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What is Nandina?

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  • Written By: Vasanth S.
  • Edited By: Kathryn Hulick
  • Last Modified Date: 30 August 2016
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Nandina is a plant genus that is part of the Berberidaceae family. It contains only one species, Nandina domestica, which is native to Japan. This is an evergreen shrub that features colorful foliage and clusters of berries. It is typically planted as a border shrub or in a rock garden. Most of the varieties of Nandina domestica are adaptable to different soil conditions.

The genus name is derived from "nanten," which is the Japanese name for the plant. Commonly, the plant is called "heavenly bamboo," since the stems and leaves resemble bamboo. There are several varieties of Nandina domestica, including firepower nandina and Richmond nandina.

Heavenly bamboo typically grows 5 feet (1.5 m) in height and spreads a similar width. The foliage consists of purplish-red leaves in the spring, yellowish-green leaves in the summer, and purplish-red or green leaves in the fall. The compact shape of the shrub is easily maintained with occasional pruning.

The flowers of heavenly bamboo are small and white. They form in panicles, which are branched clusters of flowers. By the fall, the flowers fall and red berries develop.

Heavenly bamboo grows well in a sheltered area that is exposed to direct sunlight. It tolerates many kinds of soil including sandy, loamy, and clay. The shrub can grow in soil that has an acidic or alkaline pH. Generally, as long as the soil is well-draining and fertile, the shrub will do fine.

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Typically, heavenly bamboo is propagated by seeds or cuttings. As soon as the seeds are ripe, it is recommended to plant them in a container. Semi-ripe cuttings are usually taken during the summer.

Generally, this plant genus is maintenance-free, but it is recommended to monitor the colorful foliage for signs of fungal infections. Dark brown or black spots on the leaves are symptoms of the fungal disease leaf spot. It usually causes the leaves to drop. This infection occurs on the surface of the plant.

Other fungal diseases invade the plant from the soil, typically through the roots, including Verticillium wilt. This causes diminished leaf growth, yellowing or browning of the leaf, and dieback of branches. The sapwood is usually discolored with streaks. This is much more serious than leaf spot, since the fungus spreads internally.

Leaf spot can be treated with fungicidal sprays, while Verticillium wilt is typically untreatable. Soil fumigation is one option, but the chance of saving the shrub is low. The best way to avoid soil borne fungal diseases is to plant a disease-resistant variety, such as Richmond nandina.

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