Nandina domestica Thunb.

Heavenly Bamboo, Nandina, Sacred Bamboo

Rank: Alert

Plant Type: Shrub




Nandina is an evergreen erect shrub to 8 feet (2.5 m) in height with multiple bushy stems that resemble bamboo.


Large compound leaves of Nandina resemble leafy branches. Woody leafstalk bases persist as stubby branches, and their overlapping sheaths encase the main stem imparting the appearance of bamboo and giving rise to the common name. Stubby branches whorl alternately up the stem and are tightly stacked near the end for a given year’s growth. Stems are fleshy and greenish gray near the tip, becoming woody barked and tan to brown with fissures towards the base. The wood is bright yellow.


Leaves are alternately whorled and bipinnately compound on 1.5 to 3 feet (0.5 to 1 m) slender leafstalks that are often reddish tinged with joints distinctly segmented. Leafstalk bases clasp stems with a V-notch on the opposite side of attachment. Nine to eighty-one nearly sessile leaflets, lanceolate to diamond-shaped, are 0.5 to 4 inches (1.2 to 10 cm) long and 0.4 to 1.2 inches (1 to 3 cm) wide. Leaflets are a glossy light to dark green and are sometimes red tinged or burgundy.


From May to July, the plant produces terminal (or axillary) panicles of several hundred fragrant flowers 4 to 10 inches (10 to 25 cm) long. Buds are pink and open white to cream with three (two to four) lanceolate deciduous petals and yellow anthers 0.2 to 0.3 inch (6 to 8 mm) long.

Fruit and Seeds

Dense terminal and axillary clusters of fleshy, spherical berries 0.2 to 0.3 inch (6 to 8 mm) appear September to December. Light green ripening to bright red, each berry contains two hemispherical seeds.


Photo: James H. Miller, USDA Forest Service,
More images of Nandina domestica

Life History

Nandina is a woody shrub popularly used in landscapes because of its evergreen compound foliage, panicles of white flowers, and showy clusters of bright red fruit fall into winter. Numerous cultivars demonstrate a variety of leaf colors. Some cultivars do not produce viable seed. Nandina will flower and fruit quite well even in heavy shade and colonizes by root sprouts and spreads by animal-dispersed seeds. It is in the Berberidaceae or Barberry family.


Due to its shade tolerance, Nandina occurs under forest canopies and near forest edges. Seedlings are frequent in the vicinity of old landscape plantings.

Origin and Distribution

It was introduced from eastern Asia and India in the early 1800s and has been widely planted as an ornamental. It is now escaped and spreading from around old homes. Other states where invasive: FL, GA, NC.

Sources: Information on this plant page is derived primarily from James H. Miller’s Nonnative Invasive Plants of Southern Forests, USDA Forest Service.

Management Recommendations

Mechanical Controls

Collect and destroy fruit.

Herbicidal Controls

Foliar Spray Method

Thoroughly wet all leaves with glyphosate herbicide as a 1-percent solution in water (4 ounces per 3-gallon mix) with a surfactant (August to October).

Cut Stump Method

For stems too tall for foliar sprays, cut large stems and immediately treat the stumps with one of the following herbicides in water with a surfactant: Arsenal AC* as a 10-percent solution (1 quart per 3-gallon mix) or a glyphosate herbicide as a 20-percent solution (2.5 quarts per 3-gallon mix).

Basal Bark Method

Apply Garlon 4 as a 20-percent solution in commercially available basal oil, diesel fuel, or kerosene (2.5 quarts per 3-gallon mix) with a penetrant (check with herbicide distributor) to young bark as a basal spray.

*Nontarget plants may be killed or injured by root uptake.

Similar Species

May be confused with the following native and/or non-native species.

Landscape Alternatives lists native horticultural substitutes

Landscape Alternatives