Nandina domestica – Heavenly Bamboo.

Nandina domestica – Heavenly Bamboo.

The majority of the plants grown at the Palm Centre are tropical or sub-tropical.  However, we are aware that for some of our readers, especially people who live in Istanbul, we should write about plants that can withstand cold weather.  This plant, Nandina domestica or Heavenly Bamboo, can cope with temperatures down to -18C, and in autumn and winter has red leaves and shiny red berries – definitely an eye-catching shrub.

Nandina is a member of the berberis family (berberidaceae) and is native to India, China and Japan.  Normally an evergreen shrub it may shed its leaves in particularly cold winters.  It has leaves with three points and, as these resemble the leaves of some forms of bamboo, it has been given its common name of ‘Heavenly Bamboo’.  In reality it is not related to any form of bamboo.

It grows to 2 – 2.5m, and shoots will emerge from the base of the trunk thus increasing the overall area covered by the plant.  At the end of spring, or early summer, clusters of small, white, star-shaped flowers (with yellow centres) will appear.  In autumn the berries, some 6-8mm in diameter, are first of all green then, towards the end of autumn they turn bright red and will stay on the plant for a long time.  The flowers attract bees, and the berries are favoured by many types of bird.  New leaves are initially red, turning green with time.  Leaves which may fall in winter will first turn red giving the plant a pleasing aspect at this bleak time of year.

This plant will grow in all types of soil, but will benefit from soil which has been enriched with humus.  Whilst it is recorded that the plant favours an acidic soil, here at the Palm Centre we have grown it from cuttings in all types of soil without problems.  It can be planted in full sun or half-shade.

It is generally grown from seed.  The seeds should be cold when planted so either plant them in the autumn or keep them at a temperature of +40C for 4-6 weeks before sowing.  There are over 60 different species of this plant available in Japan with N. domestica ‘Fire Power’ a miniature form that only grows to 50cm being particularly popular.  It has broad leaves which are bright red in colour.  Most of the species are compact, miniature forms but they are not as hardy as this, the original.

In terms of landscape design it is a very versatile plant which can be used almost anywhere.  With its flowers, leaf colours and berries it provides visual interest all year round.  You can plant Nandina domestica as a specimen shrub, in groups of three or more or use it to edge a path in a single row.  Many landscape designers seem to prefer using the more compact, miniature forms.  However, you can use the original Nandina domestica and prune it to whatever size you want.  There are some specimens in botanic gardens which are over 100 years old.

The Palm Centre is open 1st June – 31st October but you can visit at any other time by appointment.  Telephone: 0252 262 2892 or e-mail or check out their website here.