Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Reviewing Growing Bamboo In Our Garden

Bamboo In Our Garden

A Guide to Bamboo Varieties, Soil Conditions and Care.

Bamboo is such a beautiful and versatile plant. It adds a certain grace and elegance to the garden.  As it is generally a tall, green and elegant plant it gives a garden an added dimension and is also very useful.  Bamboo is an excellent screening plant for any ugly structure and gives privacy and shade in the garden. 

I love the shape of its plentiful leaves and the smooth canes which depending on variety may be of a gorgeous colour. I love the wonderful sound as the wind blows through its foliage.

There are so many types available some suitable for most gardens, some very exotic.  

However with Bamboo, maybe more than many other plants it is important to understand the different varieties and the care they require in order for it to be an asset to your garden and not a difficulty. 

Varieties of Bamboo

Bamboo comes in various varieties, but they can broadly be classified into two types: clumping Bamboo and running Bamboo and it is vital to know which one you are buying or have inherited in your garden.

Clumping Bamboo

As the name suggests, clumping Bamboo grows in tight, compact clumps. This makes it easy to control and contain. This type of Bamboo is ideal for small gardens or areas where you want to prevent it from spreading too aggressively. Some popular clumping Bamboo varieties include Bambusa multiplex, Fargesia spathacea, and Chusquea culeou. We have a clumping bamboo with beautiful black stems and fresh green leaves with an arching habit and is very well behaved. 

Running Bamboo

Running Bamboo tends to spread rapidly through underground rhizomes. The clue is in the name and that it is not easily contained. If not properly managed, it can become very invasive indeed and start popping up all over your lawn and borders and even into neighbours gardens. 

Running Bamboo is really much better suited to larger landscapes or areas where its growth can be restricted. It is possible to grow it in a large container where its growth is restricted but I would even play safe and ensure the pot is placed raised on an area of hard standing so that the roots cannot get through to ground easily. Popular running Bamboo varieties include Phyllostachys aurea, Phyllostachys nigra, and Phyllostachys bambusoides.

Bamboo Plant

Care Of Bamboo

Soil Conditions
Every successful plant story starts with the soil conditions being right for the plant. Bamboo is pretty adaptable and can live in a wide range of soil conditions happily and successfully. However it likes most a well-drained, slightly acidic soil. It is important to note that it really dislikes waterlogged poorly drained soils. We have heavy clay soil but ours lives at the top of a slope which means that it is well drained. So before purchasing a Bamboo it is wise to check your soil structure and type to see if Bamboo will be happy there. 

Most Bamboos like moist but not waterlogged soil. We found that our Bamboo required regular watering when establishing as a young plant. As with many plants it is better to give a deep watering once a week than a light watering more often. Once established we find there is no need to water as regularly. It is simply a case of watching the weather and watering often and deeply only in dry spells.

 Bamboo thrives best with a regular feed in the growing season. This is especially true if we are growing it in a large container or have poor soil. If we are gardening on rich soil you may well need to do a lot less feeding. Our soil is rich and so we now do not need to feed very often.  A balanced, slow-release fertiliser when the bamboo is growing will help to promote healthy growth.

Position Of Bamboo

The position Bamboo will thrive in depends on the variety you buy so it is always best to check the details for each plant. Some Bamboo species prefer full sun, others can cope with partial shade. We planted our Bamboo in a sunny south facing position and it is very happy there. 

It is vital to research how much space each particular type of Bamboo you are interested in requires. Clumping Bamboo is generally well behaved and can be planted closer to structures or other plants. Ours is near a fence and other plants and does not cause any issues at all.

However running Bamboo should be given lots of space to spread sited far away from your house and other buildings and your neighbours. Give a running Bamboo even more space than you think it needs and do make a barrier to inhibit its spread. Alternatively grow it in a large, very sturdy container.

Bamboo generally grows tall and does cast gorgeous dappled shade and enchanting shadows on any fences and walls. However that does mean that plants living nearby must enjoy living in dappled shade, or even slightly heavier shade so we must choose the plants around a bamboo carefully for all to be happy.

Bamboo Leaves Against The Sky

Pruning and Maintenance Of Bamboo

Regular pruning of any Bamboo is really essential to remove any dead, damaged and diseased canes. An unpruned bamboo can also very quickly become crowded and look less attractive. With pruning this allows for better air circulation within the plant and inhibits the spread of diseases. 

Pruning a large Bamboo can sometimes feel a little overwhelming so we always start by removing dead or damaged canes at their base. Then we move on to prune individual canes in order to bring light into the plant. I would advise standing back every few cuts to check how the plant looks and how much more you want to prune out.

It is important to prune each cane at ground level. I have seen Bamboo chopped off halfway so it ends up being three or four foot high and it always just looks odd to me to reduce the height of this graceful plant. We prune by thinning out the canes at ground level, which produces a manageable plant with a very graceful habit allowing air and circulation through and a healthier plant. I also like to prune off the lower leaves thereby showing off the really beautiful colour of the canes to full advantage.  

We use our tall prunings as supports for other plants. They are very strong and can be cut to a desired length.  We prune from the ground and then allow them to dry then they are used all over the garden to act as supports for other climbers. We often tie four or five of them together to form a wigwam shape for climbers to grow up.

If you do not have a Bamboo plant you can buy these very useful Bamboo sticks. They are very good for growing tomatoes, beans and peas and supporting young plant growth. 

Containing A Running Bamboo

 If you are planting running Bamboo, it's crucial to install a barrier around its edge to prevent it spreading too far and wide. Use a very tough barrier such as metal at least 18 inches deep to try to control the rhizomes. Even so do keep a watch on it as it can easily escape.

Personally, I would only grow running Bamboo, beautiful as it is, in a large container on a patio, never in my garden. We do not have a large garden and have buildings and neighbours close by so it really is not practical. For us we would always grow a clumping Bamboo for its grace and beauty. 

Bamboo At Kew Gardens.

We were lucky to visit Kew Gardens, London and see some of the Bamboos in the Palm House there. They were truly amazing plants, so tall and with such beautiful canes and leaves. Here are a few photographs I hope you enjoy. 

Bamboo Cane At Kew Gardens.

Close Up Of A Bamboo Cane At Kew Gardens

Bamboo is A Beautiful Addition To The Garden

With a little knowledge and care Bamboo can be a beautiful graceful and welcome addition to the garden. I love its gorgeous foliage and the relaxing sounds and how it sways in the wind. 

As most are evergreen you see its beauty all winter and it looks lovely covered in frost or snow as it does when the sunlight shines through it or the raindrops gather.

Bamboo is an excellent screening plant to cover up an ugly fence, the bins or just to give you more privacy in a part of the garden or away from the neighbours. Just make sure you get a suitable variety for your garden and check carefully what type you are buying.  


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  1. Your bamboo descriptions are fascinating, Raintree Annie. So interesting to learn about the 'dangers' of running bamboo; almost sounds as invasive as Kudzu. And I love your description about 'choosing the plants around a bamboo carefully for all to be happy.' You are such a sweet and considerate gardener, dear girl. :)

  2. I have seen a few yards in Florida with bamboo and of course, it is grown in our zoo for the pandas, but I don't remember ever seeing it in any other yards. Now, I completely understand why. While the clumping bamboo is quite lovely, I suspect the running bamboo would take over and become a real problem. It is also very clear after reading your review that anyone who wants to plant bamboo would need a full understanding of what to expect as far as care and maintenance.

  3. As always, Jasmine, your article is thorough, interesting and informative! I love your photos and your helpful success tips. I would only want to try growing clumping rather than running bamboo after reading your post. Thanks for another excellent review!

  4. Wow that is impressive!! You are a gardening guru - I have the basics down, but confidently know I would not be able to do this - really pretty - and I love bamboo!


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