The plant known as heavenly bamboo is not a real bamboo. Its scientific name is Nandina domestica, and it received the common name of heavenly bamboo because of its delicate foliage and cane-like stems. The plant is achieving increasing popularity because it is a hardy yet colorful addition to the landscape throughout the year. Even though heavenly bamboo can be quite attractive, there are some drawbacks to this plant that people need to consider before including it in a landscape.
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Left to its own growth habits, heavenly bamboo can grow up to 6 to 8 feet in height. If the plant is being used as a hedge or screen this can be a good thing for a gardener, but when the plant is being used as a smaller shrub, its height can be a disadvantage. It will have to be pruned every spring to keep a small, compact shape, which might become a nuisance to a gardener who prefers low-maintenance plants.
Although heavenly bamboo has become a popular plant in the United States, it is considered an invasive species in some areas of the country. The berries the plant produces contain seeds that are spread by birds to new areas. Heavenly bamboo also produces root shoots, or suckers, that come up from the base of the plant and can crowd out other plantings. The spreading habit of heavenly bamboo can be a particular danger to native plants when it escapes cultivated areas.
The colorful red berries that grow on heavenly bamboo are toxic to grazing animals and domestic cats. Homeowners with animals that could come into contact with the plant should reconsider including it in their landscape.
Heavenly bamboo is a host plant for several plant diseases that can cause problems for other plants nearby. It can carry wheat rust, or Puccinia graminis, which can kill grain crops. Heavenly bamboo is prohibited in regions of the U.S. and Canada where grain is produced. Heavenly bamboo can also carry powdery mildew, which spreads easily to other plants.