American Bamboo Society Bamboo General Information.Description, taxonomy, planting and care information.
Bamboo is a group of perennial evergreens in the true grass family Poaceae, subfamily Bambusoideae, tribe Bambuseae. Giant bamboos are the largest members of the grass family. In bamboo, the internodal regions of the stem are hollow and the vascular bundles in the cross section are scattered throughout the stem instead of in a cylindrical arrangement. The dicotyledonous woody xylem is also absent. The absence of secondary growth wood causes the stems of monocots, even of palms and large bamboos, to be columnar rather than tapering. Bamboos are some of the fastest growing plants in the world. They are capable of growing 60 cm or more per day due to a unique rhizome-dependent system. However, the growth rate is dependent on local soil and climatic conditions. Bamboos are of notable economic and cultural significance in East Asia and South East Asia, being used for building materials, as a food source, and as a versatile raw product. (wiki)
There are more than 70 genera divided into about 1,450 species. Bamboo are found in diverse climates, from cold mountains to hot tropical regions. They occur across East Asia, from 50°N latitude in Sakhalin through to Northern Australia, and west to India and the Himalayas. They also occur in sub-Saharan Africa, and in the Americas from the Mid-Atlantic United States south to Argentina and Chile, reaching their southernmost point anywhere, at 47°S latitude. Continental Europe is not known to have any native species of bamboo. There have recently been some attempts to grow bamboo on a commercial basis in the Great Lakes region of eastern-central Africa, especially in Rwanda. (wiki)
Botanically, bamboo is classified thusly:
PHYLUM (DIVISION): Magnoliophyta
FAMILY: Gramineae (Poaceae)
The Class, Subclass, and Order classifications are according to Cronquist (1988). The levels below Order can vary depending on whose classification you use. The ones shown above are widely accepted. For a thorough treatment of monocots as a whole see: Dahlgren, R. et al. 1985. The Families of the Monocotyledons: structure, evolution, and taxonomy. Springer-Verlag: Berlin.
Placement - Although most people have a place in mind as to where they want to plant their bamboo, one should keep in mind that most large bamboos grow quicker and do their best in full sun. They must be given ample water, fertilizer, and protection from competitive weeds. They will benefit from a windscreen and light shade when first planted as well. This is especially true of smaller plants. Fargesias, Thamnocalamus and Sasas do well with light to moderate shade. In fact the Fargesias and most Thamnocalamus are happier with some shade during the hottest part of the day. Fargesia and Thamnocalamus are the hardiest of the clump type bamboos. They can be planted without fear spreading. Most other hardy bamboos can spread by their underground rhizomes and this must be taken into account when planting them. We recommend a barrier material 40 mil in thickness by 30 inch deep of HDPE (high density polyethylene) to control their spread.
Planting your new Bamboos - Most bamboos are happiest in a moderately acidic loamy soil. If your soil is very heavy you can add organic material. It can be dug into the soil where the bamboo is to be planted, but the easiest thing is to mulch very heavily and let the earthworms do the work. Spread 2 or more inches of mulch in the area around the bamboo, and where you want the bamboo to grow. Bamboo is a forest plant and does best if a mulch is kept over the roots and rhizomes. It is best not to rake or sweep up the bamboo leaves from under the plant, as they keep the soil soft, and moist, and recycle silica and other natural chemicals necessary to the bamboo. A low growing shade tolerant ground cover plant that will allow the leaves to fall through to form a mulch without being visible will work if you find the dry leaf mulch objectionable. Almost any organic material is a good mulch. Grass is one of the best, as it is high in nitrogen and silica. Home made or commercial compost is great. Hay is a good mulch too, but hay and manure are often a source of weed seeds, so that can be a problem. Any kind of manure is good, if it isn’t too hot. Limited amounts of very hot manures like chicken are OK if used with care. You can also use chipped trees from tree pruning services. This can harbor pathogens that can affect some trees or shrubs, but the bamboo loves it.
Timing and Winter Protection - Bamboos can be planted at any time of the year in areas with mild climates such as we have in the maritime pacific northwest. In colder parts of the world they should be planted outdoors early enough to become established and to harden off sufficiently to survive their first winter. If the bamboo is planted late in the year, one should mulch the plant heavily and provide extra protection from any cold and drying winds. In colder climates where bamboos may be marginal, successful growers usually protect their bamboos through the winter with a heavy mulch. Even in very cold climates in an established bamboo grove with a heavy layer of bamboo leaves covering the ground, the soil will be soft and friable during periods when the surrounding soils are frozen hard and deep.
Controlling the Spread of Bamboo - If you plan to install a barrier to control the spread of running bamboos, it is important to install it properly to insure its effectiveness. We recommend for most situations a barrier of 30 inches deep. In other than very light soils the bamboo rhizomes are usually in the top few inches of soil. However when the rhizome encounters an obstruction it will turn, and sometimes it will go down. It is important to avoid loose soil or air pockets next to the barrier or the bamboo may go deeper than you want and perhaps go under the barrier. When filling the hole after placing the barrier, tightly compact the soil next to the barrier. Any soil amendments must be added only in the top foot or so. You mustn’t encourage deep rhizome growth if you want to contain the bamboo. If the bamboo planting can be surrounded by a shallow trench 8 to 10 inches deep, this can be a cheaper and easier method to control it’s spread. You just need to check a couple of times in the late summer and fall to see if any rhizomes have tried to cross the trench, and cut them off. This check for spreading rhizomes is easy, but very important. It must be done each fall, whether you are using barrier or a trench.
Staking Tall Plants - When planting very tall and slender bamboos, they may need to be staked (actually, guyed is a better term). This will prevent wind from uprooting them, or damaging newly formed roots. Tall bamboo plants are best guyed with a rope tied to the culms up about 2/3rds the way up, and to short stakes on 3 or 4 sides of the plant sufficient distance to give the strength needed to prevent the wind from uprooting the stakes.
Yellowing and Falling Leaves - In the spring there is considerable yellowing of the leaves, followed by leaf drop. This is natural and should not cause concern, as bamboos are evergreen and naturally renew their leaves in the spring. They should loose their leaves gradually as they are replaced by fresh new ones. In the spring on a healthy bamboo there should be a mixture of green leaves, yellow leaves and newly unfurling leaves.
Water - Newly planted bamboos need frequent and liberal watering. Twice a week during mild weather, and more often, perhaps even daily during hot or windy weather, give your bamboo a good watering. Make sure that each plant under 5 gallon pot size gets at least a gallon of water. For plants over 5 gallon size more than 1 gallon is advised. Once a bamboo has reached the desired size, it can survive with much less irrigation. But until then you must water and fertilize copiously to achieve optimum growth. Lack of sufficient water especially during hot or windy weather is the leading cause of failure or poor growth of new bamboo plants. Watering newly planted bamboos every day, or for longer than a few minutes can cause excess leaf drop. Well established bamboos are rather tolerant of flooding, but newly planted bamboos can suffer from too much as well as too little water.
To raise a child it takes a village.
To plant bamboo it takes one person.
To keep it in control it takes Responsibility.
And good tools help.
So consider the ABS as a tool in your hands.
As a member you too can be part of the solution."
by: James Clever, ABS President 01/2013