5 reasons why nandina is a bad choice for your backyard

We have a personal vendetta against Nandinas, and we believe it’s important to be completely honest with you. We’ve spent hours weedin’ these little offshoots out of our gardens. As a result, we decided to never plant this not-so-Heavenly Bamboo Nandina again.

Nandina is a popular choice for backyard landscaping, but many people don’t realize that it can be invasive and problematic. After reading up on nandinas, we had gotten rid of a few of them.

It is the only species in the monotypic genus Nandina. It is cultivated in gardens as an ornamental plant and comes in a variety of cultivars with brilliant-red fall foliage and lovely fresh growth in the spring. Although it is a common ornamental shrub, the berries are poisonous to birds, especially towards the end of winter. If you’re thinking about adding Nandina to your yard, here are 5 reasons why you should reconsider:

bright red berries

Table of Contents

What is Nandina?

Nandina was originally cultivated as an ornamental garden plant in the United States in the early 1800s. They have since become a common sight in the south. They are typically carefree and provide vibrant colours throughout the year with their leaves. They also have small flowers that transform into berries after they bloom. These make a big impression and may be used to decorate Christmas trees and Christmas Garlands.

nandina domestica

What Does Nandina Look Like?

Nandina is a shrub that grows up to about six feet tall. Nandinas have broad, dense leaves and berries that are typically red or white. The Nandina grows well in partial shade as well as sunny areas with little protection from the elements:

Bamboo like stems

Nandina is a tall, leafy plant that reaches 6-8 feet in height. The numerous tiny stems that make up each plant resemble bamboo and give it the names “Heavenly Bamboo” and “Sacred Bamboo,” despite the fact that it is not really bamboo.


It is an evergreen shrub that has become so popular as a landscape plant because of its evergreen foliage. The green leaves often have a hint of crimson in the winter.

Berries are red in the winter

The berries of Nandina are poisonous to birds and other wildlife. The bright red colour of the berries in winter is particularly attractive to birds, but eating them can kill them. In the winter, Nandina produces red berries. Apparently, placing a group of plants together is more likely to produce fruit than a single plant.

invasive plant

Where Will You Find Nandina in the US and the UK?

Despite being classed as an invasive species, nandina is still easily available at nurseries throughout the southern US and much of the UK, proving that it is a popular choice.

You can find nandina growing in forested areas in the following US states:

  • Alabama
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Louisiana
  • Mississippi
  • North Carolina
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia
Nandinas in florida

Where did Nandina originate from?

As mentioned above, Nandina was brought over to the United States in the late 1800s as an ornamental plant and has since spread rapidly. Nandinas are also known by a variety of names, including heavenly bamboo and sacred bamboo. It was originally cultivated in China, Japan and India.

5 reasons why nandina is a bad choice

There are drawbacks to landscaping with Nandinas, in addition to our personal dislike for the plant. We will get into their negative ecological impact below, but most seasoned landscape designers will tell you that all of the different types of Nandina are overused in gardens.

nandina leaves with reddish hue

1. The berries can be toxic to birds and pets

The berries of Nandina are poisonous to birds and other wildlife. The bright red colour of the berries in winter is particularly attractive to birds, but eating them can kill them.

The berries contain cyanide and Alkaloids

Nandina berries include cyanide and other alkaloids, which generate highly toxic hydrogen cyanide (HCN), which is extremely poisonous to all animals. Cyanide poisoning may be the only symptom of death, and it occurs generally in minutes to an hour. Nandina may not be the greatest option for your yard if you have a pet. The plant is poisonous to cats and dogs, according to the ASPCA. While it’s unlikely that consuming the berries would kill them, it could make them sick.

Solution – If you have nandina but don’t want to eliminate it, one option is to prune the blooms in the summer before they produce fruit. Alternatively, clip off the berries if you avoid them!

local birds

2. Nandina is extremely difficult to get rid of

Nandina is an invasive species that spreads easily. Nandinas are difficult to get rid of once established, although they can be uprooted with a lot of effort and persistence. Nandinas spread quickly underground via rhizomes (fleshy roots) as well as by seed dispersal from birds feeding on the berries.

The fruit seeds usually germinate in late winter or early spring, while sprouts emerge from the rhizome-like roots during late summer or autumn. This plant will not stop spreading until you eradicate it. It becomes especially problematic if planted near natural areas such as forests and wetlands because Nandina thrives in these places; unfortunately, its growth causes harm to native vegetation by over their habitat and resources.

Solution – Nandina may be prevented from spreading if you trim it regularly so that it does not produce flowers or seeds, but this is labour-intensive.

nandina can spread fast

3. Nandina is an invasive species

Nandinas spread easily via seed dispersal from feeding birds as well as by rhizome-like roots that grow underground, making them nearly impossible to eradicate once planted. Nandina has been found growing wild in Alabama, Florida (including Sanibel Island), Georgia (including Jekyll Island), Louisiana, Mississippi (including Biloxi and Gulfport), North Carolina (including Ocracoke Island), and South Carolina.

Solution – remove as much Nandina from your garden as possible. This however is a very difficult task.

4. Nandina offers few local ecosystem benefits

While Nandina looks nice in a garden, it offers few benefits to the local ecosystem. Nandinas are not native to North America and therefore do not provide food or shelter for our native wildlife. Nandina can take over an area and crowd out other plants that would otherwise offer benefits to the local environment.

One of the most important things we consider while selecting plants for our yards is the ecological benefits they provide. This may include nectars and food sources for pollinators and other creatures. However, caterpillar host plants are some of the most essential ecologically helpful plants.

Solution – Choose native plants instead of Nandina. There are many beautiful options that will support your local ecosystem.

nandina can affect pollinators

5. There are better plant options

There are many better plant options that do not have the negative consequences of Nandina. For example, native plants provide food and shelter for local wildlife, do not invade natural areas, and offer other ecological benefits.

Nandinas can be replaced with a variety of tall grasses, perennials, shrubs, vines or trees that will also give your yard a nice aesthetic look. We encourage you to research your region’s specific native species in order to find the best option for your backyard.

Solution – Replace Nandina with a variety of beautiful native plants that will support your local ecosystem.

perennials can be a better option

People also ask

Is nandina fast-growing?

Nandina is a moderately fast-growing plant. It can reach heights of up to 12 feet tall, although it typically grows between three and six feet tall. Nandinas usually have a lifespan of around 20 years.

Is nandina poisonous?

Yes, Nandina berries are poisonous and should not be eaten by people or pets. The leaves and stems are also mildly toxic and may cause skin irritation or stomach problems if ingested.

How do I get rid of nandina?

The easiest way to get rid of Nandina is to dig up the plants with a shovel and dispose of them in the trash. This process can be difficult and time-consuming, especially if the plants are established. You can also try using a herbicide to kill Nandina plants, but this method may not be as effective because Nandina is notoriously hardy and can grow back from root fragments that are left behind.

removing plants with shovel

How do you keep nandina from spreading?

Nandina can be kept from spreading by regularly trimming it so that it does not produce flowers or seeds. This is labour-intensive, however, and may not be feasible for larger gardens. Nandina can also be prevented from invading natural areas by removing as much of the plant as possible. However, this is a difficult task.

Are Nandinas hard to dig out?

Nandina can be hard to dig out because of its extensive root system. Rhizomes (underground stems) can grow for several feet, making it difficult to remove the entire plant. It is important to try to remove as much of the Nandina plant as possible in order to prevent it from spreading.

What are some good alternatives to Nandina?

There are a number of good native substitutes for Nandina that offer similar aesthetic benefits without the negative consequences. Some options include tall grasses, perennials, shrubs, vines or trees.

Are Nandinas poisonous to humans?

Nandina berries are poisonous and should not be eaten by people or pets. Nandinas can cause skin irritation if touched by humans. Nandina leaves and stems are also toxic, but this toxicity is typically mild unless the plant has been poisoned with pesticides or other chemicals.

produce berries
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Oliver Wright
Oliver Wright

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