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 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. Looking to add a striking, low-maintenance plant to your garden this year? Look no further than heavenly bamboo!
|Botanical Name||Nandina domestica|
|Common Name||Heavenly bamboo, sacred bamboo|
|Mature Size||7 feet tall, 5 feet wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun, partial sun|
|Soil Type||Rich, well-draining|
|Flower Color||Cream, white|
|Native Area||Eastern Asia|
How to Grow Heavenly Bamboo
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. Low maintenance and adaptable once established heavenly bamboo is generally pest and disease-free. This tough shrub is commonly used in foundation plantings, informal hedges, shrub borders, and in container gardens. You can even bring it inside and grow it as a houseplant if you want - heavenly bamboo does it all. Just watch out for the toxic berries!
Heavenly bamboo has been classified as an invasive species by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) in some south-eastern states and is on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council’s (FLEPPC) Invasive Plant List.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 -12 degrees Celsius, they will not survive long in such conditions. For gardeners from regions with cold winters, heavenly bamboo is best grown in containers so it can be overwintered indoors.
Heavenly bamboo is most readily propagated through cuttings. Both softwood and semi-hardwood cuttings work for propagating heavenly bamboo. To take a softwood cutting, 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. Dip the end of the cutting in a rooting hormone and plant in a container, keeping 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. The cane should be relatively firm but still flexible enough to bend. Dip the end of the cutting in rooting hormone and place the cutting in a container covered with plastic wrap to keep in the humidity until roots sprout.
Varieties of Heavenly Bamboo
There are several cultivators of heavenly bamboo, many of which are dwarf varieties. The most popular cultivators include:
- Nandina domestica ‘Firecracker’, a dwarf variety whose leaves turn deep red in winter.
- Nandina domestica ‘Richmond’, known for its heavy berry production. It grows up to 5 feet tall.
- Nandina domestica ‘Pygmea’ (or ‘Nana’), characterized by its dense foliage and small size - growing only 2-4 feet tall. It does not produce many berries.
Toxicity of Heavenly Bamboo
Unfortunately, heavenly bamboo is highly toxic to pets, livestock, and wildlife (including birds). The bright red berries can cause a rapid onset of vomiting; increased temperature, heart rate, and blood pressure; respiratory failure; shock; and even death if ingested. The leaves of a heavenly bamboo plant are also toxic when ingested.
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.
Being Grown in Containers
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 2-3 years. Remember to keep the soil consistently moist - a 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 and heavenly bamboo can easily be overwintered indoors.