Anyone try growing bamboo in zone 4 MN?

kari_falconhts(z4 MN)February 7, 2007

As I'm suffering from the bitter-winter-blues, I found myself searching for zone 4-hardy bamboos, and came up with the following link:

See the 'Yellow Groove Bamboo'

They say its growing at the Arboretum (outside or inside I wonder) and that it can get to be 8' in cold climates. As I've had good luck for a couple of years with my japanese maple, do I dare experiment with bamboo? Will it need protection? I'm in the twin cities metro, and I need screening, in an awkward, but fairly protected area. I've been unsuccessful so far with arborvitae, due to clay-ey soil and rabbits. Plus, evergreens take so long to grow! Any advice out there?

Here is a link that might be useful: Yellow Groove Bamboo

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I bought some yellow groove bamboo from the arboretum at their spring plant sale. It lived here (rural east metro) for a couple years but winter killed eventually. At the arboretum they have it planted among some Amur maples in their Japanese garden. It seems to have been there for decades but I think it ebbs and flows. Not a bad thing since it's a runner. I would expect it to die back to the ground most winters.

Two years ago I planted a dwarf bamboo from the Flower Factory (worth a trip - outside of Madison, WI). It's Pleiblastus sp.. Came through last winter fine and spread quite a bit over the summer - but who knows what this spring will bring.

Klehms Song Sparrow Farm offers Fargesia murialiae, that they list as zone 4 and not a runner.

There also is bamboo planted outside the Minneapolis Institute of Art, but I'm sure what kind.

Good luck!


Here is a link that might be useful: Klehm's Song Sparrow Farm

    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 7:25PM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

Your city heat island will be to your advantage. The Arboretum bamboo is outside in the Japanese garden, to the right after you enter the gate. They mulch with straw every winter. The bamboo acts as a perennial, and dies back to the ground, or is cut back to the ground because of the worn and ugly look of overwintered stalks. Most years it grows about 5 feet.

No bamboo will be evergreen in our climate with human intervention. You could, every fall, bend the stalks down and secure them to the ground, and cover them with mulch to preserve the life of the leaves. In my opinion, bamboo does not make a good screen here (if you can get it to grow at all), as it does not grow as thickly as it will further south. Fargesia nitida is probably a bit more cold hardy than yellow groove, and is a clumping habit rather than running. I have had one for 10 plus years, 5 miles west of Lake Minnetonka. I don't mulch it, and it fights for water with a large maple tree. It hangs on, but is far from pretty.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2007 at 7:31PM
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I had a bamboo survive 2 winters here in Duluth. It did die back to the ground each winter, but came up nicely the next summer. No doubt a 100+ inches of snow helped. A friend from Nevada sent it to me and I think it was the type Rick referred to. I did try to transplant it and it died. I will try it again just for the novelty. It looked sort of like a large clump of corn--must have been 8 - 10 feet tall. Hardly any snow this year so I am wondering what will survive of my newly planted perennials and lilacs. Brrr!

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 3:17PM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

The bamboo that somewhat emulates corn would be Arundo donax, most often available in its variegated form. I grew it for a few years close to my parents' house before it winterkilled. This was 20 years back when we had real winters. If you are willing to mulch the heck out of plants (and the surrounding ground), I suspect most very hardy bamboos will survive, but you will never have the height or the thick growth that bamboos are know for.

If your soil type allows, you could grow A. donax in a, say, a one foot depression in the ground that would require less vigorous winter mulching, since the root crown winter temperature would be that much more moderated. Unlike other hardy bamboos, since this bamboo grows so tall, beginning growth in such a depression would be of tolerable consequence.

An abridged list of hardier bamboos:

Phylostachys aureosulcata (Yellow groove)
Fargesia nitida
Fargesia muriale
Fargesia rufa

There is a bamboo forum here at GW, as well as others on the internet. You could try searching those too.

    Bookmark   February 8, 2007 at 5:33PM
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kari_falconhts(z4 MN)

Thanks guys, I will have to come up with a better solution for screening in my attempt at a japanese garden -- though if I see a 'yellow groove' at the Friends sale this year, I'll try it in a pot. Any ideas for an alternative to bamboo? The area I'm trying to screen is at the back of a city yard, under powerlines, and I really need the privacy near-term. There is a fence between myself and my neighbor, but its a picket fence, and too short. I planted arborvitae, they died, and DH confessed that he hated them. I planted canadian hemlock, the rabbits eat 'em. This garden used to have a thicket of honeysuckle, so there are roots and clay soil that I'm working on. Any ideas?

    Bookmark   February 9, 2007 at 3:17PM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

In looking for a bamboo look-a-like, you may come across the Fernleaf buckthorn (Rhamnus frangula 'Asplenifolia'). Be aware that this will not grow tall enough (5ft in MN), and most importantly, all Rhamnus cultivars and species are banned in MN due to their possible invasiveness. Asplenifolia is supposed to be seedless, but not always.

You could go with the standard lilacs, many varieties to choose from. Myself, I am partial to 'Krashavitsa Mosvy', the english attempt at the true Russian name, translated as 'Beauty of Moscow'. You will find it under either name. Double florettes are lavendar in bud, opening to white.

Or the many species of viburnum's that would fit the bill. If you choose Viburnum lantana, or a cultivar of same, they hold their leathery leaves well after most other deciduous trees and shrubs have been denuded for the winter. Nice spring flowers and berries for the birds too.

Perhaps Pearlbush (Exochorda racemosa) or the The Bride Pearlbush (Exochorda x macrantha 'The Bride').

    Bookmark   February 10, 2007 at 7:46PM
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I had Fargesia nitidia for three years here in the east metro. It died to the snowline each year but came back fine. But it died during a mild winter. I called the supplier in Massechusets and they told me all F. nitidia had died, worldwide that year, but seedlings would be available next year. This is normal for Fargesia species. Not wanting to wait, I planted a Korean maple in its place.

Another bamboo lookalike is the hardy silver spike grass, Spodiopogon. This does well. There's a hefty specimen at the Arboretum.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2007 at 12:04PM
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I grow arborvitae in clay soil, so you might want to think about the other conditions and your cultural practices--not to grow it again since it wasn't liked, but to help insure success of whatever you do plant in that spot.

Here's an online plant selection database:

You can play around with different criteria and see what your options are. (Note the checkoff at the top of the window for woody vs. herbaceous.)

There's a famous story about someone wanting to hire some work done and they wanted it done well, done fast, and done cheap. Potential hires told the person, "You can have two out of three, which two do you want the most?" With gardening, sometimes we don't get to choose our "two", e.g., clay soil...

Best wishes in your search for the best plant for you.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2007 at 8:27AM
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What about Bamboo Grass (Miscanthus giganteus)? It's very pretty, and hardy to zone 4. It's not bamboo, but it might give you the effect.

Here is a link that might be useful: bamboo grass

    Bookmark   February 25, 2007 at 4:56PM
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zenpotter(z4 MN)

leftwood, It seems that whenever someone wants to know about a plant you have either tried it or have it. I am glad to read your take on this and since my yard is so small I will strike bamboo from my wish list. It already had a ? by it. If I am using space I want the plant to be nice looking.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2007 at 10:16AM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

Thanks, Pauline. Believe it or not, I say the same thing about some of my friends too!

    Bookmark   February 28, 2007 at 7:25PM
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I have two types of bamboo in my garden. One is at least 6' tall the other about 3'. Actually I'm not sure they are bamboo, that is what i want to know. They have the hallow reed stalks, grow rapidly, have a plume sort of flower in the late summer/fall. The shorter variety has a more reddish/pink plume.

They both come back year after year in my garden just north of Minneapolis.

You could come and dig up some. I'm actually having a plant sale today!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2008 at 1:27PM
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kari_falconhts(z4 MN)

hi zenobia,
I wonder if Leftwood or Zenpotter could help identify your plants -- I didn't think bamboo made plumes. Could your plant be Joe-Pye Weed? It sounds nasty, but its a lovely perennial, and I think it has hollow stems...

Here is a link that might be useful: Google Images of Joe-Pye Weed

    Bookmark   June 9, 2008 at 10:40AM
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Zenobia, I'm bet you have Japanese knotweed, also called Mexican Bamboo. Unfortunately it is an invasive alien weed.

Here is a link:

    Bookmark   June 11, 2008 at 2:21PM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

Yes. Real bamboos bloom every 50-100 years or so. Could also be Miscanthus grasses.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2008 at 8:11PM
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dandy_line(3B (Brainerd, Mn))

Here's a pic of my 'Minnesota Bamboo' that I've been giving away at the Plymouth swap. It's real name is Correopsys tripteris. A Correopsys you look up to. It gets big, 8' or so. Unfortunately I just discovered this Spring that you need a jackhammer to get it out of the ground. I've never seen roots that tough before.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 1:02AM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

Coreopsis tripteris! Definitely not a bamboo, but I've always wondered about growing that. But I couldn't see how it would stay up, so I never tried. Does yours flop?

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 3:47PM
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dandy_line(3B (Brainerd, Mn))

Did you see the picture? The stems are hard as wood and it stays up in the air right through winter.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2008 at 10:08PM
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kari_falconhts(z4 MN)

wow! that is one tall Coreopsis! How fabulous, and looks like its considered a native. If anyone's wondering how I satisfied my bamboo-craving, we planted a Golden Curls Willow, and with this rainy weather it is one happy camper. I still sigh over the bamboos they bring into Linders...someday...

Is zenobia still out there - have we id'd your plant yet?

    Bookmark   June 13, 2008 at 9:43AM
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mnwsgal 4 MN(4)

I grow rudbeckia laciniata 'Golden Glow' which grows very tall and has a double bloom. It does get floppy so I weave a circle of twine around a clump of it to give it support.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2008 at 10:15AM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

Thanks, I did see the pic, but couldn't be sure of its upright tendencies, as some stalks were leaning. Thanks for clearing that up for me.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2008 at 4:38PM
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dandy_line(3B (Brainerd, Mn))

Be aware that this stuff( C. tripteris) is real aggressive. You need to put a prison around it and use a jackhammer to get rid of what escapes.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2008 at 8:06PM
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I have bamboo in my garden in Canada. It was given to me by my neighbour who has grown the same stand of bamboo for 20 years. No care is necessary... no mulching, covering etc. It grows to 12' to 14' each year. Has long green leaves & it turns a pretty beige color in the winter, with feathery seed heads at the top.. doesn't flower till late september. We have minus 35 C winters here & it never bothers this bamboo. I would love to get more but don't know the looks a bit like Pseudosasa Japonica, but I'm not sure

    Bookmark   March 21, 2009 at 3:09PM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

If it has seed heads, it can't be a bamboo. Bamboos produce seed once every 50-300 years.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2009 at 10:24PM
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zenpotter(z4 MN)

The Friends School catalog is on line so you can check out the bamboo they have for this year now.

    Bookmark   March 25, 2009 at 8:18AM
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