So you live in the South (zone 6-9) and you decided to plant Nandina (Heavenly Bamboo) because the landscaper says it is easy to grow, cheap, has great fall color, evergreen, berries for the birds, and it is maintenance free.
Boy were you bamboozled!
Well, it is easy to grow, but Nandina is invasive in zone 7 and higher. Not just a little invasive but a full blown, the seeds will germinate, and you will have a forest of Nandina. Do not get me wrong it has beautiful fall color and it is hard to kill but this plant is not native and it is not good for the landscape or the wildlife.
The berries can be poisonous to the birds!
I just found out this bit of fact myself and I am now going to rip out the one nandina I have that was hiding the rain barrel and glistening with berries. Shoot- I could have killed my visiting feathered friends! I ran across an article on birds that were poisoned in Georgia while sending a client some info on native plantings (I have enclosed the link below). This horrifies me! I know to some this may seem trivial but in my world I love the birds!
So I am going to give you an alternative to planting this invasive and poisonous plant, it is the Itea virginica or Virginia Sweetspire. This native beauty has fall color, semi evergreen-evergreen, and the flowers in mid summer provide a food source for the butterflies, bees, and birds. It will also colonize an area and not choke out any other plants.
Itea virginica is zone 5-9 and grows to about 5′ tall and wide and it can tolerate just about any soil from dry to wet. It is easy to grow and it has beautiful fall color! It is evergreen in mild winters but if the temps dip to the teens for a long period of time it will lose some leaves and may even die back to the ground for winter.
This native beauty requires almost no pruning and it is basically pest free! I have it in my woodland area and it spreads to fill in the area with its arching branches. The sweetspire will tolerate part shade to full sun. In full sun the plant will bloom more and bush out a bit more but it will grow in a filtered shade spot (as in my yard) or it will grow with part sun. It is so adaptable and so easy to grow!
The common cultivar ‘Henry’s garnet’ sweetspire grows about 4-5′ tall and 6′ wide here in zone 7b. ‘Henry’s garnet’ is zoned for 5-9 with the average height reaching 4′ h x 6′ w. It turns a beautiful deep red color with its leaves lasting on the plant until December. It is semi evergreen here in zone 7 but dies back in colder climates. It can send out runners and may need to be root pruned to keep it from spreading. The fragrant drooping flowers in May are slightly fragrant and attractive to the bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Similar to the native sweetspire, Henry’s garnet will grow in most any soil -dry to wet, part shade or sun. However, in full sun the plant will produce more flowers and more fall color.
My advice to you- check to make sure what you are planting is not invasive or harmful to the wildlife! There are many plants out there that can be both beneficial and beautiful in your landscape. If you are confused or curious, JUST ASK A GARDENER OR GOOGLE IT. Be responsible and do not plant invasive species.
Creating. Inspiring. Gardening without the rules!
2014-2016 Copyrighted material C Renee Fuller