How to Propagate Dwarf Nandina
Nandina (Nandina domestica) is also known as heavenly bamboo because of the lacy foliage and the canelike growth. Nandina is valued for its colorful foliage, which ranges from green to pink to bright red, depending on the variety and the time of year. Dwarf nandina is a smaller version of the plant that reaches mature heights between 6 inches and 5 feet, depending on the variety. Propagate dwarf nandina by taking semihardwood cuttings in late summer or autumn.
Propagate dwarf nandina from cuttings when the stems are straight and sturdy. If the stems are ready, they will break with a snap when you attempt to bend them. Stems that bend without snapping are too immature. Thick stems that break with difficulty are too mature.
Fill a container with a well-drained potting medium. A commercial potting soil works well, or you can make your own potting medium by combing materials such as sand, peat moss, perlite or vermiculte. Avoid garden soil that becomes compacted and heavy. Any container with a drainage hole is appropriate for propagating dwarf nandina.
Moisten the potting medium the night before you intend to take the cuttings. Place the container in a bowl or tray filled with about an inch of water. Allow the pot to remain until the potting medium soaks up water and is completely wet, then let the pot drain overnight. By the time you're ready to plant, the potting medium should be moist but not soggy.
Cut a stem measuring about 4 or 5 inches long using garden pruners or a sharp knife. The stem needs at least three or four leaves, or leaf buds. Leaf buds are points on the stem where a leaf is beginning to emerge.
Pull the leaves from the bottom half of the stem, leaving the upper leaves intact. Dip the bottom 1 inch of the nandina stem in a powdered or liquid rooting hormone.
Stick the bare end of the nandina stem in the damp potting medium. Plant the stem to about half its length, or deep enough that the stem stands upright. Don't plant too deeply and don't let the leaves touch the potting medium. Plant several nandina cuttings, as some of the cuttings likely won't root. Plant the cuttings together in a container with the leaves not touching.
Place the container in a shady, sheltered location where the nandina cuttings won't be exposed to direct sunlight. Cut the bottom out of a plastic milk jug. Place the milk jug over the cuttings to keep them warm and moist. Mist the cuttings with a spray bottle at least once every day. Expect the cuttings to root in four to six weeks.
Move each nandina cutting into an individual, 1-gallon container with a drainage hole after the cuttings take root. Fill the container with pine bark-based commercial potting mixture.
Sprinkle about 1 tsp. of a time-release fertilizer over the top of the potting mixture. Water immediately after fertilizing. Water the cuttings regularly -- at least every other day during hot summer weather. Keep the soil evenly moist but never drenched. Plant the nandina cuttings in a permanent location the following spring, or allow the cuttings to mature for a few more months. Larger shrubs are stronger and have a better chance of survival.
M.H. Dyer began her writing career as a staff writer at a community newspaper and is now a full-time commercial writer. She writes about a variety of topics, with a focus on sustainable, pesticide- and herbicide-free gardening. She is an Oregon State University Master Gardener and Master Naturalist and holds a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction writing.