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Heavenly Bamboo

Nandina domestica commonly known as nandina, heavenly bamboo or sacred bamboo, is a species of flowering plant in the family Berberidaceae, native to eastern Asia from the Himalayas to Japan. Chinese-bamboo, Southern heaven-bamboo, Nanten, Japanese sacred bamboo and sacred Japanese bamboo are some of the common names of the plant. It is the only member of the monotypic genus Nandina. The Latin genus name Nandina is derived from the Japanese name nanten. The specific epithet domestica means 'domesticated', or 'of the household'. It is widely grown in gardens as an ornamental plant with a number of cultivars that display bright-red fall foliage in the cool months, and attractive new foliage growth in spring. Although a popular ornamental shrub, the berries are toxic to birds, especially towards the end of the winter when other food sources become scarce.



Despite the common name "sacred bamboo", it is not a bamboo but an erect evergreen shrub with numerous, usually unbranched stems growing from ground level. The glossy leaves are sometimes deciduous in colder areas, bi- or tri-pinnately compound, with the individual leaflets. The young leaves in spring are brightly coloured pink to red before turning green; old leaves turn red or purple again before falling. Its petiolate leaves are 50–100 cm long, compound (two or three pinnacles) with leaflets, elliptical to ovate or lanceolate and of entire margins, with petioles swollen at their bases. The inflorescences are axillary or terminally erect panicles with numerous hermaphrodite flowers. There are several ovate-oblong sepals of a pinkish white color, and six oblong white petals. The flowers are borne in early summer in conical clusters held well above the foliage. The fruit is a bright red berry, ripening in late autumn and often persisting through the winter.


Table of Contents


Height(Avg)

3 - 8 feet


Width-Circumference (Avg)

4 - 5 feet


Approximate pH

3.7 - 6.4


Growth Nutrition of Heavenly Bamboo


In the growth period of heavenly bamboo in spring and summer, water-soluble fertilizer is recommended to be applied 1-2 times per month, mainly with phosphorus and potassium fertilizer, and less nitrogenous fertilizer.


Varieties of Heavenly Bamboo


Blush



During spring and fall, the new leaves emerge with profound pink hues that eventually turn dark red to maroon with the arrival of winter. This dwarf variety has a non-spreading and compact growth pattern, making it best for hedges and borders.


Harbour Dwarf



Growing up to only 2-3 feet tall, this dwarf variety showcases narrow and small foliage forming a dense mound. It produces green leaves with a slight coppery tinge. The foliage remains evergreen in all the seasons, except for the winter, where it turns into striking red. It’s a fruiting variety but produces fewer fruits.


Flirt



The variety is highly cherished for maintaining its coppery-red hue throughout the year. It has a ground-hugging tendency that makes it a perfect fit for ‘spiller-thriller-filler’ container gardening.


Gulfstream



Growing 3-feet wide and tall, the Gulfstream Nandina gained high popularity among gardeners due to its changing color in accordance with the seasons, produces young foliage with a scarlet red hue. The color becomes turquoise green in summers and then again attain reddish appearance during fall.


Obsession



The leaves emerge copper-red during spring and continue to display its vividness till fall. The variety features similar characteristics like the Gulfstream, except it grows and spreads around 2-3 feet. The shrub prefers full sun to part shade.


Filamentosa



The needle-like, lacy leaves of Filamentosa wrapped with burgundy hue sets this variety apart from all. This is a slow-growing plant that alters its color to bronze or red-purple as the fall arrives. The plant bears light pink flowers at the tip of bamboo canes like branches in spring and summer.


Compact



This variety not only makes a good landscape option but proves to be prolific too. Its lacy leaves form a compact cluster that gracefully appears on bamboo-like canes. Its leaves are initially pink, but alter the color to green on maturing. It also bears white yellow flowers during summer and springs.


Firepower



Displaying an array of red foliage during winter and fall, this dwarf variety attains its lime green color during warm seasons of spring and summer. Growing up to 1-2 feet tall, it produces a bunch of white flowers throughout summer.


Lemon-lime



Growing up to 3-4 feet tall, its foliage is flushed with yellow-green color during spring. But, as the summer falls out, the leaves gain a special chartreuse shade. The glossy foliage of lemon-lime never achieves red hue in any season.


Royal Princess


This variety fits well for screening hedges, as it attains a height of 7-8 feet. The lance-shaped foliage is evergreen, except for the fact that it becomes purple-red during fall. During spring it bears a cluster of starry white-pink flowers making this shrub visually stunning.


Moyer’s Red



This is a semi-dwarf variety that grows up to 4-6 feet tall. The variety marks a bold statement by bearing different colors in different time strokes. They are initially coppery bronze as they make an appearance, then turning green-blue with maturity. But, as the fall season arises, the leaves unlock their true beauty by exhibiting striking red color. It also bears violet-red blossoms during chilly winters.


Sienna Sunrise



The bipinnately leaves of sienna sunrise are covered with a brilliant red hue during fall. Growing only up to 3-4 feet, the variety shows up the green color in all seasons. The magnificent red berries emerging from fall to winter further adds its beauty.


Atropurpurea Nana


The leaves of nana nandina are green, but in summer and winter, they are flushed with yellow-green and crimson red hues respectively. This dwarf variety, with mounding growth habit, reaches only up to 2-feet tall but has a more invasive spreading growth.


Moonbay



Churning out the highest number of colors compared to other varieties, this plant tops the list. The new leaves are lime green in color, but during cooler months the leaves color fluctuate from reds, pinks, burgundy, to apricot. The mesmerizing colors intensify under the full sun exposure.


Growing Heavenly Bamboo


How to Grow Heavenly Bamboo From Seed


Cuttings work best, but you can grow heavenly bamboo if you start with fresh seeds. Older seeds can take much longer to germinate, sometimes a year or more. Cleaned and cold-stored seeds can be purchased or the freshest seeds can be harvested from the plant in the fall:

  1. Pluck berries from plants when they are bright red in the fall.

  2. Soak berries overnight to soften; then extract the seeds buried in the berries.

  3. In a seed tray, add well-drained, sandy soil.

  4. Leave the tray in a cool spot outside (no heat necessary).

  5. Keep the tray moist.

  6. Fresh/preserved seeds potentially germinate in about two months.


Heavenly Bamboo Care


Heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) is an ornamental evergreen shrub in the Berberidaceae family. It does well when grown in slightly humid, bright conditions and is hardy in USDA zones 6 through 9. Heavenly bamboo can survive in temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit (or -12 degrees Celsius) but does not survive very long in freezing temperatures. Once established, heavenly bamboo is generally a low-maintenance, pest-, and disease-free plant. This tough shrub is commonly used in foundation plantings, informal hedges, shrub borders, and in container gardens.


Light


Heavenly bamboo is adaptable to a variety of light conditions from full sun to partial shade. However, to achieve the most vibrant colors, heavenly bamboo should be grown in full sun.


Soil


Heavenly bamboo is not picky when it comes to soil, however, a moist, nutrient-rich, well-draining soil will provide the best results. Adding perlite, sand, or well-composted materials will help to improve drainage if needed.


Water


During its first growing season, water a heavenly bamboo deeply and regularly to establish an extensive root system. Ensure the soil is kept consistently moist but never waterlogged. Keep in mind that heavenly bamboo grown in containers will need to be watered even more frequently than plants grown in the garden. Once well-established, mature heavenly bamboo plants are more resistant to drought and can tolerate short periods of drought more readily. After the first growing season, water as needed.


Temperature and Humidity


Ideally, heavenly bamboo is grown in a warm, slightly humid, wind-protected environment. While heavenly bamboo can tolerate temperatures as low as 10 degrees Fahrenheit, they will not survive long in such frigid conditions. For gardeners from regions with cold winters, heavenly bamboo is best grown in containers so it can be Despite its common name, heavenly bamboo (Nandina domestica) is not a bamboo at all, but a species of flowering, evergreen shrub native to eastern Asia.


Grown as an ornamental shrub, it is characterized by cane-like stems and finely textured leaves that resemble those of bamboo, which is how Nandina domestica got its common name.


Fertilizer


Regular fertilizing helps to encourage blooming and preserve a heavenly bamboo’s vibrant color. Apply a fertilizer designed for ornamental shrubs twice a year in the early spring and early summer for the best results.


Pruning and Propagating Heavenly Bamboo


Pruning


Heavenly bamboo does best when it is allowed to grow in its natural form rather than being heavily pruned or sheared as a formal hedge. However, lightly pruning the canes of a heavenly bamboo plant once per year will help to keep it looking full. Prune the canes to varying heights for the best results.


Propagating Heavenly Bamboo


Heavenly bamboo is most readily propagated through cuttings. Both softwood (new growth) and semi-hardwood cuttings work for propagating heavenly bamboo.


To take a softwood cutting in warmer weather, follow these steps:

  1. Cut the stem of a heavenly bamboo plant where the newest growth begins. There is often a noticeable difference between last year’s growth and the current year’s growth. The stem should be soft and green.

  2. Dip the end of the cutting in a rooting hormone.

  3. Plant the cutting in a container.

  4. Keep the soil moist until roots sprout.


Semi-hardwood cuttings are best taken in the summer or early fall. Semi-hardwood is the part of the stem that is partially, but not fully mature. Take these steps:

  1. Cut part of the cane that is relatively firm but still flexible enough to bend.

  2. Dip the end of the cutting in rooting hormone.

  3. Place the cutting in a container.

  4. Cover the container with plastic wrap to keep in the humidity until roots sprout.


Potting and Repotting Heavenly Bamboo


If you are looking to start a container garden, heavenly bamboo is an excellent choice. When grown in a container, a heavenly bamboo plant should only need repotting every two to three years. Remember to keep the soil consistently moist. Heavenly bamboo will need to be watered more frequently when grown in a container versus a garden. Grow heavenly bamboo as a container plant if you live in a region with cold winters as they cannot survive freezing temperatures for very long.


Overwintering


Heavenly bamboo can easily be overwintered indoors to protect it from freezing temperatures. Bring it inside to grow as a houseplant in cool weather, but keep pets away from the berries.


Pests and Diseases


Anthracnose


Anthracnose mainly affects leaves and shoots of heavenly bamboo. The disease is spread by rain splashes, and the peak incidence occurs during rainy seasons. The disease usually occurs along the edge of the leaf. At the initial stage, it's a round brown spot, which later expands into a round or irregular gray-brown spot, and the surrounding spot is dark brown. In the middle stage of the disease, the spots are grayish-white with black dots. The damaged leaves do not carry out photosynthesis well, which in turn affects plant nutrient accumulation.

Once found, the infected leaves should be removed in time, and the thiophanate wettable powder should be sprayed once every 10-15 days and continuously for 2-3 times.


Twig Blight


Twig blight is very harmful to heavenly bamboo, and it can occur at any stage of its growth process. When the disease occurs, you will see brown or gray spots on the twig/stem of the plant. There are small black spots on the diseased spots. In severe cases, it will cause the plant's stem to wither or even die. Once found, you can cut off and destroy the infected branches as early as possible and spray fungicide.


Red Spot Disease


Red spot disease usually occurs from the tip or edge of the leaf of heavenly bamboo. At first, brown spots appear, and then gradually expand into semi-circular or wedge-shaped spots, which are radial. In the later stage, gray-green lumps will appear on the leaves. When the disease is serious, it will cause the leaves to fall early.

Pay attention to ventilation and light transmission during daily maintenance. When the diseased leaves are found, they should be removed in time. You can dilute 50% carbendazim 800-1000 times and spray it once every 10-15 days, and spray continuously 2-3 times.


Scale Insects


Scale insect is one of the main pests that harm garden plants. It is mainly harmful to leaves, branches, and fruits, causing leaves to turn yellow, branches to withering, affecting plant growth and inducing sooty mold disease. You can cut the branches to ensure good ventilation and light condition to reduce the occurrence of pests. If the pests are found, you can spray horticultural oil once every 5-7 days, and spray 2 times in a row.


Citrus Flat Mites


The citrus flat mite belongs to the genus Brevipalpus. It mainly harms the leaf veins on the reverse side of the leaves. The leaves curled and withered after being infected, and yellow-brown oily spots appeared on the back of the leaves. The seriously infected leaves will fall off, which will affect the appearance of your heavenly bamboo. The mites will overwinter in the gaps of the tree trunk, so it can be prevented by spraying 3 °Bé lime sulfur mixture in spring. If there is an outbreak of insect pests, the insecticide can be used to spray on the petiole and back of the leaf, which can effectively eliminate the pest.


Inchworms


The inchworm is the larva of Geometridae, which eats the leaves of plants. It will cause the branches to dry up, seriously affect the plant growth, and even cause the plant death when the damage is serious.

The outbreak peak of inchworm is in early summer. It is suggested to dig pupae in early spring or late fall or trap larvae with the black light in early summer. In its larval stage, you can also spray cypermethrin to prevent pest damage. Please refer to the manual for the dosage.


Other Uncommon Pests or Diseases


Listed below are some less common pests and diseases of heavenly bamboo that may also need your attention

  • Leaf Scorch

  • Nandina Virus

  • Powdery Mildew

  • Root Rot

  • Ring Spot

  • Root-Knot Nematode

  • Whiteflies


Benefits of Heavenly Bamboo

  • The roots and stems are antitussive, anti-rheumatic, astringent, febrifuge, stomachic and tonic.

  • Decoction is used in the treatment of fever in influenza, acute bronchitis, whooping cough, indigestion, acute gastro-enteritis, and tooth abscess, pain in the bones and muscles and traumatic injuries.

  • It is especially useful in the treatment of children’s coughs.

  • Decoction of the leaves is tonic.

  • The fruit is febrifuge and tonic.

  • Tonics derived from the bark and root-bark is used for eye conditions, flu, muscle pain, rheumatism, gastrointestinal maladies and fever.

  • Fruit is used for cough, asthma, whooping cough, malaria, and penile ulcers.

  • Fruit is used to treat cough and breathing difficulties in Japan.

  • Fruits are used for treatment of tumors and tooth abscesses in Japanese and Chinese traditional medicine.

  • Traditionally, a gourd-shaped charm of the wood was made and hung around the neck of a child to ward-off whooping cough.

  • They are also said to be useful in restoring the nervous system, quieting drunkards, and have been used as an antidote to Herbal Emissaries: Bringing Chinese Herbs to the West fish poisoning.

  • Folk tradition holds that the seeds increase virility.

  • Leaves are used for the common cold, whooping cough, red eye, swelling with pain, scrofula, bloody urine, and infantile malnutrition.

  • Root is used for headache due to wind and heat, cough due to lung heat, jaundice, with wetness and heat, rheumatism with pain, red eyes, carbuncle and furuncles, and scrofula.

  • Root and stem is used for fevers, the common cold, conjunctivitis, cough due to lung heat, jaundice with wetness heat, acute gastroenteritis, infection of the urinary tract, and traumatic injuries.

  • Dried berries are used to cure a cough in traditional Chinese medicine.


Uses

  • Sacred bamboo is a popular ornamental plant.

  • It has been cultivated for the medicinal properties of its leaves and berries.

  • The aromatic twigs may be used as toothpicks or toothbrushes.

  • The plant is used to create sustainable bamboo products as a climate friendly alternative to plastics.

  • Preparation of the whole plant is used as an herbal pesticide to control aphids in China.

  • Plants are used for hedging in warm temperate zones.

  • It is considered a symbol of good luck in Japan and China.

  • Ancient ben-cao mentions the planting of sacred bamboo in gardens to prevent fire.

  • Historically, it has also been planted next to wash-basins in Japanese gardens to protect against evil.

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