Bamboo, fabulous privacy with elegant canes

bamboo

Bamboo is a beautiful modern evergreen shrub, but if left unchecked, it may spread uncontrollably.

Basic Bamboo facts

NamePhyllostachys
FamilyPoaceae
Type – bamboo

Height – 6 to 60 feet (2 to 20 m)

Exposure: full/part sun    –    Soil: normal    –    Foliage: evergreen

Our advice for planting, care and trimming should help you grow beautiful bamboo.

Planting bamboo

The planting of a bamboo is an important step because it influences root growth and bamboo development.

Bamboo planting steps

Plant bamboo preferably in fall but, it can also take place in spring as long as you water regularly at the beginning.

Other than that, avoid planting bamboo during frost spells or heat waves.

  • Bamboo prefers locations with high exposure to sunlight.
  • Bamboo grows in all types of soil, but doesn’t like it when it gets too dry.

Caution: bamboo quickly becomes invasive

To avoid bamboo invading your entire garden, set up a root or rhizome barrier.

  • The rhizome barrier must reach a depth of at least 28 inches (70 cm).
  • The barrier should emerge above soil level by about 2 inches (5 cm).
  • This should avert excessive spreading of bamboo.

Useful: video on planting and controlling bamboo

Bamboo growth rate

Bamboo grows fast and usually survives both drought and freezing very easily.

At the beginning, growth is a bit slow: rhizomes are developing underground and setting up the plant’s support system. The real growing starts 2 or 3 years after planting.

  • It’s possible to increase the growth rate for bamboo with regular lawn fertilizer.

If you’d prefer a dwarf bamboo variety that will always stay a small, reasonable size, opt for Pleioblastus.

Bamboo in pots and containers

bamboo in pots - containersThe golden rule for planting a bamboo in a pot is to make sure watering is easy. You’ll need to water as soon as the surface soil is dry.

  • Choose a pot that is large enough for it to grow.
  • Check that the pot has holes underneath, to ensure drainage in case of excess water.
  • Use potting soil designed for shrubs or leaf plants upon planting.

Watering container bamboo

Regular watering of potted bamboo is crucial. When soil dries up, roots in pots lack water and bamboo needs lots of it.

  • Add lawn or bamboo fertilizer in spring, because plants in pots consume resources much faster.

Propagating bamboo

The best time to multiply bamboo is during the spring.

  • Use a spade to dig out a rhizome that is at least 2 years old (younger rhizomes must be avoided).
  • Choose rhizomes that don’t yet have a culm (a pointy, bulging node).
  • Plant this rhizome in the ground, garden box or pot, as described above.
  • Water abundantly the first time, and then only to keep the soil moist.

Caring for bamboo

Bamboo careBamboo is an easy plant to care for, as long as you’ve properly set up your rhizome barrier.

Once in place, bamboo requires little care and can be trimmed at will.

Watering bamboo:

Bamboo needs lots of water, especially in containers. It’s important that the soil doesn’t stay dry for very long between 2 watering sessions.

Bamboo fertilizer

Adding fertilizer is important for bamboos, especially for potted bamboos.

The best bamboo fertilizers must contain high levels of nitrogen. It is best to choose bamboo fertilizer or even basic lawn fertilizer since bamboo is actually a member of the grass family.

  • Add bamboo fertilizer at the beginning of spring. Eventually, add more after 5 to 6 weeks.

Pruning bamboo correctly

pruning caring bambooHeight is yours to decide, and you may choose how high to let it grow without any dire consequence.

It will not only allow for your bamboo to hold well, it will also increase the density of stems in the clump.

Note that a trimmed stem won’t grow back. However, new culms will sprout at the base of the clump.

Do you want a fast and tall-growing bamboo species? Go for Phyllostachys, such as Phyllostachys nigra or Phyllostachys aurea.

One of the bamboo varieties common in temperate zones is Pseudosasa japonica, also called Japanese Arrow Bamboo. It boasts large leaves and reaches heights of 16 to 17 feet (4 to 5 m), and loses its leaves from the bottom up as years go by.

Bamboo diseases

Bamboo diseasesAlthough it resists most diseases, bamboo is rather vulnerable to several species of insects and parasites.

Bamboo turning yellow

Bamboo resists nearly all diseases, but it might start getting yellow leaves.

  • Usually this is a watering problem. Water more and you’ll see it get better…
  • …unless the problem is too much water (soil always wet). In that case, wait for the soil to dry out more before watering again.

Bamboo pests

Aphids might appear. They are often harmless for bamboos, unless they invade in large numbers.

Bamboos are also vulnerable to scale insect attacks. Leaves develop a whitish accumulation, turn yellow and eventually fall off.

Finally, red spider mites can be seen sucking the sap from bamboos, leading to yellowing leaves that eventually fall off.

Learn more about bamboo and their roots

Bamboo stems criss-crossing in the background of bamboo leaves.Bamboo comes from Asia where it is a well-known commodity, used also to feed panda bears for which it is a staple food.

It was first found in China, then in Japan, but now it grows in many of our western gardens.

Today, many different varieties are used for evergreen hedges, and also in pots or garden boxes on terraces and balconies.

  • Bamboos all develop underground stems that are called rhizomes.
  • These rhizomes store the accumulated energy and nutrients for the plant.
  • Bamboo rhizomes are able to develop tremendous pressures. Thin films are not enough to stop them, which is why strong rhizome barriers are the only solutions.

Smart tip about bamboo

Choose bamboo if you wish to hide yourself from your neighbor’s view in short time while adding an exotic touch to your garden.


Images: CC BY-NC 2.0: Mark, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0: Kang Chu; Pixabay: JacLou DL; shutterstock: Alexander Denisenko, Allikson Hays Allicat photography, Nice-pics-125