Modernize Your Garden With Bamboo

Hande Salcan
Bamboo is a great choice for specimen planting or for screening, and it can be easy to grow if you know how to manage it. It fits in with most garden styles, and there are varieties of nearly every size and for every hardiness zone. Here are the basics on how to grow bamboo in your garden!

Types of Bamboo
There are basically two types of bamboo. Running bamboo is the type you have been warned about that can take over your entire yard (and the next one) in a pretty darn short time, turning it into a tropical jungle. But with some tricks, you can grow it!

Clumping bamboo is more well contained, and while it still spreads underground, it is much slower and controlled. This is a better choice for the casual gardener, or those with limited space but who still want to enjoy the beauty of graceful bamboo.

Bamboo Basics
Both types of bamboo have tropical varieties meant for warmer climates, and mountainous varieties hardy down to -15 degrees or more. Check your nursery tag.

Choose a bamboo that has a mature height that fits in with the scale of the effect you desire. Screening bamboos can be taller, specimens can be shorter.

Bamboo requires well drained soil.

For the first two years in the ground, water your bamboo well. Fertilize once in the spring. If you are trying to prevent running bamboo from, well, running… don’t fertilize as often.

Check on whether your variety prefers full sun, or some afternoon shade.

Prune back to the ground old, dull culms every year. (Culms are the upright “blades” of bamboo.) Some gardeners prefer to prune off any branches that extend horizontally, so that all culms run vertically straight up for a graphic and striking effect. If you have culms flopping over, they probably require more water, less feritlizer. You can prune back the height to help them recover, or just prune them down altogether.

How to Grow Running Bamboo
If you have found a species of running bamboo that you just have to try, you will have to contain the underground roots from spreading beyond your planting area. There are several ways to achieve this.

You can transplant your nursery bamboo into a large pot, then plant the whole pot into the ground. Leave the collar of the pot above ground. Cover with mulch if you find it unsightly.

Another option is to place a plastic or concrete barrier at least 12-18 inches below the soil. Bamboo are shallow rooted so this should prevent the bamboo from running away. You can prune back to the ground any culms that escape beyond the barrier.

Finally, you can dig a 12 inch deep trench around the area you would like to contain the bamboo too. Fill with sand, then several times a season, pull back the sand and prune back any roots that have poked through into the trench.

How to Grow Clumping Bamboo
Clumping Bamboo is much less likely to run rampant across your property. Many varieties are quite polite in fact. Make sure you check the size and space requirements of the variety you purchase.

Bamboo in Containers
Both types of bamboo can be grown successfully in containers. This is the lowest maintenance option, and can help maintain the health of the rest of your garden. Be sure to choose a container large enough to be in scale with the eventual height of your variety.

Bamboo is not the garden evil that urban legend portrays…as long as you tend to it’s needs. It can turn a ho hum yard into a stunning garden in a short time, with these few bamboo growing tips and tricks. So are you brave enough to give it a try?

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