Bamboo is a fast growing evergreen plant that provides architectural interest and texture to any garden. Featuring upright and elegant canes, delicate foliage and interesting growth habits, bamboo can be used in a variety of locations including Asian gardens, as a privacy screen or hedge, and even in containers.
Bamboo is a member of the grass family of plants and shares many of the same characteristics and care requirements. Bamboo is generally divided into two categories including Running Bamboo and Clumping Bamboo.
Running Bamboos are generally smaller than the Timber bamboos but still offer significant cane widths and plant height. Running bamboos are fast growing, vigorous and are capable of aggressively filling in an area. Their underground roots or rhizomes should be contained of planted in containers. Timber Bamboo varieties are also runners but are larger, with massive canes, and are capable of achieving great heights.
Common Running Varieties
- Phyllostachys vivax – Timber Bamboo
- Phyllostachys edulis ‘Moso’ – Moso bamboo
- Phyllostachys aurea – Golden Bamboo
- Phyllostachys nigra – Black Bamboo
- Semiarundinaria fastousa – Temple Bamboo
Clumping bamboos are generally smaller in cane width and plant height, but are much more well behaved. The base diameter of clumping bamboos grow only a few inches per year so they do not normally need to be contained. As such, they can be used in many more locations in your garden.
Common Clumping Bamboo Varieties
- Fargesia rufa – Sunset Glow Bamboo
- Fargesia nitida – Fountain Bamboo
- Fargesia murielae – Umbrella Bamboo
- Borinda angustissima
- Borinda boliana
- Thamnocalamus crassinodus
Exposure / Light:
Most bamboos prefer areas of full sun to part sun in the Pacific Northwest. Thamnocalamus clumping varieties can tolerate more shade than the others.
Moisture / Soil:
Bamboos generally prefer moist, but well drained soils. Avoid planting in wet, heavy soils. Bamboo has a helpful tendency of letting you know when it is thirsty. Dry bamboos will curl their foliage lengthwise. When you see this, you know it’s time to water.
Being the tallest members of the grass family, bamboos can be fertilized using the same products and timing you would use to fertilize your lawn. Apply a fertilizer in early spring at very least. New bamboo plantings will also benefit from an application of bonemeal or liquid transplant fertilizer.
Bamboo canes have about a 3 year lifespan before they begin to die out. We generally recommend removing one third of the smallest or oldest canes each year. This will redirect the plants energy into producing new canes. Unlike trees, bamboo canes never get thicker – the diameter of the cane will be the same when it emerges from the ground as it will be when it reaches full height.
An area that has become overrun with bamboo can be cleaned out over time with chemical herbicides and old fashioned hard work. Any product that kills grass will also kill bamboo. Alternately, dig out canes and rhizomes regularly to weaken the plant. Eventually, you will succeed if you persevere.
Containing Bamboo - Bamboo Barrier
For running bamboos, we strongly recommend implementing a containment system to control the spread of bamboo rhizomes. Any non-biodegradeable product will work, but commercial products like our Bamboo Barrier product are excellent solutions. Bamboo rhizomes are fairly shallow rooted, as such simply install your barrier at an angle with the top matching the surrounding soil level. When bamboo rhizomes creep over the top of the barrier – simply prune them away.
For More Information:
Arts Nursery carries a large and diverse selection of timber, running and clumping bamboo varieties. For more information about bamboo, visit us in person or call us at 604.882.1201.