Common name: Threadleaf heavenly bamboo
Latin name: Nandina domestica ‘Filamentosa’
Plant size: 1-2′
Plant type: Shrubs and small trees
USDA Hardiness Zones: 6-11
Cultural needs: Sun or part shade, moist or dry soil
The shrubby nandina belongs to the barberry family, not actually bamboo, but it mimics the willowy, grassy feel of bamboo. While the threadleaf heavenly bamboo could form a lacy shrub up to 3′ wide, a little bit of pruning shows off its slender legs, creating a nice multi-stemmed tree. Nandinas prefer sun for added orange/red color, and moist soil for optimum growth, but you can cut back on the goodness to get more of a bonsai look.
Nandinas originate in China but many varieties have been chosen in Japan. The pictured variety is prized among bonsai artists. By summer, sprays of small, white flowers emerge above the foliage but berries never develop, making this plant non-invasive. Cold weather turns the leaves red. The airy texture of this plant will fit almost any area of the railway garden. Its umbrella-shaped growth would be welcome as a canopy over a small building. Elevating this specimen best spotlights the fine, green filament-like foliage, which won’t hide a nearby feature, like the mortared talus in the photo. Growers list this as a Zone 6 plant, but one Zone 6 nursery that sells it claims it to be unreliable in their area and might need protection.