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» Articles » Plants » The Undemanding and Low-Maintenance Nandina: Your Japanese Garden Necessity

The Undemanding and Low-Maintenance Nandina: Your Japanese Garden Necessity

by Douglas L. Bishop on 3/31/2008 20:53


Nandina domestica, or heavenly bamboo, is a low-maintenance evergreen shrub, perfect for home landscaping.

Its applications are many and varied.

The stems have a bamboo-like appearance, making it ideal for working into Japanese garden designs.

Its undemanding nature helps, as maintenance consists mainly of light pruning to keep the plants in balance.

The attractive stems are unbranched and if the lower leaves are kept pruned off, the stems themselves become a highly visible and eye-catching component of the plant.

The leaves of nandina are large and somewhat fernlike in appearance, rather bronze colored as they first leaf out, dark green during most of the summer growing season, and then sometimes turning to shades of red during the winter months.

Nandina produces small white delicate-looking flowers followed by clusters of crimson red berries that become quite showy and long lasting through the cold snowy weather of winter-- that is if the birds don’t eat them all. Some varieties of nandina produce white berries.

The plant thrives in ordinary soil and has been used for many years as a foundation planting in the not so fertile soil of newly built homes.

It does well in shady areas or in part shade. Nandina will grow to 7-8 feet in height and if left unpruned over a period of time will become a bit shaggy in appearance.

One way to rejuvenate the unkempt plant is to cut back half the number of total stems to about 4 feet in height; new growth will then be stimulated on these branches, and the following year, the remaining long leggy stems can also be cut back to 4 feet, thus bringing the whole plant back to a desirable height and stimulating more interior growth as the new leaves appear.

Nandina works well in landscaped beds with other plants of various heights such as small hollies or azaleas. Its texture, coloring, and height contrast nicely with the other plants.

Smaller bushier dwarf nandina is also available. It tends to have more of an overall reddish appearance, and its shorter height makes it desirable for planting in clusters or as a border in beds.

Try working one or more nandinas into your landscape; they are undemanding, relatively inexpensive, long lasting, and impressive in appearance.

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