Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clumping Bamboos Are Not Invasive

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Clumping Bamboos Are Not Invasive

Article excerpt

Byline: Terry Brite DelValle

Mention landscaping with bamboo and you will likely get chided for using an invasive plant. Contrary to popular belief, not all bamboos fall into this invasive category.

There are running and clumping types. The running bamboos are considered invasive because they produce underground runners (pachymorph rhizomes) that extend out some distance away from the parent plant creating a loose thicket. Clumping bamboos have a different type of underground rhizome (leptomorph) that produce new stems (culms) next to the original plant so expand slowly each year. New shoots come up for 2 months out of the year; running types produce shoots in spring and clumping types in summer. Regardless of the type, if the plant exceeds its boundaries, simply mow or break off the new shoots to control the size.

Clumping bamboos are versatile plants that can be used in formal or informal gardens to create an Asian theme and tropical effect. You will have that tropical effect, even when the temps dip well below freezing. They are ideal at creating a windbreak, noise buffer, privacy hedge, or screen to block an unsightly view and are ideal for small lots and narrow areas because they don't require a lot of space. Use clumping bamboos in place of trees to create shade and simulate walls and ceilings when making an outdoor space, or try some of the smaller types in containers. Many are striking in appearance with varying colors of stems and different foliage textures making them ideal for creating a focal point. Sound and movement are other attributes to bamboo adding interest to the garden.

Bamboos thrive in full sun but many grow well in bright shade. Moist but well drained soils are best and if the soil is too sandy, add some organic matter to the planting area. Prepare the planting hole twice as wide as the container and then plant at the same depth, no deeper. Create a water ring at the edge of the root-ball and water daily for the first two weeks.

Once established, water deeply once or twice a week in spring and summer if there is insufficient rainfall. Clumping bamboos will grow with little care but to thrive, fertilize with an ornamental or palm-type fertilizer in March, June and September.

Bamboos are mainly from Asia but are also native to Central and South America and Australia. We actually have three native species (Arundinaria spp.) in the United States that include hill cane, river cane and switch cane, which are all running species. There are many different varieties to choose from, so do a little homework before purchasing plants. Plant size and cold tolerance are the two biggest considerations in selecting clumping bamboos for Northeast Florida. Cost may also be a limiting factor because they cannot be propagated by cuttings or seeds (some exceptions) but are propagated by division, so new varieties that are "in demand" will have a high price tag. …

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