavenly bamboo will need to be watered more frequently when grown in a container versus a garden. Grow heavenly bamboo as a container plant if you live in a region with cold winters as they cannot survive freezing temperatures for very long.

Overwintering

Heavenly bamboo can easily be overwintered indoors to protect it from freezing temperatures. Bring it inside to grow as a houseplant in cool weather, but keep pets away from the berries.

Common Pests & Diseases

Heavenly bamboo can be attacked by cottony cushion scale (white bumps), mealybugs (cottony tissue forms), and whiteflies (causes leaves to yellow and drop). The plant can, however, withstand mild pest invasion without much intervention. The plant may experience bacterial leaf scorch, as well.