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.