A bamboo backyard can transform your environment into a secluded nook with a tropical feel. Tall bamboo plants create a natural privacy screen. Growing bamboo in water can make your yard look like an island oasis.
A bamboo backyard makes some gardeners run for the hills, however some bamboo varieties can be invasive, taking over your yard and crowding out native plants. That’s no reason to avoid bamboo planting, though. Here’s everything you need to know about creating a garden that includes this beautiful species without getting a headache.
Bamboo Backyard 101
Bamboo trees are actually not trees at all; bamboo is a type of grass. Native bamboo plants grow in South and Central America and Asia. Many people don’t realize that some species of bamboo are native to the U.S. Science Daily reports that the newest species of North American bamboo was discovered in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina in this century. This grass acts like a bamboo tree, dropping its leaves in the fall. Other bamboo species have different characteristics.
Bamboo trees are actually not trees at all; bamboo is a type of grass.
How fast can bamboo grow? That depends on the species. The Spruce explains that one of the easiest ways to identify bamboo is by its reproductive tendencies.
Clumping bamboo is the less invasive version of the plant. In other words, this is the type of bamboo that politely stays where you plant it. Its roots form a mass, and it grows in tight clusters. Clumped bamboo is a slow spreader so it only requires little maintenance. Bamboo Garden says that the roots develop in a U-shape. Underground, the buds will turn upward, creating new shoots next to the existing ones. They’ll only spread outward a few inches each year, but they’ll gain about 1 to 2 feet in height.
Running bamboo is the unrestrained party animal of the species. It won’t stay put. Running bamboo expands by sending out rhizomes. This horizontal root system allows the plant to spread quickly. Running bamboo is considered to be incredibly invasive. HGTV reports that Fishpole bamboo roots can travel up to 20 feet underground. You may want to avoid planting this type of bamboo, especially if you don’t want dirty looks from your neighbors.
How long does it take bamboo to grow? Running bamboo grows 3 to 5 feet every year.
Where Can You Grow Bamboo?
You don’t need to live in a tropical rainforest to grow and create a bamboo backyard. Mother Earth News says that most bamboo types grow well in the southern United States, along the Gulf Coast from Georgia to Texas and on the West Coast. However, many people grow the ornamental plant throughout the country.
What Type Of Bamboo Should You Buy?
The type of bamboo that you plant depends on your climate, where you’ll be planting the bamboo and how you want it to look.
The American Bamboo Society has compiled a chart of more than 490 kinds of bamboo.
When you find a plant that you might want to grow in your garden, you can cross-reference it with one of these. The table lists the botanical names as well as the common names that you might see in a catalog. According to Bamboo Inspiration, the hardiest varieties of clumping bamboo are Thamnocalamus and Fargesia, also known as Panda bamboo.
SF Gate says that the best way to find the best type of bamboo for your region is to pinpoint the lowest winter temperature. Keep an eye on the temperature in your area with a weather station. It can be a bummer to see the bamboo that you planted in the summer die off because it couldn’t handle your cold winters.
You can use more weather gadgets to help you purchase the ideal plants for your environment, but one instrument that you would need is a Rain Gauge. This tool allow you to measure the rainfall amounts and know how much water you are using for your bamboo backyard.
These are some of the most common outdoor bamboo plants for cold climates:
- Yellow Groove bamboo – Can survive temperatures of -5 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Panda bamboo – Can withstand temperatures as cold as -25 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Bissetii Dwarf bamboo – Flourishes in zones that see winter temperatures of -10 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Blue Fountain bamboo – Hardy to temperatures of -20 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Chinese Timber Bamboo – This impressive bamboo grows to 35 to 70 feet and survives temperatures as low as -5 degrees Fahrenheit.
These are some of the most common bamboo plants for warm climates:
- Thamnocalamus tessellatus – Recommended for zones 7 through 9, high winds and sunny spots. Leaves show damage at temperatures below 12 degrees Fahrenheit. Grows to 12 to 15 feet.
- Bambusa multiplex – Grows best in zones 8 through 11 and grows in semi-shade. Doesn’t thrive in temperatures below 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Grows to 14 to 16 feet.
- Golden Goddess – Hardy in zones 8 through 10 and enjoys partial to full sun. Grows to 6 to 8 feet tall. Canes are slender and graceful.
- Black bamboo – Recommended from zones 7 through 10 and hardy to 5 degrees Fahrenheit. Grows to about 25 feet tall. Culms turn black within about three years.
Bamboo Gardening – Garden Design Ideas For Bamboo
Asian landscaping relies heavily on bamboo for privacy and interest. Bamboo landscaping is convenient because you don’t need a lot of plants to fill an area. Fast growing bamboo fills in the spaces within a few years. Therefore, it’s the perfect plant for people who love a beautiful garden but don’t want to do a lot of work.
What’s more luxurious than relaxing in a sanctuary surrounded by giant bamboo? Plant a grove, and then cut a path through the center to give yourself a refuge among the chaos of daily life. According to Bamboo Botanicals, Chinese Timber bamboo is ideal for creating a grove. Make sure that you have a large enough property to support its spreading behavior.
You can make your yard stand out from your neighbors’ properties by using bamboo instead of traditional hedge plants. Bamboo hedges should have low leaves that branch out of the canes. Bambusa multiplex is also called Hedge bamboo for its ability to create a leafy border. Golden Goddess can also be pruned into a hedge shape.
Prune bamboo hedges once a year. Shape them every spring or summer, when the culms have reached full height. Once the plant has matured, cut new growth at ground level if you start to see that it’s thicker than the existing growth. This will help you maintain a shapely hedge. If you really want to play around with your garden, treat your bamboo like a topiary, snipping it into unique shapes.
The same type of bamboo that works well as a hedge can make beautiful bamboo bushes. In colder climates, bamboo bushes are grown as ornamental grass and cut down in the winter. Use a bamboo bush to anchor a garden or provide a backdrop for a koi pond.
Small Bamboo Plants
If you’re just stumbling into the world of bamboo growing, you might be more comfortable buying bamboo plants for indoor use. Dengarden explains that Dracena sanderiana, or Lucky bamboo, can even bring you good fortune. How’s that for getting started on the right foot with bamboo gardening? Although it’s not a true bamboo plant, it has the same exotic style. Lucky bamboo is easy to grow in potting soil or a vase of pebbles.
Other plants that look like bamboo can be grown in containers. The Bamboo Palm has stripes on the stems that look like bamboo nodes, according to BigPlants. Buying bamboo for containers is just like purchasing it for your garden. You’ll need to understand the amount of water and sunlight that will be available to choose the right type.
How tall can bamboo grow in a container? That also depends on the species. Bamboo Botanicals says that running bamboo shoots up more quickly. However, it will also get root-bound sooner than clumping bamboo for sale that’s planted in a pot.
A living fence can shield your property from prying eyes. Running bamboo creates a more traditional screen than clumping bamboo. However, if you don’t create an underground barrier to prevent this plant from spreading, you’ll probably need more than a bamboo fence to keep your neighbors from giving you the evil eye.
How To Plant Bamboo
You can purchase bare-root or container bamboo. Bare-root bamboo tends to be less expensive, according to HGTV, and you can order it online. It should be planted as soon as it arrives. Bare-root bamboo will come with a few stalks attached to a clump of roots.
Steps For Planting Bare-Root Bamboo:
- Dig a hole that will accommodate the entire mass.
- Loosen the soil at the base of the hole, and fill it with manure or compost.
- Put the root ball in the hole, making sure that the soil marks on the bamboo stalks are at ground level.
- Hold the bamboo upright as you gently work the loose soil into and around the roots.
- Add loamy garden soil to the hole, layering it with water.
- When the soil has reached ground level, pack it gently between the bamboo stalks. Firm it down, and water it again.
Planting Bamboo From Containers
- Choose bamboo with large roots that are cramped in the container. SFGate says that these are the best bamboo plants if you want fast growth.
- Dig a hole that will hold the root ball. Make sure that the top of the root ball will be level with the ground after planting.
- Water the bamboo frequently. Check out the section on how to take care of bamboo for more information about watering.
Installing Barriers For Running Bamboo
If you’re wondering how to grow bamboo without letting it spread into your patio, pool or neighbor’s yard, you’ll need to know how to create a rhizome barrier. According to Landscape Advisor, you can use high-density polyethylene to prevent bamboo roots from running. Dig a trench that’s as deep as the barrier is wide. Allow the barrier to stick up a few inches above the surface of the soil. Check the ground periodically for wayward rhizomes, and pull them out or cut them back if you find them spreading.
How To Care For Bamboo Plants
Do you have a black thumb? Bamboo will make you look like a gardening expert. Bamboo plant care is relatively easy, and you reap great rewards from its impressive looks.
Caring for bamboo involves some intensive TLC when plants are new, but you can sit back and relax under their exotic canes as they mature. Water bamboo seedlings frequently after planting to support their rapid growth. You’ll need to water young bamboo plants three to four times a week in hot or windy weather and twice a week when it’s mild.
If your plant would fit in a 5-gallon pot, give it half a gallon of water each time you water it. Give a larger plant one gallon of water. Bamboo shouldn’t sit in a boggy area. Overwatering and flooding can be just as dangerous to new plants as dehydrated soil.
To keep your bamboo looking attractive, fertilize it two or three times a year. Because bamboo is a grass, the best fertilizer for bamboo is high-nitrogen lawn food. Bamboo Garden recommends applying bamboo food once in early spring and again in the summer.
Bamboo plants care involves thinning it out as needed. We’ve already discussed how to prune bamboo into hedges or topiaries. You can also thin out running and clumping types of bamboo plants to give them an airy appearance. All you have to do is cut down the stalks that are getting in the way of your perfect view.
Any dead, weak or unsightly culms should be cut at ground level. Thin your bamboo in the fall, when it’s not actively growing.
One of the best things about growing bamboo is that you can use mature canes for DIY projects around the home and garden. After removing older growth, you can use it to build a bamboo trellis, a fence or garden hoops. People with large bamboo groves cut giant bamboo into smaller pieces to use as borders, picture frames and building material. If nothing else, a bamboo backyard will help spark your creativity.
Using Garden Gadgets For Bamboo Gardening
Rain, sun and wind can affect your bamboo backyard, especially when it’s in the early stages. You don’t have to guess what the weather is going to do when you have data at your fingertips. A weather station tells you the temperature, humidity, wind speed and rainfall, making it easy for you to decide whether it’s time to water or fertilize your plants. You can use a portable wind meter to determine if strong breezes necessitate more frequent watering and a simple rain gauge to determine the amount of rainfall.
Now that you know all there is to know about bamboo gardening, where can you find a bamboo plant for sale? Many online garden supply stores sell bare-root bamboo plants. You might even find potted bamboo at a local nursery.
Be wary when you see bamboo seeds for sale. It’s tough to grow bamboo from seeds. Lewis Bamboo explains that nurseries may only see a few sprouts after planting thousands of seeds.
If you want a successful bamboo garden, plan it out carefully. Once the plants are set, you won’t have to do much more than water them and enjoy the natural opulence that they bring to your yard.