Bamboo Selection and Care

We carry a wide variety of bamboos. Some varieties are much more available than others. Also, some are much more cost effective than others. We have access to many varieties that are not regularly stocked. Most varieties stocked at the store are clumping varieties.

Clumping Bamboo

Almost all varieties listed are species of Bambusa, a relatively cold hardy but also heat tolerant family of bamboos. They may get a bit of damage if we reach mid-teens. Others may be available, but listed varieties are tried and true.

B. multiplex ‘Tiny Fern’  Shortest clumper. 4′-6′ max

B. multiplex ‘Fernleaf’ 8′-10′ Starburst dusters of ten or more small leaves on each twig is distinguishing.

B. multiplex ‘Golden Goddess’  8′-12′ One of the best for a hedge. Similar to ‘Fernleaf’ except slightly smaller leaf and culms that mature to a golden yellow in full sun.

B. multiplex ‘Siliver Stripe’  White stripes on many of its leaves. 10′-15′ can have a wider top than others. Strikingly beautiful.

B. multiplex ‘Alphonse Karr’ Characterized by bright yellow culms with random dark green stripes. Great for privacy in a suburban setting. 12′-20′ New shoots and culms are often reddish. The erect culms are ornamental, leaf-free for the bottom half and form dense clumps of slightly arching branches covered with leaves toward the top. The back of the leaves has a “metallic” “silvery” look.

Otatea acuminata aztecorum ‘Mexican Weeping Bamboo’ 10′-20′, but also very wide. One of the only clumpers that is not a Bambusa that grows well in Austin. Can be damaged by our coldest winters (<18°F). More drought tolerant than Bambusa varieties. Its fountain form is beautiful planted in a pot, not so good along a fence.

B. textilis ‘Gracilis Weavers Bamboo’ Great for second story privacy. 16′-30′. Great for second story privacy in a pot or as a screen. Also makes a delicate focal point in the garden when planted as a single specimen. Foliage cascades gracefully with leaf tips pointing downward. Easy to grow.

B. textilis ‘Weavers Bamboo’ Spectacular, very straight and dense culms with long internodes.

New culms are initially white powdered, then darkening as it grows. It grows in tight clumps and is cold-hardy, only dropping a little foliage at 1O-15°F. It has a tidy appearance, with no branches on the lower half of the clump, showing off the beautiful canes. The top canopy is full and lush with a graceful arching growth habit. It has high quality thin-walled culms that are often used for weaving or furniture making.

B. oldhamii ‘Giant Timber Bamboo.’ 25′-40.’ Lots of bamboos get the title”Giant Timber”, but this variety is best for Austin. Delicious shoots are light green and hairless. Vivid green dums turn gold in strong sunlight. Beautiful, straight growth makes great furniture.

B. beecheyana- Beechey Bamboo. Similar to Oldhammii, but wider and more arching pendulous tops. Leaves are medium and varied in size. Superior edible shoots. Possibly the largest diameter culm that you can grow in Austin. Shoots are great for eating.

B. ventricosa- Buddha’s Belly Bamboo. Give this baby some room. Can reach 25′-45′ and gets fairly wide, as low growth can get quite long and horizontal. Lower internodes becomes short and swollen like a Buddha’s belly, valued for furniture making. Grows well in poor, dry soils. Makes an impenetrable hedge.

Running Bamboos

Running bamboos should always be planted with great respect. There is no question, without proper confinement, they will take over large portions of your yard. They will go in any direction they want. They will travel under walkways and driveways. We suggest these to be planted in containers or applying Bamboo Barrier(a 40 mil plastic barrier) at least 3 feet deep. While there are several running varieties that will grow well in Austin, most all you will see are in the Phyllostachys dan.

 P. nigra- Black Bamboo This is a runner, not a clumper as some people believe. It will tolerate shade better than most runners. Culms turn black at one year, so new growth is still green. 12′-25′

 P. aurea- Golden Bamboo This is most of what is seen growing “wild” around Austin. It is a very aggressive spreader and such be treated with care. 15′-30.’

Another word of caution: There are a number of other clumping bamboos that would seem to do very well in Austin. Fargesia, Borinda, and Chusquea are all very cold hardy clumpers. The problem lies in heat tolerance. These species are native to very high elevations in the mountains of Asia and South America. Just a few of our 100 degree plus days can kill them. Keep this in mind if researching online.

Planting

Bamboos are happiest in a loose, loamy soil. To plant, dig a hole double the diameter of the existing root ball, and a few inches deeper. With the soil that comes out of the hole, mix an equal amount of organic material (compost or planting mix). Then form a 3-4″ high basin around the plant to hold water. Steer or chicken manure can be used sparingly as part of the soil mix, as long as the other organic material is used.

Watering

Water deeply when first planted, then water 2-3 times per week, depending on the weather, for the first month. Summer watering:  twice a week. Cooler weather: once a week. If the sides of the leaves start curling up, it is not being watered often enough or for too short a time. IMPORTANT NOTE: Bamboos are not native or xeriscapic plants. They will require watering every year and never get totally “established” like some plants do.

Fertilizing

Bamboo is part of the grass family and likes a high nitrogen (N) fertilizer like that used on lawns. Fertilize as recommended for grass by the manufacturer. TGO 6-1-1 is a great organic fertilizer for bamboos.

Pests

Generally bamboos are pretty much pest free. Some varieties of clumping bamboo (particularly multiplex species) may get bamboo aphids (white cottony patches, deep in the nodes) resulting black sooty fungus. Some bamboos will show evidence of mites (bleached looking spots with small webs on the underside of leaves), and aphids (small, white, tan, or green insects). Treat with an appropriately labeled product.

Mulching

Bamboos will thrive if they have a 2-4″ layer of mulch around the base of the plant. Let fallen leaves remain on the ground, and add another organic matter once per year.

Pruning

Every year or two it is a good idea to thin out the dead culms (stalks or canes) in the center of a clump. An individual culm only lives 3-5 years, but will be replaced many times over by new growth. While thinning in encouraged for appearance and even necessary for health, it is not advised to remove more than 50% of the culms at any time. Thinning will allow better air circulation and faster growth of the newer culms. You can reduce the height of bamboo by cutting the taller culms ¼ to ½ above a node. To even out the appearance of the clump, you can also cut back the side branches. New bamboos planted from fall through spring may seem to just sit there and not grow at all. This is because all new growth comes in one big spurt. This spurt tends to happen in spring for running bamboos and mid-late summer for clumpers

New growth comes up and grows very quickly. This is the most important time to ensure good watering.