Name: clumping bamboo, Bambusa, Bambusa textilis gracilis (various common and botanic names).
Plant type: evergreen; large, upright grass.
Height: from 0.5m to 20m+.
Foliage: generally long, around 10cm, lance-like leaves, deep to lime green, some variegated forms.
Climate: tropical and sub-tropical, warm temperate, some varieties in cold temperate to –12˚C.
Soil: most types except clay.
Position: full sun to shade.
Feeding: regular feeding for best performance.
Watering: regular watering at peak growth times and dry periods.
Mention bamboo and most old gardeners run a mile. But today’s switched-on garden designers know that clumping bamboo is a brilliant feature plant and a problem solver that can fill out and reach heights faster than any other type of plant.
Clumping bamboo is probably the best option for hedging and screening in many suburban situations, as it can easily screen out a two-storey building in less than two years, with only a relatively small garden bed required.
Clumping bamboo has a classic Asian-garden appearance. The plant has long, generally slender stems, technically called culms, with foliage emerging at intervals (the nodes) all or most of the way along the stem.
As bamboo is a grass, its foliage has an appearance similar to oversized grass leaf blades. Some forms have variegated foliage, and many have culms that become a feature as they age – dark, almost black, yellows and even stripes.
Most bamboo varieties don’t like living in small, plastic nursery pots. This means that in the garden centre they can sometimes look a bit tired and sad. Don’t be put off – once in the ground they will take off incredibly fast, and will be sending up new shoots before you know it.
Clumping bamboo makes an excellent fast hedging or screening plant – it can grow up to 8 to 10m in under two years, and is ideal for hiding walls or fences. It can also be used as a backdrop for other plantings, and can provide excellent height in relatively small garden areas.
As clumping bamboo is a large group, there is variation in the requirements of individual varieties. Some like full sun, others at least partial shade, so make sure you research before you buy. Clumping bamboo prefers a quality, free-draining soil, however it can thrive in most soil types, although it may have trouble in very dense clay.
Clumping bamboo is very hardy and is drought tolerant, although once established, best performance comes with reliable moisture. Many species will tolerate occasional waterlogging.
Wind tolerance varies with the species. Some make good windbreaks, others prefer a sheltered position.
For best results when planting clumping bamboo:
Because clumping bamboo is generally shallow rooted, it is easy to lightly cultivate the surface of a clay soil and blend through soil improvers to create a suitable raised bed.
Provide additional water during dry times and, if needed, at times of peak growth.
Feed your plant at least twice a year, in early spring and mid-summer. It will respond well to generous applications of quality slow-release lawn fertiliser.
Side-dress every spring with some bagged, composted manure, such as cow manure.
Keep your plant mulched while it is young. As it ages, you’ll find it will become self-mulching. You can evenly spread lawn clippings around your bamboo as mulch. Bamboo is one of the few plants where it is OK to push mulch up against the stems.
Clumping bamboo requires very little pruning. Older stems will start to fall out of the main stand, especially when wet after rain. Trim these off close to the ground and remove. Any wayward shoots can be snapped off as they appear.
Clumping bamboo may occasionally be attacked by leaf-eating caterpillars or grasshoppers, however damage is generally minor and often won’t even be noticed.
Clumping bamboo is difficult to propagate. The most reliable method is to lift and divide or excavate around the side of the plant and split shoots off established clumps. However, this can be challenging and cumbersome.
Japanese maple: If you’re looking to achieve a true Asian-inspired theme, bamboo is the perfect backdrop for a Japanese maple.
Water lilies: The ultimate Zen garden feature; nothing brings a water garden alive like a water lily.
Check out our huge range of plants now and get your garden growing.
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