One truly enjoyable experience in landscape gardening is trying something new or a new variety of a plant you love.

New plantings in old location

It is good not to become stuck doing the same plants in the same place year after year. I was forced to rebuild about 80 feet of flower beds on the back of our home when we tore our wooden deck down and rebuilt a new composite deck this past March. All my flower beds were torn out, so it was “up with the new.”

In the new flower beds, we used new rich soil with compost and fresh mulch. We planted a variety of new flowers, including zinnias, impatiens, plumbagos and azaleas. Some shrubs we used were flax leaf lily, Japanese boxwood and nandina. This brings me to my current topic, the dwarf nandina.

Standard nandina

  • Evergreen with colorful foliage

I enjoy nandinas because they are evergreen in Victoria and South Texas. They have beautiful, rich foliage in various colors depending on the variety planted. Nandinas are disease- and bug-resistant and drought-tolerant. They are cold-hardy 0 to 10 degrees.

  • A.k.a. ‘Beautiful Bamboo’

I wrote a Gardeners’ Dirt column that was published two years ago on Dec. 4, 2016, titled “Beautiful Bamboo.” In it, I described my experience incorporating nandina into my landscape. I used standard nandina (Nandina domestica), which grow 4 to 6 feet tall, produced red berries and spread via rhizomes.

Nandinas belong to the Barberry family but are also known as Beautiful Bamboo because of their upright shoots that resemble bamboo, although they are not related to bamboo. They are native to China, India and Japan.

  • Can be invasive

The standard version is considered invasive because of its aggressive rhizome and sucker production. It requires some maintenance in the landscape, but the rhizomes can be controlled by pulling them out when they are small.

Dwarf nandina

This year, I decided to try planting dwarf nandinas, which grow lower and most do not fruit or spread as aggressively as standard nandinas. The dwarf nandina is not as invasive as the standard fruit-bearing variety and requires less maintenance.

  • Like colorful ground cover

I started with Harbour dwarf nandina, which requires three to six hours of morning sun. It grows up to 3 feet tall by 3 feet wide, producing green leaves with a yellow-red tint.

The leaves have a coppery tint in spring and green in the summer. In South Texas, its leaves will be reddish-orange to reddish-purple in the fall. These plants are useful as ground cover or foundation shield if planted closer together.

  • Growing conditions

Dwarf nandinas grow easily in medium moisture in well-drained soil. They like full sun to part shade. For best foliage, more sunlight will be helpful.

Fertilize early in the spring. Do not use bee-sensitive or pollinator precaution pesticide. Water regularly when the plant is new.

  • Tolerances

These plants are tolerant of many soils, but they like moist, rich soil with some humus and good drainage. Mature plants are drought- tolerant.

  • Other advantages

An advantage of planting dwarf nandinas is their lower growth and shape lets me keep some evergreen spots in my planters, and they do not take up too much room.

They blend nicely with other colorful flowers or variegated, green plants to add personality to the overall landscape.

Best foliage color will be in summer and fall. In South Texas these plants are evergreen adding color year-round.

In addition to showing beautiful color, they are drought-tolerant, disease- and bug-resistant.

  • Transplant with new growth 8-10 inches tall

Propagation is simple by using new plants coming up from rhizomes. Leave them in the ground until they are the size you want to transplant. For best results, transplant when new growth is 8 to 10 inches tall.

Other dwarf variety color

Some of the other varieties and color of dwarf nandinas are:

  • Firepower – Does not fruit like standard variety and is grown for its brilliant, fiery red foliage in the fall and winter.
  • Flirt – Unlike similar varieties, it has stunning, deep red color from spring through summer and into autumn.
  • Gulf Stream – Known for year-round color that varies from intense red to a mixture of reds, greens, yellows and oranges.
  • Obsession – Produces bright red, long-lasting foliage from spring into summer through winter.

My new, preferred plant

I am glad I have chosen to grow some more nandinas – especially the dwarf size. What else could be evergreen with rich, colorful foliage; tolerate cold and drought; resist pests; and be so easy to grow?

The Gardeners’ Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or, or comment on this column at

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