Smart gardeners are increasingly using foliage color to supplement their flowering plants, and give color in the garden for months at a time, not just for the week or two that flowers bring. Many gardeners also have problems with the shady parts of the gardens, where the range of suitable plants is small, and most are plain green. It is no wonder, when we saw the Flirt Nandina for the first time, we knew right away this was the answer to both those problems. For nine months of the year this plant pumps out color in shady or sunny parts of your garden, yet it is one of the easiest, low-maintenance plants you can grow.
Flirt Nandina is a dwarf form of the popular sacred bamboo – a plant often grown for its shade and drought resistance. The problem with the normal form of this plant is that it can grow tall, perhaps reaching 6 to 8 feet in height. This is often too large for most gardens, especially in shady places, beneath low-hanging branches. As well, apart from some soft pink color on new leaves for a short time, it is basically green. So plant breeders set to work, and now we have several much shorter forms, often with persistent colored leaves, but still with that tough, drought-resistant quality that makes them so easy to grow.
All the forms of this plant we offer are useful in the garden, but the Flirt Nandina stands out for its unique, persistent leaf color, and its short stature, ideal for edging and for ground cover underneath shrubs. For nine months of the year the leaves of this plant are a delicious rich red color, like a fine red wine. This color begins in spring with the new growth, and it persists all summer and fall, only turning a unique shade of gray-green for a brief part of the winter, before sprouting anew with fresh leaves of rich red.
The original Nandina, or sacred bamboo (Nandina domestica) is a plant native to Japan, China and India. It grows by sending upright canes from the base, forming a dense clump of stems, often of different heights. The tiny white flowers are in large, open clusters. These can develop into clusters of red berries, but the Flirt Nandina does not produce fruit. This is a good thing, since in warmer states there have been some issues with this plant escaping via seeds into wild areas, and interfering with the growth of native plants. That will not happen with the Flirt Nandina.
The leaves of the Flirt Nandina are large, but this is not apparent, since they are divided into many small leaflets. The effect is reminiscent of bamboo, which is why it has the alternative name of sacred bamboo, and the overall effect is airy and light. The Flirt Nandina is a dwarf plant, growing between one and two feet tall, and a similar width across. This makes it an ideal choice for the front of beds, in sun, partial shade or full shade. To grow it as an easy edging for a bed, plant them 18 to 20 inches apart in a row. No clipping is needed to keep it always neat and attractive.
The origin of the Flirt Nandina is an interesting story. A large Texas plant grower called Magnolia Gardens Nursery was propagating some plants of a Nandina called ‘Harbour Dwarf’. In 2005 they were growing many plants in a micropropagation laboratory, and noticed one plant of an unusual coloring. This became the parent of the Flirt Nandina, which is also called ‘Murasaki’. This Japanese name is very appropriate, since it means ‘purple’ – which is close to the wine-red of the leaves. It is common today to grow plants in labs, and this has nothing at all to do with genetic modification (GMO).
As you can see, this is no ordinary plant, so avoid cheaper seedlings plants, and other plants not clearly named, as they may grow large, and they will certainly lack the unique wine-colored leaves of the Flirt Nandina. Our plants are grown with carefully selected pieces from strong, healthy plants, which are encouraged to form vigorous roots.
When planting, choose a spot in sun or shade. Some protection from afternoon sun is useful in the hottest states, and some morning sun will keep the foliage color at its richest. However, this tough and reliable plant will thrive in dry, dark places where most other plants fail. To help your new plants become well-established, add plenty of rich organic material to the soil when planting, and water regularly while the plants are young. Well-established plantings are drought-resistant, and need no extra care in normal summers. Not only that, pests and diseases are virtually unknown on this plant, so for low-maintenance, look no further.
In zones 8 and 9 sacred bamboo is evergreen, and the leaves last all winter, keeping your garden beautiful. In cooler areas, it may lose some or all its leaves when the temperature falls below 10oF, but the dense cane clusters remain attractive. If you live in zone 6, and some canes die in winter, do not worry. Cut out any dead canes, and as spring comes you will see many new shoots emerging from the base of the plant, quickly filling in your planting.
The Flirt Nandina is one of our favorites, and it is ideal for those difficult spots where other plants won’t grow well. Enjoy it in sunny areas too – you won’t be able to get enough of its rich coloring. Neither will our customers, so our limited stocks are not going to last long. Order right away, while they do last, and enjoy this latest addition to the growing range of wonderful Nandina plants.