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Phyllostachys, the perfect bamboo for landscaping

Phyllostachys bamboo with stems and leaves

Phyllostachys is among the most famous bamboo families in the garden. Giant, dwarf, green, yellow black… there’s one species for every garden! Discover how to care for it in a few simple steps.

Ah, before we start: it’s important to really check the variety of the bamboo you’re planting: some Phyllostachys bamboo species are really invasive and spread fast. For these, you’ll have to set protections up first.

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Planting Phyllostachys

Where and when to plant?

Planting phyllostachys bambooBamboo loves cool and well-draining soil, neutral to lightly alkaline. It hates windy areas and soggy-wet terrain. Place it either in full sun or in light shade.

Plant in spring, after any risk of freezing has disappeared. It’s also possible to plant at the beginning of fall, before the first frost spells.

How to plant it?

  1. Dig a hole at least twice as large as the clump
  2. A rhizome barrier surrounds a clump of tall phyllostachysIf the variety you’ve chosen has runners, set up a rhizome barrier all around the hole.
  3. Add a shovelful of compost to your garden soil
  4. Spread a layer of gravel along the floor of the hole
  5. Cover with a layer of soil
  6. Position the root ball in the hole so that the crown matches ground level.
  7. Backfill, press down and water.


Caring for Phyllostachys

Close-up of phyllostachys leavesWater during the warm season. Indeed, in winter, you shouldn’t add any extra water: bamboo won’t like it. However, from April to October, watering should be frequent and abundant. The goal is to keep the substrate cool.

Every spring, add a healthy dose of natural fertilizer with high levels of nitrogen. You can either go for crushed horn, or a layer of compost at the base of the bamboo stalks.


Growing phyllostachys in pots

Potted phyllostachys develop thick rootsTo grow a healthy bamboo in a pot, you must be able to water it as soon as the soil dries out. Bamboo require huge amounts of water. Water every evening on days when temperatures are high. If not particularly hot, water on a regular basis, whenever the surface soil is dry.

The pot must be large enough for the plant to develop comfortably, and it should have a drainage hole at the bottom for excess water to drain out. Add soil amendments designed for shrubs or leaf plants upon planting.

In spring, give the plant bamboo or lawn fertilizer, to give your Phyllostachys the nutrients it needs to grow. Indeed, bamboo plants are part of the grasses family, just like our lawn grass!

How to prune Phyllostachys

Removing a dried leaf sheathBamboo don’t really need any pruning. It’s enough to remove dried culms, this will help make space for new ones.

Dried leaves will continuously fall to the ground. You can simply let them be, they’ll form mulch that will protect the clump from the cold in winter, and keep the soil moist in summer.

Dead phyllostachys bamboo leaves forming mulch

Phyllostachys varieties

There are different varieties, each of which has different ornamental attributes. Here is our small selection:

  • Yellow culm with green stripe, phyllostachys varietyPhyllostachys aurea: this is a variety that copes with 10°F (-12°C) and reaches nearly 30 feet (8-9 meters). Its leaves and stalks are a soft green color. When exposed to the sun, the stalks change color and becomes like gold.
  • Phyllostachy aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’: grows well in containers, reaches from 15 to 20 feet (5 to 8 meters). Its shiny green leaves are showcased by yellow canes (purple in spring).
  • Phyllostachys bissetii: this species is hardy to -13°F (-25°C)! Up to 25 feet tall (8 meters), it has stalks and leaves that are both green.
  • Phyllostachys humilis: dark green culms, that turn lighter with age. Height varies from 6 to 15 feet (2 to 5 meters), which makes this species ideal for small gardens and for growing in pots.
  • Phyllostachys sp. ‘Tip Top’: this funny name hides many serious advantages: this variety resists drought, is hardy, and doesn’t send out many runners. On top of that, its small 6 to 15 foot height (2-5 meters) makes it easy to grow.
  • Phyllostachys nigra: Black canes of this black bamboo make the green leaves stand out, with a modern designer-like touch.

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY-SA 2.0: Dinesh Valke, Leonora Enking, Matt Lavin
CC BY 2.0: Nonyaz
Public Domain: Bat
CC BY 4.0: Kim & Forest Starr
Pixabay: Hans Braxmeier
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