Nandina domestica (Heavenly Bamboo)

Nandina domestica, otherwise known as 'Heavenly Bamboo', can be an interesting plant to put in your landscape but you may want to think twice before doing so. I'll explain why in a minute but first let me tell you why so many people like it. It retains its leaves year round, it has bright red berries that are fantastic for winter color and feeding the birds, and its foliage looks very interesting with its red shades and elegantly shaped leaves. If given enough sunlight the leaves will turn bright red. It grows very well in Tennessee and the south and seems drought tolerant. There are even dwarf versions of it. What's not to like?

I have to be honest about this plant, I've never been a big fan of nandinas. For one simple reason, they seem to be way over planted. You can go anywhere in our town and find a nandina, from commercial lots to residential homes it's there. A lot of people like 'Heavenly Bamboo' and so it gets planted. I'll admit that it does have some great attributes. We have one large one and two smaller ones that are offspring of the big one but they were here before we bought the house. I won't remove them but I definitely won't plant more. That is just my opinion.

Here are the facts:

Nandina is an exotic plant that hails from China and Japan. While being exotic isn't a big deal being invasive is. In Florida it is lists as a Class 1 invasive, which means that it is currently disrupting the native plant life. Here in Tennessee it is only listed as a rank two invasive from the Tennessee Exotic Pest Plants Council. This means that it shows the characteristics of an invasive plant but may not spread as easily into native populations as the rank one invasives do. The difference is probably the climate. Since Florida is much warmer year round than Tennessee nandina has a longer active growing period. You can thank the birds and the berries for its invasive classification. The birds love to eat the shiny red berries and consequently scatter the seeds wherever they may travel.

If you are concerned about exotic plants you may want to think twice before buying that Nandina domestica!

One last thought, 'Heavenly Bamboo' is not really a bamboo. A bamboo is a type of grass and nandina is a shrub!

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