Foliage Follow-Up–February 2012–Good Nandinas

One of my favorite plants for nice winter foliage here in mild Austin, Texas is the Nandina domestica (Atropurpurea ‘Nana’).  Nandinas are not native to North America, but are originally from Asia.  The Nana variety is a dwarf (it gets about two feet tall) which doesn’t produce berries, but is grown for its dwarf habit, hardiness in the home/commercial landscape and its foliage.  Because the Nana doesn’t develop berries, it’s not considered an invasive plant in Central Texas, unlike its brethren with berries.

Nana Nandinas can be quite striking in the winter.  During the fall and winter, the Nana’s leaves turn colors ranging from green to yellow to rust to deep red and burgundy.  There’s even a little orang-y/coral-ly thing going on sometimes!

All of the Nanas in my personal gardens are in shade for most of the year, receiving full sun only once the deciduous trees have dropped their leaves. Unfortunately, my plants don’t turn the striking red coloration that shrubs in full sun do.  This Nana belongs to some nice neighbors and is absolutely stunning, I think.

My Nanas have bits of red here and there, but tend to be less dramatic in their coloring, though still attractive and they provide good contrast to evergreens during the winter months.

The Nana Nandina is a hardy plant which doesn’t require that much effort.  This Nana  is at the edge of a street/sidewalk and brightens this spot beautifully.

In my gardens, I water sparingly and they perform well in our hot summers. During the growing season, the Nana Nandina is nondescript looking, so I like to plant them alongside showy perennials like Turk’s Cap.  This is what one Nana looked like in October planted with a Turk’s Cap,

and here it is now.

I haven’t cut this Mexican Honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) back yet, so the Nana is peeking out from under and behind its overgrowth.  But had the Mexican Honeysuckle succumbed to a hard freeze, the Nana would be colorful and provide structure in this spot.

I recommend the Nana Nandina as a great plant for the home gardener because of its hardiness, form and especially its gorgeous winter foliage.  It’s also non-invasive and that’s always a consideration for the gardener to make.

For more information about invasive plants in Texas and the Austin area, check out  Texas Invasives.org.  This site has a great deal of information about problems that invasive plants cause and solutions to those problems.  It also has links to other sites for lists of plants which are not appropriate for our area and for alternatives that gardeners should use instead.

Thanks to Pam at Digging for hosting Foliage Follow-Up this February 2012.

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8 thoughts on “Foliage Follow-Up–February 2012–Good Nandinas

  1. They are pretty and I enjoy any plant that keeps its foliage to provide color in the garden all year. The original owners planted the other nandina here about 20 years ago and they are very common in my neighborhood. Since I enjoy seeing the berries in the late winter and, while they do spread, so far no signs of escaping I’ll probably keep them.

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  2. I really liked seeing your fall vs winter comparison photo. In October, you can hardly notice the Nana, but during the winter is pops right out at you. I’ve always like Nandinas. I’m glad there’s a more environmentally friendly version. Thanks for sharing.

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    • Yes Ally, Nandinas are nice and one can choose non-berrying varieties and still get lovely color. I’ve also known many gardeners who pull off the berries as they form so that they don’t add to the problem of “biological pollution” in urban forests/green spaces.

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  3. Remember Shirley that the migrating birds happen to love the Nandina berries so, while it may seem as if Nandina don’t spread, they do. They grow fast and tend to squeeze out slower growing natives (like the Yaupon and Possumhaw Holly and Mountain Laurel). The berries on Nandina are pretty, but as stewards of our little patches of the world, we should be cognizant about what we plant in our gardens and how those choices might affect other areas.

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    • You’re welcome Pam, thanks for the opportunity to post. You’re right about the size and that’s one of the things I like about the Nana–they can be popped in all sorts of places.

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  4. I’m always amazed at the amount of variation there is in the winter coloring of Nandinas…we have a similar situation in our neighborhood, some are basically green all the time…but those that get more summer sun and unbelievably vivid scarlet…just stunning!

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