My bamboo won't grow!

sunflowers1000June 3, 2010

We planted three Yellow Groove bamboo clumps to serve as a screen in front of our hot tub. We live in the Wasatch foothills outside of Salt Lake City. This is the 3rd summer for the bamboo, and it hasn't grown taller or spread -- at all! One of the clumps has actually gotten shorter than when we planted it. Each spring some leaves/canes are dead and we prune them out, but most are alive. We can't figure out why the bamboo is merely "existing." This bamboo is supposed to grow in part sun. However, from early fall through March, ours get no sun, as a mountain peak blocks the sun from our property. The rest of the year the bamboo gets only morning sun. The coldest winter temperature we have experienced is about minus-5. Sometimes we get a lot of wind. Do I need to move this bamboo into a sunnier area? Add acid and/or compost to our alkaline, sandy soil under the bamboo? Fertilize more than normal? We water twice a week -- should we water less often? Any ideas would be very much appreciated -- we love bamboo and there aren't many other options for a natural screen in this location.

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Most (all?) Phyllostachys bamboos are sun-loving and need a lot of sun to thrive, so that may be the problem. Bamboo is also a heavy feeder, so maybe you do need to fertilize more (you didn't give details on fertilization). Mulch with compost and other organics too.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2010 at 6:17PM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

Do you also understand that individual bamboo culms do not get bigger from year to year? When a culm comes up it reaches its final height in about 2 months and never gets any larger. In addition, you have less than ideal growing conditions and temperatures. In fact, your bamboo is only supposed to be hardy to about 0 degrees F, so that fact that it has not died completely means you are doing something right. I don't know what to tell you other than to try some other bamboo that is hardier in your growing Zone, like Ph. nuda or one of the hardier Fargesias.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 12:24AM
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Ph. nuda wouldn't be a great choice if the "lot of wind" that they get is when it's cold. Cold, dry wind is the worst for bamboo, and nuda isn't as wind-tolerant as others from what I hear. Some winter wind protection while the plant is young may be in order -- wrap it in plastic for instance.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 2:16PM
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kudzu9(Zone 8a - PNW)

I don't know if nuda is less wind-tolerant than other species. I think the conditions described will be bad for any foliage, so I focused on species that would be able to handle low temps best. In any case, it's a craps shoot...

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 4:25PM
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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

Shade should not be a problem but as far as it goes bamboo does not like wind very much. This will make it harder for your planting to persist through cold winters in a climate that is already of questionable suitability. Even the most hardy, high altitude bamboos (this is not one of them) are native only to moist climates, typically downright wet during the growing season. Low humidity, and perhaps as well as mineral salts in your irrigation water could both be problematic.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 10:36PM
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