Improve Your Landscape With Bamboo Plants
Because of its unique look, multiple varieties and minimal care requirements, it’s easy to be a fan of lucky bamboo. However, some varieties of perennials and bamboo are extremely aggressive when it comes to growth, so care must be taken when choosing these plants for your landscape. If an aggressive variety is not what you are looking for, there are clumping varieties available that do not spread.
What Is Bamboo?
Like the words grass and vegetable, bamboo is a catch all term that covers a number of different kinds of plants. Bamboo plants are considered perennial grasses, and typically have a fast growing woody stem and are considered one of the fastest growing of all plants.
While bamboo is most common throughout Asia, 3 species are native to North America, and 100 other non-native varieties can grow quite well in the U.S. Size and growth habits differ from bamboo plant to bamboo plant, ranging from tall tree-like plants that seem to go on forever to ground cover plants.
Bamboo Plant Types
There are basically two types of bamboo plants: clumping and running.
Running bamboo plants require large areas to accommodate their growth habit and will also require root pruning once a year if you hope to have any control over the plant. Without pruning the roots once a year, any other plants nearby will quickly be crowded out and overtaken by the bamboo.
Clumping bamboo plants grow much slower and consist of tight clusters that grow from a root ball at the center of the plant. Unlike their faster growing cousin, clumping bamboo varieties typically grow between two and 12 inches each year.
Growing Bamboo Plants
The amount of sun required to successfully grow bamboo depends on the variety, however all varieties have a common need of regular watering for best results. Avoid letting your plant stand in water however, otherwise it will likely die.
Since bamboo is a type of grass, it will benefit from fertilizer similar to that used on your lawn. For best results, choose a fertilizer with at least a nitrogen rating of 21. If available, consider using organic fertilizer.
How to Grow Running Bamboo Plants
Phyllostachys bamboos are the running variety most folks are familiar with. These are the bamboo plants most folks have seen on television and in books that have been known to grow as tall as 70 feet and have stems up to 6 inches wide. These plants grow very fast, are strong, and have an aggressive spreading nature and can survive quite well in hardiness zones 5-10.
They are available in multiple colors, with some of the more common being yellow, green, and even black. Their rapid growth habit and their ability to spread aggressively make them an excellent option for folks who prefer a natural privacy screen in their landscape.
However, Phyllostachys bamboo will require annual maintenance to keep them under control, otherwise they will take over your landscape, and worse, probably your neighbor’s too. You can use a barrier to help keep the spread in check. To reach their growth potential, Phyllostachys bamboo should get six hours of direct sunlight each day. Maintenance requirements include pruning the roots, getting rid of dead stems, and some shaping to keep it looking its best.
How to Grow Clumping Bamboo Plants
Clumping bamboo plants come in a number of varieties, and some do better in some environments than others. Bambusa for example prefers hot, southern climates where Borinda and Chusquea prefer cooler and milder climates. Fargesia bamboos work best for folks who live in colder climates, and will perform quite well in the cooler Zone 5 that reaches all the way to the Canadian border.
Unlike their faster growing cousin, clumping bamboo prefers shade and partial shade, and comes in a number of colors and sizes. clumping bamboo is easily pruned into the shape you prefer without any worry of damaging the plant. Outer canes can be pruned as close to the ground as possible if the plant clump has grown too wide. You can cut low growing ground-cover varieties all the way to the ground in the spring to avoid your plants from having a ragged, overgrown appearance. This will encourage new growth that will be shorter, thicker and better looking.
Growing Indoor Bamboo Plants
You can grow bamboo in containers,but running bamboo varieties will outgrow their container eventually which means you either have to repot them or divide them every couple of years. In addition, container grown bamboo will require adequate water, proper water drainage, and regular fertilizing just like any other container grown plant.
Many Bamboos that Aren’t Bamboo at All
If you’ve ever seen a plant called “Lucky Bamboo” you might be shocked to learn it’s not a bamboo plant at all. Lucky Bamboo is actually a variety of lily and it’s official name is Dracaena sanderiana.
Another plant often believed to be bamboo that isn’t is Nandina, which is often called heavenly bamboo. Despite the confusing name, Nandinas are actually a variety of Barberry. These plants are quite popular in the southeastern US because of their hardiness and low maintenance. Wild varieties of heavenly bamboo are considered invasive and may be restricted in some areas, so be sure to check for any restrictions in your area before planting it.