Bamboo belongs to the grass family, a characteristic most frequently emphasised. There are at least 1,000 species known to botanists and more are being documented. The huge differences between bamboo running and clump-forming bamboo give bamboo growers a wide range of plants to grow in the garden. So, if you are asking the question 'What Bamboo Can I Grow', you've come to the right place.
Here we take a look at the standout bamboo cultivars that feature prominently in many gardens around the world.
Bamboo plants are common in Asia and are also native plants of North America, the Pacific, and Africa. Some species also are native to the United States and Mexico.
For Europe and the United Kingdom landscapes, the clump-forming bamboo species are greatly preferred over running types, which can be invasive. Also, running species grow best in warmer parts of Europe.
Here in the UK, many clump-forming bamboos such as Fargesia murielae Simba perform well. Unlike popular belief, they can be slow to grow in the cooler areas however thrive when mature.
Feature bamboo: Bamboo murielae rufa is a variety of Fargesia cultivars from Southeast Asia. Plants grow rapidly and feature dense (umbrella) canopy, ideal for privacy screens.
What bamboo plant can I grow?
One of the award-winning running bamboo species in Europe and the UK is the Black Bamboo Nigra.
The Black Bamboo is outstanding because it behaves like clump-forming bamboo in the cooler area. This cold-hardy bamboo plant grows 4 to 6 metres tall in rich soil. It produces chocolate dark stems where there is plenty of direct suns.
For dense screens along boundaries, grow the bamboo plants 2 - 4 metres apart.
The umbrella bamboo cultivars owe their elegance to densely packed leaves and arching foliage. Their sheer thickness bends the bamboo stems, giving the impression of cascading plumes of foliage that sway in the slightest breeze.
Where can I buy bamboo plants?
Clump-forming bamboo plants range in height and provide additional options. One of them is Seabreeze bamboo, which grows rapidly to 12 metres in height. It tolerates pruning well, so it’s often used as a soft hedge.
A favourite of bamboo lovers in mild areas is the Phyllostachys aurea (Fish-pole golden bamboo), a 2-4 metres slender stem bamboo that gives the best garden sticks. It is winter hardy to - 20 degrees Celcius.
Many gardeners grow bamboo in containers because it is a fast-growing screening and hedging plant.
Growing bamboo plant in containers is not hard if you know how to do it correctly.
Selecting a suitable container
The first thing you need to do is find a container that will be large enough for your bamboo plant. Select a pot with drainage holes, so the water can drain out when it rains or when the container overflows.
Also, select a container with a stable base, so that the plants do not wobble and fall as they grow tall.
Prepare the soil for growing bamboo in a container
The next thing you need to do is prepare the soil to fill the pot with bamboo, so they can grow well and become strong and healthy. You should mix compost with soil and sand because this will help with drainage and water retention.
After filling your pot with soil, add some fertilizer, which will help your bamboo grow quickly. Now all you have to do is put your container outside in a well-lit area.
Care for a new bamboo plant in a container
The bamboo plant that grows in a container is easy to maintain. The most important thing about the newly planted bamboo plant is that it needs to be watered regularly.
The soil should also be kept moist and not allowed to dry out too much, but not overwatered either.
If the weather is hot, it should be watered every day if possible, or at least twice a week.
The location of the plant also affects its watering needs, as some areas are drier than others naturally.
Bamboo plants thrive in container
The bamboo plant is an evergreen, winter-hardy plant. It’s easy to grow in containers.
1) Bamboo is a sustainable plant that’s environmentally friendly.
2) It grows at an extremely fast rate, making it great for container gardens.
3) Bamboo is easy to care for, as it can be pruned or sheared when desired.
4) There are many different types of bamboo with different appearances and uses.
5) It is a fantastic container plant.
Growing bamboo in containers is a better way to stop the root from invading the garden and give it a vibrant natural look. It is also easy to maintain bamboo plants in containers.
GIANT TIMBER BAMBOO [Kew Garden Palm House in London]
Bamboo Plants UK - running vs. clump-forming
The Phyllostachys bamboo plants have horizontal underground stems called rhizomes.
These running bamboo plants are great for tall borders and screens and are becoming popular in recent years because of the spectacular colours of the stems.
This variety is invasive and needs close attention to stop it from spreading.
Fagesias are fantastic garden and pot plants. They are non-invasive plants compared to their cousins, the Running bamboo plants. The running bamboo plants have great stem colourations, whereas the clump-forming have dense foliage.
I grow the Golden Chinese Timber Bamboo, Phyllostachys vivax f. areosulcata from Rhizome cuttings in August last year. The bamboo plants are a year old and are looking great.
It has been a year of learning to grow bamboo from cuttings. It requires care for the delicate new shoots where I kept the snails away, staked the new bamboo shoots and watered them during the warm summer months.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 lists nearly 40 non-native invasive plants. They must not be planted in gardens or caused to grow in the wild.
Other laws briefly stated in this post cover tall hedges and property damages.
The Anti-social Behaviour Act, 2003, covers tall hedges but it does not cover garden plant invasion.
The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act, 2014 enables local authorities and police to issue community protection notices where plants cause damage to neighbours’ gardens and properties.
The protection notice can be issued when it is shown beyond doubt that the individual in question has persistently acted in a way that has a detrimental effect on the quality of life of those around them.
Is bamboo legal to grow in the UK?
Currently, no specific legislation covers the sale and planting of bamboo plants in the UK.
This is an important question because after growing a bamboo plant, you’d be anticipating that lush evergreen screen. Right?
The video info gives clarity on how a bamboo plant grows from year to year. If you want to know how fast bamboo grows, check out this article.
But, bamboo plants like other plants will take time to grow to reach full height and maturity. This video shows first-year growth.
Under the right conditions, bamboo plants will provide that beautiful greenery within 3 years. The first growth will continue to mature for up to 5 years and, interestingly, remain evergreen for up to 20 years.
The new shoots will be taller than the previous growth until the bamboo grove reaches its maximum height.
Thereafter, the bamboo grove will remain evergreen for as long as it can.
As the bamboo matures, you will need to prune the old bamboo culms and rhizomes to promote new growth. Or transplant the ones that outgrow the pots.
Here are some guides to bamboo Care and Maintenance Tools that you will find useful if you have older bamboo plants in your garden.
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Related articles on Evergreen Outdoor Privacy Screen
Readers' note: This article is so long that we split it into several parts. Here are the related parts that you may also like to read:
There are more benefits to using the plants. However, growing bamboo in pot and container planters requires extra care and attention, unlike the garden hedging bamboo screens.
In this article, you will find out about how to:
choose the best bamboo for small outdoor spaces,
select the best planters to grow bamboo and
provide long-term care for the bamboo plants.
How to select the best pots and containers?
There are a lot of recommendations for larger and bigger bamboo planters, but these are not often the best recommendations for narrow outdoor areas like the deck, patio, balcony or porch.
Unless, of course, use a bigger planter if the outdoor area has enough space for a bigger plant.
When choosing a pot or container for growing bamboo, size, weight and stability matter!
That begs the question what is the best pot or container for planting bamboo plants?
The three-pointers will help you to identify the bamboo planter that suits you.
A strong and durable frost resistant pot or container planter will act as a root barrier and protect the plant against the cold. Avoid the thin plastic pots because they do not stand a chance against the bamboo rhizomes and clumps in compacted space.
Avoid growing bamboo in containers that have small openings and heavy tops. If you use these planters, it will be hard to remove the bamboo plants for repotting, or the tall plants will topple to the ground.
In a case where it is difficult to remove the plant from the container planter, you will have to decide whether to keep the plant or keep the planter box. That means that you will have to destroy one and save the other.
The best time for repotting a bamboo plant into the container planters is early Spring when the new growths are prominent.
Avoid environmental stress in confined areas
Like other potted plants, bamboos in pots require attention if they were to thrive in the confined space.
One of the main reasons why bamboo leaves turn yellow (more info here) is the lack of moisture and nutrient in the soil.
Undoubtedly, bamboo in pots and container boxes will grow well where there is good moisture and nutrient in the soil.
Many pot and container planter boxes have a hollow bottom where the water drains out pretty quickly.
Bamboo plants tend to lose more water through transpiration through the thin and slender leaves compared to other thick leaves plants.
Poor drainage and a high rate of transpiration are often the main reasons why the soil in pot planters becomes devoid of nutrients and moisture. This is the main cause of the yellowing of bamboo leaves and browning culms.
How to improve soil condition in pots?
There are two things you can do to improve the soil moisture and soil nutrients in pot and container planters.
Firstly, fill the base of the pot and container planters with pebbles, gravel or a porous pot filler to stop it from losing water.
Do not block the hole at the bottom of the planters completely because the bamboo plants dislike waterlogged containers.
In addition, leave a spacing of about 10cm to 15 cm at the top of the pot and container planters after you’ve planted the bamboo. This space is very important for mulching and fertilising the plants later.
Secondly, use nutrient-rich loam soil and or potting compost when potting bamboo plants into containers to give them the best start.
Here is the right mixture of clay to sand to silt to create an ideal loam for growing bamboo.
Alternatively, a 50/50 mix potting compost contains the right nutrient and moisture for new bamboo plants to thrive in the pots.
How to stop tall bamboo in pots from falling down?
Ominously, the tall bamboo plants will sway in the wind and topple to the ground if the pots are unstable. When this happens, you are likely to have a damaged plant, or pot, or both.
To avoid bamboo in pots falling to the ground, choose a pot or container planter with good stability.
A regular occurrence is when the tall bamboo culms lean out of the bamboo cluster or grove. In this case, use the garden ropes to tie them back.
Protect potted bamboo roots and rhizomes from cold and frost
The bamboos in pots and container planters require insulation in Winter when the temperature falls to negative values.
Although the bamboo plants are tough and hardy, the roots and rhizomes are above ground level and are directly exposed to the weather, unlike the plants on the ground.
The bamboo plants in the planter pots are prone to frost, frozen soil and, even, the Winter’s chill.
The best way to protect the bamboo in the planters is to add mulch and cover the base of the pots with an insulating blanket, bubble wrap or special plant insulation fleece.
Do these when bamboo in pot and container planters grow big
The running and clumping bamboo plants will reach full growth in the pots and containers within 2 – 5 years. That is the period when the plants are at their peak.
They’ll display evergreen foliage, shiny culms and beautiful leaves – an ideal time to enjoy the beauty of your bamboo plants.
The plants will thrive for more than 5 to 10 years in large pot planters under the right conditions and care mentioned in this article.
To continue to enjoy them, there are a couple of things you can do to keep the plants in the pot longer.
How to maintain bamboo plants in pots and containers?
Bamboo plants are relatively hardy bamboo and can withstand air temperatures as low as – 20 degrees Celsius in normal growing conditions.
However, bamboo plants in pots and containers without the right insulations will struggle to survive at such very low temperatures.
So the first thing to do before planting them is to insulate the containers by using styrofoam which is light and great for extra insulation.
In addition, the new bamboo plants are prone to slugs damage. Add Slugs and Snail Killer to protect new shoots and rhizome tips.
Here are some general protection measures to apply when planting bamboo in pot and container planters;
Apply Slug and Snail Killer around your new bamboo.
Add organic mulch.
Tie the long culms to bamboo sticks or poles.
Add insulation inside the pot and containers.
Cover the pots and containers with additional insulation fleece or blanket when the temperature drops to negative degrees Celsius.
‘Thinning’ bamboo in pot and container planters
Remove the old unhealthy culms (canes) to give the new shoots a chance to reach full height. In fact, the new shoots will be stronger and taller than previous bamboos, so encourage new growth if you want taller and healthier plants.
After 5 – 10 years, you will have to carry out ‘thinning’. Remove the older bamboo culms and rhizomes from the pots and containers, and separate the culms into segments for repotting. This activity is best done in Spring.
At this juncture, we provided insight into how to select and grow the perfect bamboo plants in pots for the small outdoor space at home, the office or the rental place.
The pots contain soil and water. They are practically immovable.
You can move the smaller bamboo pots by using old cardboard boxes to slide them across the floor.
If you need help moving the heavier bamboo pot and container boxes, the Hand Truck will make the heavy work easier.
With some help, you can arrange (and rearrange) the bamboo pots and container boxes neatly to suit your design and liking.
In some cases, you may have to move the bamboo in pots to a site where there is enough sun. The bamboo varieties prefer sun to shade or part shade. By doing this, you can get the best out of your plant.
In other cases, your bamboo may not grow well in the planters. These bamboo plants will need to be removed.
In fact, growing bamboo in pot and container planters is a great way to provide privacy screening for a small space, home, office or rented place.