Bamboo is a fascinating plant that can be used in clumps for focal points in the garden, or for adding structure and height to borders. Bamboo is perfect for using as a screen to section off ‘rooms’ within the garden, as hedging, and some will even grow in pots. Some varieties of Bamboo can become invasive if left unchecked, but keeping plants under control can be easy with some simple routine maintenance.
Bamboo is an evergreen, woody perennial, most varieties being fully hardy, thriving in moist but well drained soil in a sunny, sheltered spot. The majority of Bamboos will tolerate most soil types, but some, such as Shibatea kamasaca (a dwarf, compact, clump forming bamboo – good in containers) require an acid, ericaceous soil.
Image Cochaton nursery
Now that the temperature is warming up, it’s the perfect time to plant Bamboo. Before planting, dig in well rotted manure which will help retain moisture in the soil, and mulch around the base of the plant. By planting during the spring, the rhizomes store energy which is used to create fresh canes during the summer before dormancy in the winter.
Bamboos are classed as ‘running’ or ‘clump forming,’ with running bamboos being invasive with long underground rhizomes (stems), which will spread rampantly if not contained.
Arundinaria, Bashania, Chimonobambusa, Clavinodum, Hibanobambusa, Indocalamus, Phyllostachys, Pleioblastus, Pseudosasa, Sasa, Sasaella, Sasamorpha, Semiarundinaria, Sinobambusa and Yushania are all running bamboos and can become invasive. If choosing one of these you can contain them using a barrier to prevent them spreading through beds and borders. The trench should be 1.2m deep and lined with concrete paving slabs or corrugated iron – recycling hard landscaping waste for this barrier is perfect. The barrier should protrude 3 inches above ground level to contain stems from arching over the top. Covering up the barrier edge with stones and pebbles
Sagano Bamboo Forest, Kyoto
Bambusa, Chusquea, Dendrocalamus, Drepanostachyum, Fargesia (F. nitida, Chinese Fountain Bamboo, good for hedges), Himalayacalamus, Schizostachyum, Shibatea and Thamnocalamus are all clump forming and are less invasive.
There are Bamboos for all gardens, it’s just a case of choosing the correct variety for the location. Chimonobambusa marmorea is a low growing, shade loving variety, that grows to 2m in height. It will tolerate sun, but prefers being in partial shade.
Phyllostachys are attractive, large bamboos with running rhizomes, but behave like clump forming in cooler climates like the UK. They prefer full sun to partial shade. Phyllostachys nigra is a popular black cane that grows to a height of 5m.
Bashania and Pseudosasa or Sasaella are good for an exposed site, and you can’t go wrong with Pseudosasa and Indocalamus, which aren’t fussy at all.
Smaller, clump forming Bamboos are perfect for containers, but you do need to stay on top of watering during the summer and give a regular liquid feed. During the winter reduce watering and stop feeding, move to a frost free location or wrap in bubble wrap to protect during the colder months.
Routine Bamboo Maintenance
In the spring, remove dead, damaged or weak stems down to the ground with loppers, at the same time remove any debris from around the roots to give the plant good air flow. Always water during dry periods as Bamboo are thirsty plants.
Flowering Bamboo – image mostlydeadalready.blogspot
Bamboos flower infrequently, and can die afterwards, but not always. If you see a flowering shoot you can cut it out to discourage more from forming. If the whole plant is flowering, continue watering and stop feeding. They can turn brown and unattractive. The next spring, cut it down to base level and feed with high nitrogen feed to promote new green growth.
Bamboo scaffolding, Hong Kong – image Arch Daily
Bamboo generally don’t suffer from problems, but occasionally rust or rotting roots, or attack by aphids. If you fancy including Bamboo in your garden the best idea is to research which variety would be best for your soil, aspect, and location. I love Bamboo, it’s fast growing, easy to maintain and gives an exotic, jungle vibe. It looks fantastic in so many different settings, give it a go and I’m sure you’ll be pleased with the results.