Bamboo Invites Love-Hate Attitude Says LSU AgCenter Horticulturist

Allen D. Owings  |  4/22/2005 12:40:49 AM

News You Can Use For March 2005

Bamboo enjoys either a "love it" or "hate it" attitude among many home gardeners. "We all need to keep in mind that bamboos are probably best suited for gardeners with some experience," says LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Allen Owings.

Bamboos can be either tropical or temperate adapted and are available in mature sizes ranging from ground covers only 8 inches to 12 inches tall to forms reaching 100 feet.

Most bamboos have the tendency to be running types. This means they have a "need to roam," and this characteristic needs to be given consideration prior to placement in the landscape, Owings points out.

A site for bamboo should have good drainage. Soil pH is not critical, but the recommended range is 6.0-6.5. Most bamboos, however, do well at pH ranges between 5.0 and 7.5. Bamboos need at least half a day of sun but may do well in understory plantings of high shade. Rainfall and irrigation benefits bamboo during the establishment stage.

Plant bamboo in the spring for best results. Fertilize lightly. Water deeply once a week when rainfall is lacking during the first year. Fertilize bamboo annually in early spring to optimize performance. Most bamboo growth occurs during the three-month spring season.

Although bamboos have a tendency to produce runners, it is fairly easy to contain bamboo. Owings recommends mowing around a bamboo planting. You also can sever the running underground shoots (called rhizomes) physically once or twice a year. Bamboo will not spread into water-logged areas. Dark shade and very dry soil also slow the spread.

Bamboos commonly available at retail garden centers include Hedge Bamboo (Bambusa glaucescens), Golden Bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea), Black Bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra), Robert Young Bamboo (Phyllostachys viridis), Dwarf Bamboo (Sasa veitchii), Fernleaf Bamboo (Bambusa glaucescens var. Fernleaf) and Arrow Bamboo (Pseudosasa japonica).

For related topics, look for Gardening and Get It Growing links in the Feature section of the LSU AgCenter Web site: Additional yard and garden topics are available from an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.


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Source: Allen D. Owings (225) 578-2222, or

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