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Nandina domestica - Thunb.

Common Name Sacred Bamboo, Heavenly Bamboo
Family Berberidaceae
USDA hardiness 6-9
Known Hazards The fruit is poisonous[147].All parts of the plant contain toxic substances, including hydrocyanic acid and nandenine[218].
Habitats Ravines and valleys in mountains and warmer parts of C. and S. Japan[58].
Range E. Asia - China, Japan and India.
Edibility Rating    (1 of 5)
Other Uses    (0 of 5)
Weed Potential Yes
Medicinal Rating    (2 of 5)
Care (info)
Fully Hardy Moist Soil Full sun
Nandina domestica Sacred Bamboo, Heavenly Bamboo
Nandina domestica Sacred Bamboo, Heavenly Bamboo


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Bloom Color: White. Main Bloom Time: Early spring, Late spring, Mid spring. Form: Upright or erect.

Physical Characteristics

 icon of manicon of shrub
Nandina domestica is an evergreen Shrub growing to 2.5 m (8ft) by 2 m (6ft) at a medium rate.
It is hardy to zone (UK) 7 and is not frost tender. It is in leaf all year, in flower from June to July. The species is hermaphrodite (has both male and female organs).
Suitable for: light (sandy), medium (loamy) and heavy (clay) soils and prefers well-drained soil. Suitable pH: acid, neutral and basic (alkaline) soils. It cannot grow in the shade. It prefers moist soil.

UK Hardiness Map US Hardiness Map



Woodland Garden Sunny Edge; Dappled Shade; Hedge;

Edible Uses

Edible Parts: Fruit  Leaves
Edible Uses:

Fruit[2]. No further details are given, but another report says that the fruit is poisonous[147]. The fruit is about 10mm in diameter[200]. Young leaves - boiled[177]. The water must be changed at least once during the cooking[105].


Medicinal Uses

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Antirheumatic  Antitussive  Astringent  Febrifuge  Stomachic  Tonic

The roots and stems are antitussive, astringent, febrifuge, stomachic and tonic[147, 174]. A decoction is used in the treatment of fever in influenza, acute bronchitis, whooping cough, indigestion, acute gastro-enteritis, tooth abscess, pain in the bones and muscles and traumatic injuries[147]. It is especially useful in the treatment of children's coughs[174]. There is a danger that an overdose can cause respiratory paralysis[174]. A decoction of the leaves is tonic[218]. The fruit is febrifuge and tonic[218]. Another report says that it is toxic, so great care should be employed if using it[147]. The root is antirheumatic[218]. Young shoots contain high concentrations of laetrile - up to 20% on a zero moisture basis[218].


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Other Uses

Hedge  Hedge

Plants are used for hedging in warm temperate zones[200].

Special Uses

Hedge  Hedge


Cultivation details

Landscape Uses:Border, Container, Foundation, Massing, Rock garden, Screen, Specimen. Requires a deep rich moist soil in a sheltered sunny position[11, 200]. Prefers a cool but sunny position[200]. A very ornamental plant, it only successful outdoors in Britain in favoured localities[1]. Grows well in Cornwall[59]. Tender when young[11], the shoot tips of mature plants can be damaged by hard frosts[200]. A number of named forms have been developed for their ornamental value[182]. Untidy old stems on established plants can be pruned to the base in spring[188]. Cultivated for its fruit in China and Japan[2] ( does this refer to medicinal usage?). It does not fruit freely in Britain[11]. Plants in this genus are notably resistant to honey fungus[200]. Special Features: Attracts birds, Attractive foliage, Not North American native, Invasive, Naturalizing, Attractive flowers or blooms.


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Seed - best sown as soon as it is ripe in a greenhouse[113]. Stored seed should be sown as early in the year as possible in a greenhouse. Germination is often poor[200]. When they are large enough to handle, prick the seedlings out into individual pots and grow them on in the greenhouse for at least their first winter. Plant them out into their permanent positions in late spring or early summer, after the last expected frosts. Cuttings of half-ripe wood 10 - 15cm long, July/August in a frame[78]. Pot up in the autumn and overwinter in a cold frame. Plant out in late spring. High percentage[78] but very slow[11]. Cuttings of mature wood, 10 - 15cm with a heel, November in a frame[78]. Plant out the following autumn[78, 200]. High percentage[78] but very slow[11].

Other Names

If available other names are mentioned here

Found In

Countries where the plant has been found are listed here if the information is available

Weed Potential

Right plant wrong place. We are currently updating this section. Please note that a plant may be invasive in one area but may not in your area so it’s worth checking.

Conservation Status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants Status :

Related Plants
Latin NameCommon NameHabitHeightHardinessGrowthSoilShadeMoistureEdibleMedicinalOther

Growth: S = slow M = medium F = fast. Soil: L = light (sandy) M = medium H = heavy (clay). pH: A = acid N = neutral B = basic (alkaline). Shade: F = full shade S = semi-shade N = no shade. Moisture: D = dry M = Moist We = wet Wa = water.


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Readers comment

David Janks   Sun Feb 10 2008

We are designing a children's garden and we are researching plants that may be toxic to children. I have found some information that warns of potential toxicity in the berries, but there have been no cases of humans being hospitalized for eating heavenly bamboo's fruit. I have decided that based on the info I have found, this plant posses little or no hazard to humans or children. Would this be a safe conclusion to make?

Ken Fern, Plants for a Future   Sun Feb 10 2008

This plant is related to, amongst others, barberries and mahonias which have edible fruits. However, it is also related to other plants, such as Podophylum, which have very poisonous leaves and roots. Although, as David says, the plant is likely to be of low toxicity, I personally would not choose to put it in a children's garden, focussing instead on edible plants and other plants that have interesting properties such as smell or texture.

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