Heavenly bamboo is not in the bamboo genus of shrubs, but it is a recognized species of evergreen shrub. Native to Eastern Asia, this plant commonly grows as an ornamental. It is popular because, as well as providing multi-seasonal interest, it is also trouble-free and tough.
This shrub will provide color and color change in the garden all year long, with white flowers in the spring, followed by vivid scarlet berries that continue to and during the winter.
However, in certain US states, including Florida, heavenly bamboo has been categorized as an invasive species.
Heavenly bamboo, also known as sacred bamboo, is toxic to livestock and domestic animals.
Heavenly bamboo got its name because it has dainty, long leaves that resemble the foliage of bamboo shrubs.
|Scientific name||Nandina domestica|
|Common names||Heavenly bamboo|
|Height||Up to 7 feet (2.13 m)|
|Width||Up to 5 feet (1.52 m)|
|USDA Plant Hardiness Zone||Zones 6 to 9|
|Native to||Eastern Asia|
|Plant specific features||Spring flowers are followed by red berries that continue through the winter|
How to Plant and Grow Heavenly Bamboo Plants
Where to Plant
Commonly grown in shrubberies and mixed borders, heavenly bamboo is commonly included in a hedging planting scheme. You can also grow heavenly bamboo in pots or containers.
This is recommended in areas where the shrub is cited as invasive, as it can be controlled more easily than when it is planted in-ground.
When to Plant
The best time to plant heavenly bamboo is during the cooler Autumn months. The ground will naturally be damper at this time, so it will be easier to keep the newly planted shrub’s roots well moistened whilst they are becoming established.
Heavenly Bamboo Shrub Care and Maintenance
Heavenly bamboo is not a fussy plant when it comes to soil type. It will thrive in soil that is slightly acidic, neutral, or slightly alkaline. However, the soil needs to be well-draining.
If necessary, the soil can be amended at the time of planting, with the addition of perlite or other soil conditioner to improve drainage.
When newly planted, heavenly bamboo needs to establish a robust network of roots to be able to access both moisture and nutrients from deep within the ground. In order to do this, it is important that for the first growing season, its roots do not dry out.
Water regularly, and deeply rather than superficially more frequently. The surface of the soil should dry in between watering.
It is equally critical that heavenly bamboo doesn’t sit in waterlogged, soggy soil. This is why it is so essential that is planted in free-draining soil.
Once established, heavenly bamboo is considered to be a reasonably drought-resistant shrub, one that can tolerate dry spells.
If you choose to apply fertilizer to heavenly bamboo, you will find that flowering is improved and also the color of the shrub will be more vivid.
Use a product that is designed for shrubs, and apply in the Spring and in the early Summer. It is best to avoid applying fertilizer after mid-summer, as this will encourage new growth before the onset of winter.
Tender new shoots may not be sufficiently hardy to withstand the onset of the colder temperatures.
You can plant heavenly bamboo in either a sunny location or one that is in partial shade and it will thrive. But to obtain the best, and most vivid colors from this plant, choose a site in full sun.
Pruning and Repotting
Heavenly bamboo is a loose-growing shrub, and one of its most attractive qualities is its natural form. It is therefore a shame to heavily prune Nandina domestica, but if you want a formal hedge using this shrub, you will have to use shears and prune it!
If you appreciate heavenly bamboo as a natural, informal hedge, then you can just lightly trim the stems annually. This will encourage the density of the shrub. When pruning, trim the canes to different heights as this will give the most aesthetically pleasing effect.
It is simple to propagate heavenly bamboo from softwood or semi-ripe cuttings. Cuttings should be taken from the current season’s growth.
Softwood cuttings are taken in the Spring, and semi-ripe or semi-hardwood cuttings are taken in the Summer when the pieces of stem are just starting to turn “woody”.
You can use hormone rooting powder in order to speed up the rooting process. Dip the stems into the powder before inserting them into pots or trays of potting compost. Covering the trays or pots with plastic covers will aid to retain moisture in the growing medium.
Once the roots have started to grow (test this by giving the cuttings a gentle tug. If there is some resistance, then they have rooted), you can remove the plastic.
Continue to keep the cuttings moist and allow them to develop stronger roots before transferring them into larger pots or into a nursery bed outdoors.
Although it is possible to reproduce heavenly bamboo from seeds, it isn’t worth the effort and time it will take to produce viable plants. Furthermore, if you are trying to propagate heavenly bamboo from seed, using cultivars or hybrids as the parent plants, then they will not grow into clone plants.
Plants grown from cuttings will always grow into clones of the parent plants.
Pests and diseases
Heavenly bamboo plants aren’t troubled too much by pests and diseases provided they are given appropriate growing conditions. However, mealybugs, scale insects and white flies can attack the shrub.
Damage by such pest invasion is usually not serious, and will not cause lasting or significant damage to the heavenly bamboo.
Temperature and Humidity
Heavenly bamboo will thrive when planted in USDA zones 6 to 9. It will tolerate spells of cold, but will not last long if subjected to extended periods of frost conditions.
For best results, heavenly bamboo should be protected from strong wind. It also prefers a site that is both warm and slightly humid. However, excess humidity can lead to rot and fungal diseases.
If you are growing this shrub in a cooler region, consider container planting. When it is in a pot or container, it can be moved indoors and protected from freezing conditions.
Other Uses for Heavenly Bamboo
Heavenly bamboo is toxic to domestic animals and livestock. Avoid planting this shrub where it could be foraged by animals.
Due to its fast-growing, dense habit, Nandina domestica is a good choice for an informal hedge, or to include in a mixed shrub border. But it can also look good when planted singly, as a specimen plant. It will give focus and interest in a garden.
The berries, which are bright red and continue into the winter months, are a good addition to a festive bouquet or floral arrangement.
Heavenly bamboo is a good addition if you are wanting to create a Japanese or Oriental garden since it resembles bamboo in design.
This is also a good shrub to plant in containers on a patio or to place at a poolside.
Types of Heavenly Bamboo You Can Grow
There are many cultivars available of Nandina domestica. You can choose cultivars for their color, texture, and size.
Unlike the standard heavenly bamboo that will grow to 2 m in height and width, you can select a cultivar that is compact.
Dwarf cultivars will not grow much more than 0.5 m and are therefore useful to use as edging plants or to create low hedges in a large, mixed border. Some of these cultivars, such as Nandina domestica “Firecracker” provide vibrant color in the fall.
Some cultivars produce fewer flowers and fruits but produce foliage that changes color through the seasons.
An example to consider is N. domestica “Artropurpurea Nana”. This is a lovely, compact variety that will not grow more than a meter in height or width. It also has a dense habit and striking foliage.
Because heavenly bamboo is considered as invasive, as a responsible gardener, you should consider removing the berries from the plant. This will stop them from being distributed in the wild, notably by seed dispersal from birds.
*image by telev/depositphotos