HOW TO GROW BAMBOO
Hardy bamboo make fantastic ornamental garden plants. They are also very popular as they are evergreen, easy to grow, and extremely 'pest and disease' resistant. Not only will bamboo provide form, structure and height in the garden, they will also provide a pleasing rustling sound from the slightest breeze.
However, you can't just plant any bamboo species in the garden as the majority of them originate from tropical or sub-tropical regions - primarily East Asia, through to Northern Australia, and west to India and the Himalayas. This is of course fine if you live in a compatible climate, but a note of caution! These tropical bamboo species also include some of the fastest-growing plants on Earth with reported growth rates of 100 cm (39 in) in 24 hours!
Some of the hardiest bamboo species can be grown in places as cold as USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5–6, although they will typically drop their leaves and may even lose all above-ground growth. Be that as it may, the rhizomes generally survive and send up shoots again in the spring. In milder climates, such as USDA Zone 8 and above, some hardy bamboo may remain fully leafed out year around.
There are more than 70 genera of bamboo which are further divided into about 1,450 species. Of these there are little more than a handful of species in common production for garden use. The most significant of which are the golden bamboo - Phyllostachys aurea, and the black bamboo - Phyllostachys nigra.
Bamboo are not particularly selective when it comes to soil, but in general, bamboos prefer a slightly acidic to moderately acidic soil. Rocky and/or soggy soils should be avoided.
Bamboos have a fairly shallow root system which is surprising when you consider how tall and fast they can grow. Unfortunately this can make bamboo susceptible to wind damage.
Not only does wind have the potential to uproot a bamboo plant, but it can also lead to water loss within the plant. Bamboos require a high amount of water and constant winds will dry them out.
The most common mistake made is to dig the hole too deep and too narrow. Planting a bamboo too deep or narrow will inhibit the roots ability to absorb oxygen and gather nutrients. Do not disturb the root system when planting as this can inhibit the speed at which the plant can establish itself in the new environment.
It is generally advised to avoid using fertiliser or manure during the initial planting, as this too can potentially damage the root system. High levels of nitrogen in a fertiliser can actually burn the young rhizomes. Keep in mind that, bamboos do not grow well in soggy or heavy soils, and if you need to contain the spread of the rhizomes, it may be necessary to install some kind of root barrier.
Once the newly planted bamboo is secured in the hole, it is worth testing its stability. You may need to secure it to a suitable point so that strong winds will not be able to knock the plant over while its roots are establishing themselves.
Bamboo will thrive best with a regular layer of mulch to protect the roots and rhizomes. The mulch not only serves as protection from pests and weeds, it will also help to retain water and providing nutrients.
Care and Maintenance of Bamboo
While bamboo like to dry out after watering, too much or too little water can be harmful to the bamboo- a common problem with pot grown bamboo .
Newly planted specimens should be watered at least twice a week in their ideal weather conditions.
In areas with warm temperatures or frequent wind, the bamboo may require water up to 5 times a week or even up to every day.
As the grower, you will need to make a judgement call on watering frequency by examining the leaves and soil.
After your bamboo plant is established, it is recommended to fertilise it regularly. An organic fertiliser high in nitrogen is ideal, alternatively mulch with a good layer of well rotted farm manure.
Pruning bamboo on a regular basis is usually not necessary and is usually done only for aesthetics. Culms - bamboo stems - will generally live up to ten years, but can start to dry out and look unattractive later in life. Older culms will compete for light and nutrients with the younger culms and allowing them to live will lessen the overall beauty of the entire clump or grove. This is done by cutting off old culms at soil level.
Depending on the area, installation of a rhizome barrier can be a difficult or impossible task. The most simple and cost effective method of controlling bamboo is to prune the rhizomes on a regular basis.
Rhizome pruning is a seasonal task, normally done in late autumn through to spring. As new rhizomes emerge from the soil, a sharp garden spade can be used to sever the rhizomes as they travel beneath the ground. Start by marking out the desired perimeter to which the bamboo should be confined. Next, plunge the spade as deep as possible into the soil along this perimeter. This will cut the rhizomes in the area and limit their growth for the remainder of the season. This must be done at least once per year in order to work effectively.
Freezing winds are a young bamboo plant’s worst enemy. While cold temperatures are not particularly damaging to the bamboo plant, loss of moisture from driving winds will cause plant to dry out quickly.
The first and most important step to over wintering your bamboo is to provide a heavy layer of mulch at the base of the plant. This will give the soil beneath some degree of protection from freezing temperatures and allow the roots and rhizomes to remain healthy. The next step is to protect the plant from excessive wind exposure. This can be done by planting a known cold hardy plant in the vicinity of the bamboo in order to deflect and absorb an incoming wind. It is also possible to install a screen or panel in front of the plant to provide an equal level of protection.
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