(Gulf Stream nandinas were) originally propagated only by division. Tissue culture techniques, the propagation procedure where plants are grown aseptically in test tubes, was perfected, and almost overnight the dwarfs went from interesting novelties to landscape minion status.
The dwarf forms of the plant (Nandina domestica) are more recent in origin. They began showing up in the nursery trade in a big way after WWII. 'Gulf Stream' is one of a bevy of 25 or so dwarf nandinas on the market. It originated as a bud sport at Hines Nursery in Houston from the original dwarf form, 'Atropurpurea Nana,' which is a truly ugly plant with a thicket of upright stems. Gulf Stream has the triply pinnately compound leaves of the species. It produces blue-green summer foliage and bright red leaves in the fall and winter.
Being evergreen, this shrub will hold its leaves through the winter with the color persisting until new growth resumes. Gulf Stream does not seem to flower or fruit, a decided drawback because the red wintertime berries are one of the most appealing aspects of nandinas.
What makes the dwarf nandinas popular in the landscape is their ability to survive parched or wet planting sites with almost equal success. They also give a good winter color display of bright red, at least in most years, and they are insect and disease free. Also, their midget size allows them to fit well in smaller landscapes.
Note: You can learn more about nandinas in the June 2006 featured article and in the real dirt A Gardening Handbook for Parker County
From an article by: Gerald Klingaman, retired
Extension Horticulturist - Ornamentals