There are as many types of bamboo plants to choose from for your garden as there are uses for the plant itself. Over 1000 species of bamboo in 90 genera have been described and named and there may well be varieties waiting to be discovered. Bamboo plants grow at various heights in various ways with various leaf lengths and shapes. Variety should not come as a surprise considering how many areas of the planet in which they’ve evolved. Bamboo spans the globe from the United States to Asia to Australia and can now be a beautiful addition to your own home.
The bamboo plant not only adds beauty but it also helps the environment.
There are several factors to consider when choosing a bamboo plant:
- Purpose – The uses of the bamboo plant are endless. It can be a striking stand-alone, a low variegated border, a groundcover or an accent plant. It holds prominent placement in creating stunning Japanese gardens. By far it’s most popular use is as a fast-growing privacy screen. Since bamboo is one of the fastest growing plants on the planet, a screen or hedge can be created more quickly and inexpensively than hardwood trees or fencing.
- Temperature – It is best to select plants that will tolerate temperatures well below the lowest ones you’ve experienced in the last few years.
- Sunlight – Choose a species based on the number of hours of direct sunlight they will receive and what part of the day they will be in the sun. A.M. sun is cooler and P.M. sun may be harsher.
- Height and diameter - Affected by all aspects of the climate, most plants have a known reference point based on their climate of origin.
- Clumping vs. Running Bamboo – There are advantages and disadvantages to both. Clumpers spread wide more slowly but grow tall more quickly and they don’t require a root barrier for containment. Runners spread wide more quickly to form screens and are less expensive but they sometimes require a root barrier.
- Aesthetic – There are canes with colors, stripes, large/small diameters, exposed or covered with foliage; leaves can be striped and variegated, long and thin or large and wide or very small. Growth may be vertical and narrow, bushy and wide, weeping or arching. Selection is all a matter of personal taste and landscaping needs.
Even if you don’t have the greenest of thumbs, the bamboo plant is a hardy enough plant to survive with minimal upkeep. While the bamboo plant requires liberal watering in the first six months, once established they require only intermittent deep watering. Organic composts are helpful to the growing bamboo plant and depending on type and purpose of the plant, pruning can be frequent or occasional.
Unfortunately, bamboo plants have gained a bad reputation and can strike fear in the heart of many a homeowner association. Bamboo plants spread via rhizomes. Running bamboos have long rhizomes that spread quickly while clumping bamboos have shorter rhizomes that don’t spread so rapidly. Running bamboo is easily controlled though. To keep bamboo from running amok, install a plastic barrier in a narrow three-foot-deep trench along the row of bamboo plants. Leaving an inch or two of the liner above ground will help prevent stray shoots from jumping the barrier.
The spread of bamboo can also be controlled by effective use of water. If the plants are watered only in the area in which the plants are wanted and nowhere else within 10 to 20 feet, the dry soil created will be a barrier to root growth. Also, a water-filled stream or ditch can stop growth since rhizomes and roots cannot be saturated for long periods of time. Make sure to wait and see if containment is actually needed. Many species require a 3 year growth period before they begin to spread. Rhizomes can be let go and you can remove new cane shoots by breaking them off if they emerge where they are not wanted – these are the tender shoots that can be used for any of the recipes in Green Earth News Bamboo Flavors section!
Bamboo plants also add an element of surprise to any garden. Called gregarious flowering, bamboo species are able to flower periodically all over the world at the same time. For example, the Phyllostachys bambusoides flowered during the 1970s, as it has done every 120 years through recorded bamboo history. No one knows what triggers the flowering and the flowers themselves are as diverse as the types of bamboo plants available.
As the popularity of the bamboo plant grows, so does the number of nurseries and experts to speak with. Visit this directory to find a nursery near you to learn more about the right type of plant for you and how to best plant and care for your beautiful bamboo garden.
Need some wonderfully comfortable and highly-absorbent loungewear to use while working in your bamboo garden? Visit Green Earth Bamboo for womens tunics, womens tank tops or mens bamboo clothes to wear while building your bamboo grove. And so forget those extra soft bamboo socks to keep your feet feeling fresh!