Bamboo is a versatile plant that has been cultivated in gardens throughout Asia for many centuries. Bamboo, whether used as a "wall" of live plants or made into fences, adds an exotic touch and a Zen quality to your landscape. It is also an excellent plant material for creating privacy in your garden.
Bamboo plants are sold as canes and typically planted 6 feet on center. It takes about three years before they become established enough for privacy purposes. Expect to wait between 7 and 15 years for bamboo to reach it's full height.
To create an instant screen plant larger (and more expensive) canes closer together, for example, 2 to 3 feet on center. All bamboos prefer moist well-drained or sandy soil. Bamboo should be watered frequently, but the soil should not remain waterlogged.
Bamboo is a member of the grass family and grows in nearly every region of the world, both tropical and temperate. The giant cane (Arundinaria gigantea) is the only species of bamboo native to the United States that remains in existence. Native to the southeastern United States, it grows to a maximum height of 12 feet.
Although it bears some resemblance to the giant exotic bamboos, to the untrained eye it may appear weedy looking. Unfortunately many plant nurseries don't stock this species of bamboo, and if they do, it is often more expensive than the giant exotic bamboos.
Some species of exotic bamboo such as yellow groove bamboo grow as far north as United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Hardiness Zone 5, which includes the coastal areas of southeastern Massachusetts. Yellow-groove bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata) has for many years been the bamboo of choice to plant in cooler climates.
This is the bamboo that most people envision when they think of a bamboo grove. The culms (the botanical word for the stem) grow to a diameter of 1 1/2 inches, and are green in color accented with a yellow groove. It grows to a maximum height of about 25 feet. The cultivars 'spectabilis', which has yellow culms with a green stripe, and 'harbin', which has narrow yellow and green stripes decorating the culms, are also good choices.
Yellow groove bamboo is a spreading bamboo and must be contained by using stainless steel edging to prevent the rhizomes (similar to roots) from spreading into your yard (or into your neighbor's yard). Steel edging a minimum of 12 inches in depth should be placed around the perimeter of the bamboo bed to ensure that the rhizomes will be contained. It is also possible to prevent them from spreading through regular mowing of the area Just be aware that when the mowing stops, the bamboo, which continuously sends out shoots, will reappear and invade the lawn.
Dragon bamboo (Fargesia dracocephala) and fountain bamboo (F. nitida) are also excellent choices for creating a privacy wall of live bamboo. Both prefer filtered light and reach a height of 15 to 18 feet. The 1/2-inch diameter culms are smaller than the yellow groove bamboo. Dragon and Fountain bamboo are both clumping bamboos, which are easier to maintain because they don't need to be contained.
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