Want Winter Color? Consider Nandina

Nandina “Fire Power” boasts impressive red fall and winter foliage.

Winter can be a sad time for our colorful gardens while we wait for the harbingers of spring. Crocus, daffodils, forsythia, iris, and hyacinths, along with the wonderful blooms of our fruit trees, are just beginning, but the depths of winter can be drab.

The king of winter plants for color is nandina. “But wait,” you say, “isn’t that the spindly plant that mom had?” Yep, that’s it …sort of.

Plant breeding has dramatically changed this plant that mom had. Nandina was commonly called “heavenly bamboo” because of its habit of losing its lower leaves and branches exposing the bamboo-like vertical stems. This distracted from an otherwise beautiful plant. The first of the “new” plants was simply called “compacta,” and this is still a great cultivar that solves the problem of  “legginess” that the mother plant had. All of the following cultivars have this improved bushy appearance, but they also have a brilliant display of color in the middle of winter. The more sun, the more color, although they can grow well in light shade. The following is a list of cultivars provided by Wikipedia.

• Blush — slightly smaller than the above, it produces red new growth in spring and autumn, and in winter months it turns vivid red.

• Fire Power — height of 2 to 2-1/2 feet tall, is so-named for its impressive red fall and winter foliage.

• Gulfstream — reaching 3 feet wide and 3 to 3-1/2 feet tall, it displays orange-tinted, coppery young foliage that develop to turquoise in summer, then turns orange-red in fall.

• Lemon Lime — yellowish green spring foliage that transforms to chartreuse in summer.

• Moon Bay — dense and upright reaching 3 feet tall, its foliage change seasonally from lime green, red, apricot and burgundy.

• Moyer’s Red — a semi-dwarf type that grows 4 to 6 feet tall that features light-pink flowers.

• Royal Princess — reaching up to 8 feet tall, this displays blush-colored blooms.

• Sienna Sunrise — growing 3 to 4 feet tall, it features glaring red foliage with red highlights in fall.

Mike Dooley is the designer and owner of Dooley Landscape Designs. Visit his website at www.dooleylandscapedesigns.com. He can be reached at 505-400-0257.

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