Heavenly Bamboo

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Nandina domestica is often called Heavenly Bamboo or even as Sacred Bamboo. This is a suckering shrub that belongs to the Barberry family, Berberidaceae. It is a monotypic genus, which means that this species is the only member it has. It originated from eastern Asia, from the Himalayas and then spread to Japan. It is quite famous and popular all over the world today, and, strangely enough, despite its name, it is not actually a bamboo.


Heavenly Bamboo is an erect shrub and grows to be a height of around two meters. It has numerous stems that are usually un-branched and that grow straight from the roots. It also has double and triple compound leaves that are combined at the top, which is what gives the plant its bamboo like appearance. The leaves are evergreen but during particularly cold winters they can turn deciduous. The young leaves are bright colors of pink and red in the spring before they turn green. More mature leaves turn red or purple before they wither and fall off.

Flowers and fruits

This plant has white flowers that appear in clusters during late spring. They are borne in early summer and are held high about the rest of the foliage in conical clusters. The flowers are followed by heavy, pea-sized red berries that ripen in late autumn and hang around until late in winter. All the parts of this plant are poisonous and should not be ingested.


You can find this plant grown widely in gardens as a beautiful ornamental plant. The species is especially popular in Japan, where over sixty different cultivars are named.

This plant grows in light shade as well as full sun. It grows larger and faster in good soil as compared to poor soil, but it can survive in either. This plant spreads itself rather slowly using an underground root system and it can eventually end up occupying an area or more than three feet across. It should be planted in the cooler, fall months.
Once established it is very drought resistant. It seems immune to disease and insect attack except for possibly grasshoppers.

Care Tips

When growing this plant you can do so in full sun or partial shade but if you really want intense foliage colors then go for full sun, and just a little shade for the hotter parts of the day. Select an area that is protected from strong winds when planting this shrub. It prefers soil that is rich in humus and is acidic, with a pH range of 3.7 to 6.4.
After it gets established this is a very hardy plant. It can adapt itself to a wide range of harsh conditions. It can survive drought conditions, but ideally it needs to be kept moist at all times.

If you want a denser growth in this shrub, then you can carefully prune it. It should be pruned in the spring by taking off the oldest branches first along with any weak growth that you find at ground level. Then you can start moving your way up to remove around one third of the canes, but no more.

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Author: Tammy Sons

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