Plant Spotlight: 3 Bamboos You Choose

Bamboo is singularly one of the tallest and narrowest plants on Earth. This can make it a delightful choice for a garden in order to add an element of height and beauty. Bamboo is actually a grass. While many types of bamboo are contained and well kept, still others are rampant invasive plants that take over entire fields at such rapid speeds that gardeners have a difficult time containing it.

Clumping bamboo is typically noninvasive; they have short roots and spread quite slowly. Running bamboo spreads via tentacle-like rhizomes, is severely invasive, and can spread 15 feet in a single year. Bamboo that is a running bamboo can jump over and under concrete, fence lines, and all kinds of in-soil barriers, so caution must be considered when planting or dealing with it. All types of bamboo require regular maintenance.

Which bamboo is for you? Below are descriptions of three types of bamboo: Black Bamboo, Golden Bamboo, and Hardy Bamboo. Compare the descriptions for an idea of what might be best for your landscape.

  1. Black Bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra var. Henonis)

Also known as: Henon Bamboo, Phyllostachys, Bullet Proof Bamboo, Ghost Bamboo, Giant Gray Bamboo ‘Henon’

Plant Description: Very hardy bamboo with deep green foliage. The 40-foot poles exhibit an ornamental gray covering that peels off after harvested from the ground. Leaves turn bronze in colder weather. Canes are used for construction because of their very straight nature. It takes decades for flowers to develop and when they do, the bamboo might die because it becomes severely weakened from the process of producing flower and seed.

Special Note: HIGHLY INVASIVE PLANT. Black bamboo is known as a “running bamboo” and spreads by underground runners. In the right environment, bamboo can be difficult to eradicate. With this in mind, this plant must be confined by a deep root barrier which is at least 30 inches deep (or more) to prevent its spread.

Plant Type: Grass

Sun/Shade: Sun to part shade

Cultivation: Easily grown in most types of moist well-draining soil. Prefer humidity and moisture. Does not like dry hard winds. Suitable for semi-shade and woodland settings. Pruning any time of year. To control its invasive nature, it is recommended to prune the underground rhizomes around the perimeter of each bamboo planting area twice per year; summer and fall. Do not place river rock or pebbles as a mulch around the base of the bamboo as leaves will fall on top of the rocks and eventually the hungry roots will swallow up any rock mulch. This, in turn, makes digging and cutting the roots out in the future quite difficult.

Height: 30 to 40 feet (9 to 12 meters), Width: 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 meters)

Bloom: Unknown

Bloom Time: Flowers take decades to develop

Origin: China

Zones: Zone 7, zone 8, zone 9, zone 10, zone 11

Wildlife: Birds, panda bears, rats

Landscape Uses: Woodland garden, Asian garden, Dappled shade area, hedge, screening, container plant

  1. Golden Bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris)

Also known as: Common bamboo, bamboo

Plant Description: Common bamboo is an incredibly aggressive and fast-growing clumping woody reed-like grass which typically develops a 3-inch thick arching cane that can grow to enormous heights; 40 to 60 feet tall in a single season. This plant is considered high maintenance as it takes consistent root pruning to prevent invasion. Each clump of bamboo produces several new stems annually which grow to their full height in the first year of growth. In future years the plant will grow new leaves and side branches. In the right tropical environment, it is possible to have 30 centimeters of growth daily, leading to heights over 30 meters tall. Bamboos rarely flower.

Special note –The common bamboo has escaped and invaded heavily in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern states, as well as the Western and Southwestern territories. Infestations are noted to have come from residential homes where the varieties have escaped and colonized. Once planted, bamboo is nearly impossible to eradicate due to its thick clumping rooted nature.

Plant Type: Grass

Sun/Shade: Full sun to part shade

Cultivation: Grows quickly in fertile moist soils. Prune dead or weak stems as noticed. Hard cut new growth stems at the root to control its rhizomatic spread across landscapes. Cut frequently in order to contain the plant from invading. If you do plant this highly invasive weed, be sure to strongly contain the roots so that it cannot spread via rhizomes.

Height: 65 feet (20 meters), Width: 32 feet (10 meters)

Bloom: Red

Bloom Time: Rarely

Origin: Yunnan, China riversides and open forests

Zones: Zone 9, zone 10, zone 11, zone 12

Wildlife: Birds, Panda bears

Landscape Uses: Ornamental edible garden, Asian garden, screening, wind block, erosion control, container gardens

  1. Hardy Bamboo (Fargesia rufa)

Also known as: Dragon Head Bamboo, Fountain Bamboo, Clump-forming bamboo, Non-running Bamboo

Plant Description: An evergreen non-running bamboo. Clumping with growth to 10 feet tall, this bamboo is non-invasive and cold tolerant. Leaves are shiny blue-green on top, but a dull gray color beneath. Attractive in a breeze as it sways and bends with wind.

Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial

Sun/Shade: Part shade

Cultivation: Easily grown in organically rich soil that is acidic and well-drained. Prefers shade and cool summer climates, will not perform well in hot regions. Provide mulch for winter root protection. Deer and drought resistant.

Height: 6 to 10 feet (1.8 to 3.0 meters), Width: 6 to 10 feet (1.8 to 3.0 meters)

Bloom: Rarely flowers

Bloom Time: Rarely flowers

Origin: China

Zones: Zone 5, zone 6, zone 7, zone 8

Wildlife: Birds

Landscape Uses: Specimen, hedge, screen, patio container, contained plant, borders

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