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Pleioblastus, the dwarf bamboo that’s a blast to grow

Wide clump of pleioblastus bamboo

Definitely an outlier in the usually tall bamboo family, dwarf Pleioblastus won’t ever grow taller than 5 feet (1.5 meters).

Pleioblastus key facts

Botanical namePleioblastus sp.
Common name – dwarf bamboo, pygmy bamboo

Height – from 1 to 4 feet (30 to 120 cm) depending on the species
Planting density – 5 to 10 plants per sq. yard (m²)
Exposure – part sun
Soil – any type, but not too dry

This bamboo compensates for height by growing wide and bushy, turning it into an excellent evergreen high ground cover.

Planting Pleioblastus

Directly in the ground

To ready the soil for your dwarf bamboo, add compost, soil mix or manure and mix it in well if ever the soil seems too poor. Use a spade to flip the soil layers over and make sure it’s well mixed and homogenous. This step also helps aerate and loosen up the soil to facilitate root growth.

As is the case for other bamboo species, Pleioblastus can turn very invasive. Setting a rhizome barrier up while still at the planting stage is strongly recommended. Here’s the procedure:

  • Planting guide for pleioblastus bambooDig a trench nearly 2 feet deep (50 cm) around the area where you’re planting your dwarf bamboo plants.
  • Slide the protective barrier in the trench. Where ends meet, overlap them generously by several feet at least, or else roots will be able to wind their way through.
  • Backfill the trench without breaking the rhizome barrier.
  • More on controlling bamboo with a rhizome barrier here (with more pictures).

Smart tip for the environment: since summers get dryer and dryer, plant in fall. Your plants will have more time to spread their roots around, which will help them cope with lack of water, and you won’t have to water as much to keep it alive during that first summer.

Pleioblastus bamboo in a pot

You can grow Pleioblastus in a pot. The only precaution if you prefer planting it in a pot is to use containers that are quite large: 4 to 8 gallons minimum (15 to 30 liters). This will give the thick rhizome system enough space to spread. The roots will spread easily in a mix of garden soil and fresh soil mix.

A crucial point is to avoid sitting water: work on the drainage by lining the bottom of the pot with a layer of gravel or pozzolana. This material has a useful characteristic: it absorbs moisture and humidity and releases it to the plant’s roots without drowning them.

In summer, when heat waves strike, water regularly but not too much. Every 3 to 4 years, repot with fresh soil. This step aims to replace the depleted substrate. Increase the size of the pot to give the rhizomes more growing space, too.

Caring for Pleioblastus bamboo

Hardy pleioblastus leaves Dwarf bamboo doesn’t require any specific care. A particularly hardy species, it can take cold temperatures as low as -4°F (-20°C), and even -13°F (-25°C) for short periods in dry weather. You don’t need to winterize it.

Pleioblastus doesn’t need any pruning, except if you want to refresh the clump. To do so, cut it short (but not to the ground) in March, April.

  • When spread as ground cover over a larger surface, use a brushcutter or a lawn mower set on the highest setting.

For growing in pots, provide slow-release nitrogen fertilizer at the beginning of spring.

Propagating Pleioblastus

Propagating a potted pleioblastus bamboo clumpIt’s very easy to obtain new Pleioblastus specimens:

  • pull or dig a clump out
  • divide it into several parts
  • replant each part wherever you want a new one to grow

Remember to ensure drainage and eventually root barriers, as when planting it for the first time (see above).

Pleioblastus diseases

When planted properly, Pleioblastus isn’t a species that’s very vulnerable to diseases or pests. You shouldn’t have any problems at all.

  • When planted in pots, add on your gardening schedule a reminder to fertilize yearly, or growth will slow and get scrawny.

Landscaping with different Pleioblastus varieties

Landscaping with pleioblastus bambooA versatile shrub, Pleioblastus finds uses in shrub beds, pots, as ground cover and more. Its extremely dense root system also makes it a great help when fighting against erosion along river edges and along ditches.

Here are a few interesting varieties:

  • Pleioblastus variegatus: never growing taller than 3 feet (1 m), this dwarf bamboo stands out thanks to its variegated leaves and its white fuzz-covered canes. This is a specific variety of the Pleioblastus fortunei species.
  • Pleioblastus auricomus: reaches 5 feet (1.5 m), with leaves that bear a luminous yellow stripe to liven up the garden. A synonym for the botanical name is Arundinaria auricoma.

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY-SA 2.0: Leonora Enking, harum.koh
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