The Best Time to Prune Nandinas

Nandina (Nandina domestica) is also known as heavenly bamboo, although it has no relation to the bamboo plant. It takes the nickname from the fact that its foliage bears an uncanny resemblance to that of the bamboo. Nandina is a woody shrub with year-round interest. It bears flowers in the spring and berries in the fall when its foliage turns red, gold and orange. One of the most important aspects of nandina care is annual pruning.

Time Frame

Nandina produces flowers in late spring or summer, which make way for green berries. These ripen to a striking red color in autumn and remain on the plant throughout fall and sometimes through winter. While spring pruning is appropriate for many shrubs, if you prune the nandina in spring, you run the risk of not having berries the following season. The ideal time to prune is in winter.

Tools

The act of pruning a plant causes wounds, and the best way to minimize wounding is by using the right tools and keeping them sharp. Two types of tools are used to prune the nandina. Use bypass pruning shears to cut branches and shoots that measure 3/4 inches in diameter and smaller. Bypass pruners, while more expensive than anvil-type pruners, make a cleaner cut. For growth measuring up to 1 3/4 inches in diameter use lopping shears.

Strategy

When you prune the nandina, you set the stage for the following season's growth. Prune one-quarter of the stems, spaced randomly around the nandina, to the soil. Prune another one-quarter of the stems down to one-third the shrub's height and another one-quarter at two-thirds the plant's height. Allow the other quarter of the stems to remain unpruned. This staggered effect will show off next season's flowers and berries.

After Pruning Care

After pruning is a good time to fertilize the nandina to get it ready for the upcoming season. Use a 10-30-10 granular fertilizer according to the rate listed on the package for the size of your nandina. Sprinkle the fertilizer over the soil, starting from 6 inches away from the shrub's base, and use a rake to spread it out 1 foot beyond the dripline. Water to a depth of 8 inches, and lay down a fresh layer of mulch if you use it.