Bamboo - hot, clay soil, droughty summers ??

leslie123(Z8 WA)December 29, 2005

Can I grow bamboo in my conditions?

I live in mid-south Louisiana, zone 8, on a low hill in the middle of an old cow pasture, now heavily grown with bahia grass. I had the soil analyzed; it came back "fine sandy loam", optimum for perennials and veggies, low for annuals & shrubs, needs lots of nitrogen. In the middle of summer, call it cement. From about 6-12" down, it's red clay.

I need plants that don't require a lot of water, although I'm willing to water them for the first few years, while they settle in. The area is open (full sun), hot, humid, and very windy.

CAN I grow bamboo here? In the heat? Clay? Drought? Wind? I want a grove of the thicker caned varieties, like the black bamboo or Phyllostachys nigra 'Henon' (I've been looking at the Lewis Bamboo site) - the sort you can walk through. I'm also interested in a few privacy screens.

What do you think? What varieties would you recommend for heat & drought & wind & clay?


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Bamboo can grow in most places. But will you have a giant stand of Phyllostachys nigra 'Henon' without amending the soil, probably not. This website shows two photos of p. rubromarginata and the difference in growth in two locations.

    Bookmark   December 29, 2005 at 1:46PM
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leslie123(Z8 WA)

Hi lkz5ia, thanks for the answer. Which website?

    Bookmark   December 29, 2005 at 2:14PM
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ahhh, I forgot the link.

Here is a link that might be useful: phyllostachys rubromarginata

    Bookmark   December 29, 2005 at 4:38PM
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From those pictures it looks like you could grow some very decent bamboo on a dry hillside with poor soil. Not the best, but it looks quite good.
I would try Henon if I were you. I have done alot of reading about this one and have it myself. By all accounts it tolerates drought conditions very well, although I water the heck out of mine in the summer. Give it plenty of water until it's established, and even then you ought to soak it at least once a month.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2005 at 11:17AM
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seattleboo(Everett, Wa)

When I google "drought tolerant bamboo", Indocalamous Latifolius appeared; a broad leaf, low screen (7') bamboo. Also Textilis "Weavers" bamboo was there (which grows a lot taller; gee, maybe you can get into basket weaving). Nandin "Heavenly Bamboo" is mentioned a lot in the drought tolerant catagory(though it isn't a bamboo at all, but is very beautiful). Bamboo, being a grass, needs nitrogen, so it seems like you will need to do some soil amendment. Bashania Fargesii "Windbreak Bamboo" might be good, but is always warned to be one of the most vigorous runners. Still, it sounds like your situation would shrivel up any rhizomes that ran beyond the watering can, so it might be a very good choice. Mind you, I have only done 10 minutes work on your problem. Most bamboos need hardly any attention once they are established, but nothing can live without water. Careful though, once you try bamboo, nothing less will do.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2005 at 1:35PM
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leslie123(Z8 WA)

I found the most wonderful place, just a few miles from home, that grows bamboo!!! I visited this afternoon, and got a tour -- now I want some of everything. He had the most wonderful grove of moso bamboo. Did you know they're fuzzy ... of course you do ... I couldn't stop from touching as he led me through. And those lovely lacy leaves. I'm afraid nothing else is going to do. I think part of my front yard (about 80'x30') is going to be a moso grove someday. It obviously grows well in this area.

I'm also hoping for a smaller grove of black bamboo in the back yard.

Tcscoehr -- I went there looking for the Henon - from the pics, it's gorgeous!! The nursery had planted a lot of it, and it was pretty, but the moso (same age) was obviously maturing faster. Since the grove will do double duty as a really tall privacy screen, and since I prefer the moso, it's elected. Still, I may try the henon someday, too.

SeattleBoo - I didn't even think to google "drought tolerant bamboo." Thank you!! He didn't have any of those varieties planted, that I can recall. I'll check into those a bit more. I do like nandina "heavenly bamboo" too. :-)

Thank you all!

    Bookmark   December 30, 2005 at 9:03PM
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Leslie, if I lived where you do I would definately try some Moso, but I would also make sure they get some water in the summer. Maybe the summer rains where you live will do, I don't know. Where I live, Moso is excrutiatingly slow to size up, and will never attain the stature as it would where you live. On the other hand, Henon and Bory grow here about as well as anywhere in the world. I prefer to plant bamboos that are best adapted to the local conditions. And even so, I still feel compelled to water them liberally during our summer when it seldom rains at all. Taz hate water! Boo love water!

    Bookmark   January 2, 2006 at 12:09PM
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