Nandina domestica: Sacred Bamboo

Sacred Bamboo, scientifically known as Nandina domestica, is a versatile shrub offering year-round interest with its seasonal foliage changes and bright red berries.

Sacred Bamboo (Nandina domestica) stands out in gardens with its lush green foliage that turns strikingly red in the colder months. Originating from East Asia, this plant is not only admired for its beauty but also for its adaptability to different environments.

Being both drought-tolerant and able to thrive in various climates, it’s a popular choice for many Australian gardens. However it is considered invasive in some parts of Australia, so be sure to check with local authorities whether it’s suitable for your area.

Family and Subfamily: Berberidaceae

Despite its common name, Sacred Bamboo isn’t a true bamboo. It belongs to the Berberidaceae family, a diverse group of flowering plants that can either be herbaceous or woody.

Members of this family, including Nandina domestica, often feature bright flowers and sometimes bear fruits or berries.

Sacred Bamboo: Basic Information

  • Common Name: Sacred Bamboo
  • Scientific Name: Nandina domestica
  • Origin: East Asia, particularly regions in China, Japan, and India.
  • Plant Type: Medium-sized shrub
  • Size: Typically 1-2 meters in height and width
  • Leaf Type: Pinnate with lance-shaped leaflets
  • Flower Colour: White


Nandina domestica flower | Plant Profiles

Sacred Bamboo is an upright, bushy shrub. It’s semi-evergreen in nature, meaning it retains its leaves throughout most of the year.

The leaves, a highlight of the plant, change colours with the seasons. They can turn even more brilliant in hue with sufficient sunlight. While it flaunts green hues for most of the year, autumn sees it turning a brilliant red.

The plant also showcases small white flowers from spring to summer, which then give way to red berries in the autumn.

Natural Habitat

Nandina domestica is native to East Asia, particularly regions in China, Japan, and India. There, it grows in diverse environments including forests, grasslands, and coastal regions.

Since it’s not native to Australia, it’s good practice to check its potential invasiveness in local areas before planting.

How to Grow Sacred Bamboo

Nandina domestica leaves | Plant Profiles

Those seeking to introduce a touch of colour to their gardens might find Sacred Bamboo a good fit. Apart from its ornamental appeal, it’s relatively low-maintenance.

Growing Conditions

  • Soil: Prefers well-draining soil, pH 5.5-6.5.
  • Light: Enjoys full sun to part shade.
  • Climate: Adaptable, but fares best in cool to sub-tropical regions.

Planting Guide

  • Timing: Spring or autumn are ideal.
  • Spacing: Allow 1-2 meters between plants.

Care and Maintenance

  • Watering: Regular but mindful to prevent overwatering.
  • Pruning: Late winter or early spring to shape and remove unneeded branches.
  • Mulching: Apply annually for moisture retention and weed control.
  • Feeding: A balanced fertilizer in spring benefits the plant.

Pest and Disease Control

Common pests include aphids and scale insects, treatable with insecticidal soap or neem oil. Fungal diseases can be countered with appropriate fungicides.

Popular Cultivars

  • ‘Firepower’: Recognised for its vibrant red foliage.
  • ‘Gulf Stream’: A dwarf variant with dense foliage.

Special Features

Sacred Bamboo boasts a compact growth pattern, making it suitable for small gardens. Its winter berries are particularly eye-catching.

Wildlife and Pollinators

The berries attract a variety of birds in winter. However, they can be toxic to some pets, so caution is advised.

Uses in the Garden and Beyond

Primarily used as a decorative shrub in borders or hedges, it’s important to remember that the berries are not for culinary use.

Environmental Benefits

Being drought-resistant, Sacred Bamboo is ideal for water-saving gardens.

Sacred Bamboo FAQ

How often should you water Nandina domestica?

Water regularly, but let the soil dry a bit between waterings.

Is Nandina domestica suitable for small gardens?

Yes, especially the compact cultivars like ‘Firepower’ and ‘Gulf Stream’.

Is Nandina invasive in Australia?

Yes, Nandina domestica is considered invasive in some parts of Australia. Although it is often planted in gardens because of its ornamental value, it can spread to natural areas, displacing native vegetation.

Photo of author

Linda Jones

Based in sunny Brisbane, Linda has a keen interest in ornamental plants. She firmly believes that gardens are as much about aesthetics as they are about functionality. Despite being a life-long gardener, she still enjoys learning about new plants and gardening techniques and sharing her discoveries with the Ultimate Backyard community. When she's not immersed in her garden, Linda loves reading and walking.


2 thoughts on “Nandina domestica: Sacred Bamboo”

  1. Thank you. About two years ago, we planted a free plant collected from outside someone’s garden. It’s a lovely shrub which defies our clay soil, salt laden coastal winds & cool weather including summers. Not being gardeners had no idea what it is. We plan to add a couple more now we know what it is & how to care for it.


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