One of the most useful plants on earth, bamboo can be eaten by humans and animals, used as a sustainable timber product for production of beautiful durable flooring and furniture, planted in gardens for use as screening or as a focal point.
In many of these scenarios, Phyllostachys is the specific bamboo in use. Phyllostachys has many wonderful qualities, but its downside is that it cannot be happy staying in one place. It must wander. For this reason, city gardeners must take care to contain the space where a Phyllostachys is planted.
Growing in bamboo containers is a good idea, providing that the container is easy to remove when bamboo roots fill the soil space and the plant needs to have its roots pruned or divided. Phyllostachys planted in the ground should have a barrier of heavy black plastic planted in a trench completely surrounding the planting area.
Green culms turn yellow in sunshine and can develop bulbous nodes at the base.
Phyllostachys aurea has yellow culms with a green sulcus. 15-20’ tall with 1 ½” culms. Hardy to 0 degrees f.
Rigidly upright green culms with yellow sulcus. The variety ‘Spectabilis’ has opposite coloring, yellow culms with green sulcus. 20-25’ tall with 1 ½” culms. Hardy to -15 degrees f.
Green form of Yellow Groove Bamboo with zigzag stems at the base. 30’ tall with 2” culms. Hardy to -10 degrees f.
This is a form of bamboo used for timber in Japan. Large, straight thick-walled culms. One of the last to send spring shoots. 35’ tall with 2” culms. Hardy to 5 degrees f.
One of the more aggressive runners and more tolerant of drought, temperature extremes and alkaline soils. Shoots are purple and green, maturing to green. Leaves are fatter than most species. 30’ tall with 2” culms. Hardy to -5 degrees f.
Mild-tasting shoots used in Asian food. Thick culms arch, tapering toward the tips, leaning toward light for a fountain-like look. 40’ tall with 2-3” culms. Hardy to 0 degrees f.
Culms emerge green and mature to black in 1-3 years. Leaves are green. 20-30’ tall with 1-2” culms. Hardy to 0 degrees f.
Culms turn black at a younger age than the species
Culms are green with black mottling. Grows larger – 50’ tall with 3” culms.
Blue-green culms with powdery coating and white rings at nodes. Small leaves and tasty shoots. 30’ tall with 1 ¾” culms. Hardy to -20 degrees f.
Long slender culms split well for excellent wood. Shoots are considered good quality for eating, having slight bitterness before parboiling. Leaves that attach to nodes and wrap around the culm are edged reddish purple, thus its common name. Tall, graceful, open. 5 0’ tall with 3” culms. Hardy to -5 degrees f.
The most hardy of the large timber bamboos. Walls are thin, so it is not as useful for wood products as other Timber types. Establishes quickly, has excellent shoots for eating and large leaves for a tropical look. Culms can be damaged by wind. 70’ tall with 5” culms. Hardy to -5 degrees f.
Grasses and bamboos come in clump-forming types and running types.
Clumping types stay where you plant them and won't ever hop your fence or stray across your yard. Running types are the ones that can get away from you.
The good news is that if a few precautions are taken when planting, bamboos and grasses that want to stray can be kept in place. Download our Bamboo at a Glance handout for a handy reference to clumping and running bamboo types.
In the above photo, bamboo root barrier surrounds a planting of Black Bamboo Phyllostachys nigra. The barrier is made of 60ml (very thick) plastic and is planted in a 3 feet deep trench and sealed with a stainless steel clamp.
A few inches of barrier are allowed to show above ground. Bamboo roots are most likely to attempt escape by hopping over the top of the barrier, so if that happens, roots can easily be seen and cut back before they become a problem.
Bamboo root barrier works well to contain running grasses as well as bamboo. Blue Lyme Grass Elymus, Japanese Blood Grass Imperata and Giant Reed Grass Arundo donax are candidates.
The Bamboo Garden recommends digging a trench around plantings and pruning roots as they attempt to move into the trench.
Bamboo looks great growing in containers and using them is a good way to control spreading as well.
Choose a large pot.
The pot should be wider at the top than the bottom or have sides that are straight up & down. Any type of lip that narrows the opening will be very difficult to work with when roots require pruning.
The pot should have drainage holes in the bottom.
The roots of this bamboo have grown under the sidewalk and sprouted on the other side. Once this happens it is very difficult to handle.
Removing the growth above ground will only work until new shoots come in spring. To dig out the roots, the sidewalk will have to be removed.
Spraying with herbicide to kill the roots becomes a viable option.
Read up on some of our favorite shrubs and remember, this is only a smattering of the variety of shrubs we carry all year long! Note: Viewing a Native Plant will take you into our Native Plant section.