According to a 2006 study performed by Gary W. Knox, Sandra B. Wilson and Zhanao Deng for the University of Florida, 'Nandina domestica' was noted as being a widely cultivated ornamental landscape shrub. Wild forms of the plant are considered invasive in most southeastern states while cultivated varieties are regularly used in planned landscapes throughout the same regions. Also referred to as heavenly or sacred bamboo, the perennial dicot is not a true bamboo.
According to the USDA Plant Profile, naturally occurring wild Nandina is considered an invasive weed, especially in the state of Florida. Occurring in natural areas of nine southeastern states, wild Nandina easily propagates. Cuttings, bare root, sprigs and seeds of prolific fruit can all assist in the natural growth of new plants. Wild plants are referred to as 'Nandina domestica' (wild type). Wild Nandina tends to be leggy and tall but less dense than some cultivated landscape varieties.
Of the 10 ornamental Nandina cultivars studied in the 2006 University of Florida study, several were found to produce a high amount of fruit and highly viable seed. 'Monum' and 'Compacta' cultivars performed well in landscapes but were also found to be the most prolific when it came to fruit and seed production. These cultivars are appropriate for home owners that desire the vibrant displays of bright red winter fruit.
Additional cultivars that were studied were 'Filamentosa' and 'Firepower.' These two cultivars were found totally lacking in flower or fruit production making them visually appealing only for their greenery. It is interesting to note that while these two lacked flowers or fruit, seed production was similar to cultivars that produce flowers and seeds at 73 percent to 83 percent seed viability. These cultivars are considered to be far less invasive than wild Nandina or cultivars that produce flowers and fruit. Non-fruiting cultivars are appropriate for small gardens and use along fence lines and home foundations where invasive cultivars prove problematic.
High Visual Quality Cultivars
Of the cultivars that lacked floral growth or fruit production, three were deemed to have high visual quality in the study based on their landscape performance and overall plant size, shape and appearance. 'Gulf Stream,' 'Jaytee' and 'Harbour Dwarf' were ranked best in this cultivar category. Like other non-flowering varieties, seed production was typical at 73 percent to 83 percent viability.
Total Number of Cultivars and Selections
All of the 39 identified cultivar and selections of Nandina used in the 2006 study were grown in the JC Raulston Arboretum, North Carolina State University in Raleigh, NC, or University of Florida/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center, Quincy, FL. While some of the types may not be available for commercial sale, they can all be counted as types of Nandina.