Caution When Planting Nandina in Your Backyard


Also known as heavenly bamboo or sacred bamboo, Nandina is a small evergreen shrub that is native to Japan, China, and India.

Despite its name, this plant is not really bamboo- it just kind of looks like bamboo. Rather, it belongs to a family of plants known as Berberidaceae, and its scientific name is Nandina Domestica.

Nandina was introduced into the United States in the early 1800s, mostly because of the features that make it perfect for a backyard. For starters, it is low maintenance and drought resistant.

It also maintains a lush green color even during winter, which is more than can be said about many backyard plants.

As effective and convenient as the plant, you must exercise caution when planting Nandina in your backyard.

Read on to find out more about these cautionary measures.


General Features of Nandina

Nandina is a tough, durable plant that can withstand a variety of external conditions. It thrives in both the wet seasons and during drought.

It is green in summer and spring but turns red, orange, pink, or bronze during autumn, depending on the variety.

Nandina grows to between 4 feet and 8 feet in height and between 2 feet and 5 feet in width. There are different varieties of the plant, all of which are attractive with lacy foliage.

They are perfect for borders, hedges, and rockeries. Nandinas are particularly beautiful when mass-planted.

Types of Nandina Plants

There are a variety of nandina plants, and you can tell them apart using factors such as color, size, and invasiveness.

It is important to know about the different types of plants so that you can choose the most appropriate one for your backyard. They include firepower, obsession, gulf steam, flirt, and heavenly bamboo.

  • Fire Power – Nandina firepower is arguably the most compact variety of plants. It is green, just like all Nandinas, but it grows red and bronze foliage during autumn. Firepower is non-invasive and perfect for growing in a container or even a garden.
  • Obsession – This non-invasive variety of Nandina has a typically fiery red color at first. During summer, it turns green and grows some white flowers. Then, it turns red again in autumn. Nandina obsession is perfect for adding texture to your landscape.
  • Gulf Steam – This variety of Nandina is set apart by its copper tones. Through summer, the plant turns green before reddening again in autumn and winter. During spring, it grows flowers. It is non-invasive and perfect for foundation planting.
  • Flirt – Nandina flirt is a non-invasive variety, which is ideal as a ground cover. It is usually a reddish color all year long, through all seasons. You can plant it in a container, edges, or for mass plantings.
  • Heavenly Bamboo – This variety is elegant and upright. The plant is evergreen with reddish foliage that is so similar to bamboo leaves. During summer, it develops white flowers with red berries. Heavenly Bamboo grows very slowly and hardly grows past 6.5 feet.

Caution When Planting Nandina in Your Backyard

Before growing Nandina in your backyard, it is vital to consider different factors so that you grow it safely and successfully. Thus, you should take caution when planting Nandina in your backyard in the following ways.

Buying Nandina

When buying Nandina to plant in your backyard, ensure that it is healthy. Check for damage or signs of pests.

A healthy plant will be easier to take care of. Also, you will be more likely to get the result you desire. Besides, an unhealthy plant will require a lot more effort to maintain.


You have to be careful when choosing the location to plant your Nandina. The plant does well in full sun to partial shade with moist, well-drained, slightly acidic soil.

The amount of sun the plant gets affects its foliage color. Avoid an area with strong winds, as this could destroy the delicate foliage.

As per the United States Department of Agriculture, the ideal areas to plant Nandina are USDA hardiness zones 6 -9.

Also, keep in mind that the plant mostly thrives in a cool tropical climatic zone. You can plant it in a container or on the ground – both are perfect.


The best time to fertilize Nandina is during the growing season. This should be during spring when it is a bit warm and sunny.

When the plants are young, they benefit from regular fertilization; ensure that you water the plant after fertilization to avoid root burn. Use slow-releasing fertilizers such as the ones made for Evergreens and Rhododendrons.


An invasive plant is one that grows where it is not supposed to grow. Some varieties of Nandina are invasive, meaning they will spread on the yard, which may be frustrating.

These varieties have a high growth rate as they are rhizomatous, meaning that they reproduce vegetatively from their roots and create dense, bushy thickets.

Nandina is considered invasive in the southwestern United States. Even so, there are non-invasive varieties of the plant, such as:

  • Burgundy wine
  • Obsession
  • Flirt
  • Blush pink
  • Gulf stream


Some varieties of Nandina contain toxic substances that may harm animals if ingested. If you have pets in your home, it is best to be very vigilant to avoid them getting into contact with the Nandina.

Some varieties of this plant contain cedar waxwing, which is toxic to birds and other animals when ingested in enough quantities. Note that the non-fruiting varieties of Nandina are not toxic. The non-toxic varieties include:

  • Firepower
  • Obsession
  • Gulf Steam
  • Lemon Lime


Pruning promotes growth and helps shape a Nandina plant. Most Nandina varieties are dwarfs, whereas others have tall stems and branches. While some varieties rarely need pruning, it is important to do it once in a while.

You can prune your Nandina any time of the year, but spring is the most ideal time. While pruning, be careful not to be too aggressive, as this may stress and damage the plant.

Planting Distance

When planting Nandina in your backyard, consider the size of the plants. As we’ve already highlighted, Nandina grows up to 8 feet high and 5 feet wide.

So, you have to leave a growth allowance between the plants as you grow them. Growing the plants at least 3 feet apart is advisable to avoid overcrowding, which attracts pests and diseases.

Final Thoughts

Nandina is a beautiful plant to have in your backyard. Besides being attractive, it is also immensely easy to take care of.

It is low maintenance, and after growing to a certain level, you hardly have to do anything, and it will still thrive.

However, like many other plants, you should take caution when planting Nandina in your backyard. Some varieties are invasive, and others are quite toxic.

Also, should use specific fertilizers and prune them moderately. Follow the guidelines in this article, and you will successfully plant Nandina in your backyard.

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