Nandina – Five Ways

Nandina has long been a mainstay in Southern landscapes, and for good reason. A remarkably adaptable plant, Nandina effortlessly transitions from sun to shade, moist to dry soils, and modern to traditional designs. This tough plant needs little pampering and performs beautifully in our hottest and coldest weather. No wonder nandina established such a foothold in the gardens of our parents and grandparents. With modern cultivars we can evoke the memory of those cherished landscapes, while changing the rules as to how, and where, nandina is used in the garden.

1. Layers: Old and New

Nandina is the perfect plant for creating dynamic layers in the landscape. The plant itself has a unique growth habit of vertically layered branches, which is most pronounced in taller varieties. Obsession™ Nandina is an excellent cultivar for creating visual layers, as the improved cultivar requires much less pruning than the often leggy, old-fashioned plants. Combine nandina with other evergreen species in varying heights to create lush, colorful planting beds. While old-fashioned nandinas serve beautifully as a backdrop, newer compact varieties such as ‘Lemon Lime’ and Flirt™ add texture and color to the mid ground. Accentuate the foliage color by planting against a dark green backdrop. Finish the design with low-growing foliage and flowering perennials.

2. Plant Containers That Last

Compact cultivars allow nandinas to go where old-fashioned varieties could not – into containers. Transform the winter landscape with an evergreen container planting of nandina complemented by hardy shrubs such as Purple Pixie® Loropetalum and Yewtopia® Plum Yew. Create stunning summer plantings with vibrant tropical foliage and flowering annuals or perennials. With an evergreen centerpiece, nandina containers may be modified for a simple transition from one season to the next. Check out our nandina container recipes here.

3. Provide Textural Contrast

Foliage texture of nandinas varies among cultivars from fine to medium. Texture provides the biggest payoff from a design standpoint when used to create contrast. Combine opposing textures for visual impact. In the garden designs below, the large, coarse leaves of hellebore and heuchera provide sharp contrast to the fine-textured Flirt™ Nandina.

4. Soften Hardscape

Whether a fence corner or the edge of a patio, the fine texture of nandina works in the landscape to soften hard edges. Hide hard, straight lines with waves of nandina, or plant en masse below fountains and statuary to create a soft bed. Nandina also works well among stonework, masonry and wooden structures. Select a cultivar that will provide both color and textural contrast.

5. Create Winning Color Combinations

When it comes to color, nandina offers numerous vibrant combinations. The subtle pink and red tints may be used to provide contrast or accentuate bolder hues. For maximum color contrast, pair red-hued nandina varieties with deep green foliage and use yellow as an accent color. ‘Lemon Lime’ Nandina’s chartreuse foliage will contrast most sharply against purple, such as that of loropetalum varieties. For a more serene effect, use an analogous color scheme by combining hues that are adjacent on the color wheel. Analogous designs will create harmony throughout the landscape. 

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