Heavenly Bamboo — Not Bamboo at All!
Natural to areas in China and Japan, Nandina domestica is an ornamental plant that has been sold in San Diego for almost 100 years. Although commonly known as heavenly bamboo because of its many bamboo-like upright stalks, it has no relation to true bamboo.
Nandina can grow to 7 or 8 feet tall. Plant it in sun or part shade, as it is prone to mildew when placed in deeper shade areas of the garden. When first planted, it should be watered about twice weekly. Once established, it is drought tolerant. Amend your soil with a good planting mix and add a little Dr. Earth organic fertilizer or Gro-Power to help establish a strong root system. The planting hole should be about two times as wide as the original container and not much deeper. To keep them looking their best, be sure to fertilize about every two months with a general-purpose plant food.
In recent years, new varieties have been introduced. In my opinion, they are all much better than the original Nandina domestica, which tends to get tall and leggy. The newer varieties are inclined to be bushier and have more foliage at the bottom. If any get too tall or wide for the location, don’t be afraid to trim them back a little. Here are a few names to look for.
Gulf Stream — This compact plant grows to about 4 feet tall and wide. New foliage is bronzy colored, turning greener as it ages and red during winter.
Moon Bay — This bushy Nandina, which grows to perhaps only 3 feet tall, makes a great container plant or low hedge that would need very little trimming. Its coloration is similar to Gulf Stream.
Plum Passion — This Monrovia Growers variety gets to 6 or 7 feet tall and 3 to 4 feet in diameter and stays bushy. The purple to plum foliage colors hold as the temperature warms (although older leaves turn greenish as they mature). It can be used for a taller hedge or looks great by itself. Trim it a little if you prefer it shorter.
Sienna Sunrise — This compact, 3-foot-tall plant came out about 10 years ago as an improved variety. New foliage is deep orange-red then turns deep green.
Walter Andersen, Jr.
3642 Enterprise St.
San Diego, CA 92110
12755 Danielson Court
Poway, CA 92064