The Q&A Archives: Care For Plum Passion Heavenly Bamboo

Question: I recently purchased one of your plum passion nandina plants for my balcony (moderate sun - northern exposure). I have not had a chance to move it into a big pot with potting soil yet -- it's still as I found it at the nursery -- but I have been watering it regularly. It seems less hardy than when I first brought it home, and most of the flower buds have dropped off (within the first few days). What might be wrong? Is it a function of the small pot/poor soil? Am I not watering it correctly (too much/not enough)? Is it not getting enough sun out there? All of the above?

Thanks in advance, and BTW, you should add "DC" to your list of states on this system. We're not a state, of course, but none of the other choices works.

Answer: The beauty of nandina is in its colorful foliage - the flower buds rarely open and when they do, the petals are small and sparse. Your Plum Passion Nandina develops purplish red new foliage which changes to deep green in summer and changes again in the fall to a reddish purple. If the foliage isn't as deep a color as it was a few weeks ago, it's probably a normal thing. I suspect it's changing from deep purplish red to green.

In general terms, nandina responds well to a sunny site (or partial afternoon shade), rich, well-draining soil and regular water. Since your nandina is still in the nursery pot, extra care should be taken to make sure that when you water, all of the water doesn't immediately drain out of the bottom of the pot. I'd water as often as once or twice a week (depending upon weather), then once each week place the nursery pot into a larger container and let it soak for about 15 minutes. This will drive out any air pockets around the roots and ensure that all of the soil gets thoroughly wet. When you get around to transplanting your nandina, use a good grade of potting soil (or a mix of half garden soil and half potting soil), plant it at the same depth as it was growing in the nursery pot, and feed weekly with a quarter strength dilution of a liquid fertilizer. With regular water and nutrition, your nandina should perform well for you for many years.

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