A naturalized import from Japan, nandina (Nandina domestica) does very well in our climate. Although its other names include heavenly bamboo and sacred bamboo, nandina is not a type of bamboo at all.
When I first saw nandina used as a landscape plant, and it is used a lot, it caught my eye because of how absolutely ugly it looked. It was planted in a narrow strip within a huge asphalt parking lot and had been sheered off across the top, leaving what looked like sticks with a bit of sickly foliage around the bottom and sides. While it can survive just fine as a hedge, nandina does not grow in the same way as other traditionally used plants. In keeping with its bamboo-like appearance, this shrub puts up numerous straight stems from the ground. These then leaf out more at the top, giving a graceful, cascading look to the top of the plant. While most shrubs put out new growth from the point of pruning, making them suitable for shaped hedges, nandina produces new shoots from the ground, and if they are cut off, they just look like sticks.
Although often used in full sun, nandina tends to look most beautiful when protected in the shade. The foliage seems resistant to any pests and looks perfect when it is not sunburned as often happens during the hottest parts of our summers. While the plant doesn't produce as many flowers, it still blossoms, even in dense shade. The flowers are delicate and show off nicely on the dark green foliage. In the fall, the berries turn bright red and this is when the plant is really showy. Of course, as with most plants grown for their attractive berries, the beauty only lasts until the birds have eaten the fruits.
Very drought resistant, all our nandina plants were sown by birds. They sometimes come up in the lawn, but are very easy to transplant when they are still small into a more suitable location. The shrubs don't get more than about three feet tall and are very pleasing additions to gardens with many native plants.