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24 September 2014

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You are in: Lancashire > Nature > Features > Ask the gardener: Bamboo

bamboo

Ask the gardener: Bamboo

Ask Bill Blackledge about yer old bamboo!

Warton's Bill Blackledge is one of the county's most popular and sought after gardeners.  If it's green and needs watering, Bill can tell you about it.  He has been answering BBC Radio Lancashire listeners' queries for over thirty years, which means he's been there nearly as long as the transmitter!

His knowledge is encyclopedic. After training at the under the then Ministry of Agriculture, Bill spent over twenty years at the Department of Biological and Environmental Services at Lancaster University.  Now, he's a regular course tutor at Alston Hall, Longridge and Lancaster Adult College.

For three decades, Bill has travelled the county with fellow judges as a regional judge for North West in Bloom.

So, whatever the problem, we like to think Bill can sort it out... at least that's the theory!

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Dave Fogarty asks...

Will black bamboo survive in a south facing conservatory?

Bill replies...

The Black Bamboo (Phyllostachys Nigra) is Dave one of the most popular Bamboos grown in this country and can be grown outside in full sun or light shade but, must be sheltered from the wind and during the summer months must be kept well watered.  With regard to growing your Bamboo in a south facing conservatory my worry would be the high temperatures reached during the summer months in your conservatory which would mean constantly having to water and you may also get scorching of the leaf edges. Growing plants such as Bamboos in conservatories make them more susceptible to damage from pests such as Aphids and also the greenhouse pest Red Spider Mite.  If possible I would personally place your Bamboo outside during the summer period and then bring it back indoors during the winter months.  If you do intend to keep your Bamboo in the conservatory over the twelve month period you will need to shade your conservatory during the summer period and also ensure that it is well ventilated.

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Nicky asks...

My golden bamboo seems to be suffering from the same thing as other people's this year (wind scorch damage). I want to move the bamboo to a more sheltered spot in the garden but the only places are either in complete shade or against a wall in the sun. Would any of these places be OK?

Bill replies...

Your Golden Bamboo (Phyllostachys Aurea) will Nicky grow in full sun or light shade but, it is important to situate your plant where it will be sheltered from prevailing winds.  Of the two options you have and providing that you can incorporate some well rotted manure or any organic material into the compost which will help to maintain moisture you will be able to plant your Bamboo against the sunny wall.  It is however important to keep an eye on the watering until your plant is well established.

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Linda Coleman asks...

We have just put in a black stemmed bamboo Phyllostachys Nigra (I think) We have watered it well, prepared the hole well.  One of the three stems is yellowing and I think we will lose it.  Can you help please?

Bill replies...

Your Black Bamboo (Phyllostachys Nigra) will Linda need to be watered regularly until well established and quite often with newly planted Bamboos you will find that the lower leaves do start to yellow.  As you will be aware Bamboo plants are quite expensive to buy and if for some reason your plant does not recover it would be worth your while to contact the Garden Centre from where you purchased the plant, quite a number of Garden Centres will guarantee plants for twelve months.

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Bernice asks...

I divided a bamboo, now both halves are looking very brown and dead, but I have checked and the canes are green inside, is there anything I can do?

Bill replies...

If the canes of your Bamboo are still green Bernice there is still a very good chance that new shoots will appear.

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Pat Williams asks...

We want to plant a golden bamboo immediately adjacent to the house and to the boundary fence for privacy.  Is there any reason why we should not do this as I understand from the previous correspondence that phyllostachys aurea is not invasive?

Bill replies...

You will find Pat that the Golden Bamboo (Phyllostachys Aurea) does grow very vertical and stays in tight clumps at the base of the plant and this does make it ideal for screening purposes such as hiding ugly fence panels. It is also an ideal plant for small gardens.  You will need to keep an eye on the watering throughout the summer months and your plant will require regular feeding and it is very important with Bamboos that they are grown in a sunny but sheltered position away from prevailing winds.  I would also be worthwhile through the summer months to keep a check on aphids which can become troublesome.

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Theresa Scarfe asks...

Our black bamboo was growing beautifully last year. However, we have now noticed that all of its leaves look brown and papery. We have it in a large container in a sheltered position. What can we do to get the vibrant green leaves back?

Bill replies...

Quite a number of Bamboos have suffered this year Theresa due to the cold weather and varying temperatures and it is important that you do keep your containerised Bamboo in a sunny but sheltered position.  It is also important with your Bamboo growing in a container that your plant receives an adequate supply of fertiliser and I would top dress the container with a slow release fertiliser such as GrowMore or Vitax Q4 which contain the main three fertilisers and also trace elements.  Your Bamboo could also be given an added boost by watering with a liquid fertiliser as soon as the weather improves.

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Fiona asks...

The leaves on my golden bamboo are dried out can I rejuvenate it?

Bill replies...

Golden Bamboos do suffer from winter wind scorch damage and it has been very noticeable this year.  You will however find that during the summer months your Bamboo will recover but you will need to give your plant a liberal dressing of a balanced fertiliser such as GrowMore or Vitax Q4 and also a top dressing of well rotted farm yard manure would also be beneficial.  The Golden Bamboo is a beautiful plant but does require a sheltered position away from prevailing winds.

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Alison asks...

Can I move a black bamboo that has been established for 2 years?

Bill replies...

Your Black Bamboo (Phyllostacys Nigra) is possibly the most popular Bamboo grown Alison and, the time to move your Bamboo is springtime.  Do ensure that you dig out a large root ball and the plant will require a rich fertile soil and can be planted in full sun or light shade but will need a position away from prevailing winds.  It is important that you ensure that your Bamboo is well watered especially during the summer months and your Bamboo will appreciate a top dressing of a base fertiliser such as Fish Blood and Bone Meal approximately every five to six weeks during the growing season.

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Nick asks...

Is it possible to re plant and grow pruned stems from a black bamboo each stem being approx 6 feet high with leaves?

Bill replies...

The two methods which are used for propagating Black Bamboo (Phyllostachys Nigra) Nick is by dividing the existing plant and this can be done early springtime or, by rhizome cuttings which is less invasive than dividing the plant.  What you need to do is to find a rhizome which is spreading through the soil from the plant and, these will be quite close to the soil surface.  Remove the soil from the around the rhizome back to the point where it joins the main plant and then you need to cut the rhizome from the main plant and gently pull the rhizome out of the soil.  You will find that the rhizome is divided into nodes and you can cut the rhizome into sections which include some nodes and also a reasonable amount of root.  The node sections are the dormant buds and the rhizome can be placed in seed trays just below the soil surface and watered thoroughly.  You will then find young shoots appearing from the nodes and these can then be repotted into single pots and when large enough planted in the garden.  If  the stems which you have pruned do not contain any roots I am afraid that these will not survive.

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Duncan and Michelle both ask...

I have a front garden south facing to the sloping drive side I wanted to plant Bamboo as we love the sway of it. There is a main drain here so having to rethink. The garden is made up mainly of pampas bamboo coastal hedging and a few flower beds. We need this side to be a quick growing screen, which does not root deep, but is evergreen. Suggestions please

Bill replies...

With regard to the planting of Bamboos Michelle the Golden Bamboo (Phyllostachys Aurea) is an ideal Bamboo for a small garden and also for screening purposes, and will grow to a height of approximately five feet.  Unlike other Bamboo species the Golden Bamboo is not as invasive.  Other popular plants which you could use for coastal hedging are Griselinia Littorlis, Seabuckthorne (Hippophae Rhamnoides), Elaeagnus Ebbingei and Tamarix.  You could also plant architectural plants such as Yucca Gloriosa Variegata which will grow to a height of approximately five feet, Pampas Grass Pumila which, again will grow to a height of approximately four to five feet and the Phormium species.  Regarding the main drain in your garden it is difficult to give you a concise answer as to whether the plants I have recommend will affect your drain but, quite a number have fibrous roots systems rather than the long protruding tap roots.

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John Sepahi asks...

I've recently been able to start a small collection of bamboos at my mothers home (big garden) as I have never had a garden of my own. I'm really proud of what we have achieved with so little money. We have five different types of bamboo, all were at low cost or from cuttings from friends. They are all in containers next to each other, receiving partial shade and protection from the wind, all were fed and watered the same. They all improved greatly throwing up new shoots every day then all of a sudden the phyllostachys aureosulcata aureocaulis stopped growing and started loosing the new culms it had just thrown up, then the leaves started turning pale yellow now they are almost white with papery brown edges and brownish back splotches. I thought I had overwatered it and so haven't since but no improvement it just looks worse.

Bill replies...

You will find John that the Golden Bamboo (Phyllostachys Aureosulcata) can be quite temperamental and quite a number have suffered this year through leaves turning yellow and then going a white papery brown.  Part of the problem is due to the weather conditions we experienced last year and the prevailing cold winds.  What I suggest you do in early springtime is top dress your pots with a general base fertiliser such as Fish Blood and Bone Meal and I would also liquid feed at least once a week during the active growing season again, with a balanced fertiliser, which should include trace elements and I am sure that your Golden Bamboo will produce new shoots.

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Howard Maddock asks...

I have had a Bamboo for two years and it has started to drop its leaves, so much so that the plant looks very poorly. I do not know which variety it is but it has a wobbly stem, (like bobbins), and its height is about three feet. The plant is sited in a reasonable sized ceramic pot located in a large hall with reasonable light and temperature. It is only watered when the top compost feels to be drying out. I would dearly like to keep the plant and would greatly appreciate some guidance as to what can be done to rectify the escalating problem.

Bill replies...

You will find Howard that Bamboos kept indoors do need maximum light intensity and a very cool temperature and therefore the reason why the leaves on your Bamboo keep falling could be due to too high a temperature.  With regard to watering it is important that when the compost is drying out that you do give the Bamboo a good watering as they do require moist conditions.  If the leaves on your Bamboo still keep dropping off I would be inclined during the summer months to place your plant outside. When growing Bamboos in containers regular feeding is required throughout the growing season.

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Allan Walker asks...

I planted a black bamboo about five years ago it has now grown to 22 feet high and about 3 square foot I would like to take cuttings for potting -  how much should I remove and when?

Bill replies...

The easiest method of propagating Black Bamboo (Phyllostachys Nigra) Allan is by division or from rhizome cuttings.  Division is best taking place during early springtime and if your Bamboo is growing in a large pot you can knock the Bamboo out of the pot and using a very sharp strong knife, saw or sharp spade to divide the large plant, ensuring that there quite a number of shoots.  It is important that once division has taken place to keep your new plants well watered until well established.  Propagating from rhizome cuttings is far less invasive than dividing the plant and is far more effective for Bamboos growing in the garden soil.  Rhizomes grow near to the soil surface and after gently removing the soil from around the Bamboo you will be able to see the rhizome/tuberous roots.  The rhizomes can then be lifted, cut into sections, ensuring that there are a number of nodes in each section of the rhizome, these can then be planted in pots and placed just below soil surface, young shoots will then appear from the nodes/buds.  Again it is important to ensure that the soil in the pots is kept moist.

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Debbie Kennett asks...

I have read through the questions and note that a few people have stated that their bamboo has spread into the rest of lawn or garden. I have just purchased some bamboo and do not want this to happen. Is there anyway of preventing at the time of planting? I have seen programmes that have put metal sheets in front of the bamboo. If I did this how deep would it need be? and should I leave any of the metal above ground level?

Bill replies...

You will find that quite a number of Bamboos are vigorous and rhizomes will spread over your garden.  You mention using metal sheets which will be effective and these should just be kept level with the soil surface.  You can also, beside using metal sheets, use a semi-permeable polypropylene liner which is used for surpressing weeds but is water permeable.  The depth of the liner or metal sheets should be approximately two to three feet deep.

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Christine asks...

I have a bamboo (phyllo pubescens) seedling, which is (was) about ten inches high.  Up until now, it's been doing very well but was horrified to notice that some aphid (I suspect?) has chewed most of the new leaves away and I'm left with a rather unhappy looking 'stump'.  I noticed some tiny transparent worm-like creatures in the soil but where it's been chewed has definitely got a shiny trail left.  Can you help?  Can it possibly be a slug indoors?  I'm devastated.  Many thanks

Bill replies...

I am certain that the problem with your Bamboo leaves being eaten Christine has been caused by the small grey slug and the tell tale signs are the shiny trails which have been left.  With the recent moist damp weather over the past couple of months you will find that slugs can get into your home and, what I would do is place a few of the small slug pellets on top of your soil and this will attract the slugs and eradicate them. 

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Sue asks...

I have 2 outdoor bamboos do they need feeding if so what with?

Bill replies...

You will find Sue that your Bamboos will need feeding and I would use a general base fertiliser such as Fish Blood and Bone Meal, Grow More or Vitax Q4. and, you will need to sprinkle approximately four ounces of fertiliser per square yard around the base of the plant.

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Linda McAlister asks...

We had two magnificent bamboos which are about 7 foot high and have been kept in containers.  However, they now look quite dry and brown and have seed heads coming from them instead of leaves.  If you peel back at the stems you can see green underneath, is there anything which can be done to save them?

Bill replies...

Quite a number of Bamboos when they flower and produce seed Linda will then die and I am afraid this what could be happening to your Bamboos.  I would not give up hope just yet because quite a number of Bamboos have suffered badly this year from wind scorch damage and browning of the leaves.

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Patrick asks...

I have a large bamboo in a large pot. Ten feet tall and well looked after. For the first time in 5 years it has gone brown this winter, lost its leaves, yet is throwing up deep red "flowers" with bright green seeds. Is the bamboo going to recover and return to its green leaved state?

Bill replies...

You will usually find Patrick that with a number of Bamboos once they have flowered and seeded the plant dies and it looks as though this is what has happened with your Bamboo.  I would leave your Bamboo for a few weeks to allow the seeds to ripen but I feel that you are going to have to replace your Bamboo.

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Anna asks...

We have just bought a house with a lovely mature garden which contains bamboo plants. These appear to form dense clumps rather than to spread, so my dilemma is how to control their height as they must be about 5-6 m tall and are obscurring the view. Can I prune them? Thank you

Bill replies...

Bamboos produce new shoots from ground level Anna and with your Bamboos being very well established and forming dense clumps I would thin out a lot of the shoots and cut back to base level which, will encourage new shoots to appear and you can also cut back some of the larger shoots which are obscuring your view and, I would do this early Springtime.  Long term will you will need to cut back some of the older shoots to encourage new growth.

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Emma asks...

I bought an 8ft Golden Bamboo last year; Phyllostachys aurea, and it has suffered through our wet, windy winter. The ends of all the leaves are withered and dry. When is the correct time to feed it, and what will improve the current state of the foliage? It is in a container situated next to the house in a sheltered aspect but still catches the sun.

Bill replies...

The Golden Bamboo Emma is a wonderful architectural plant but this year I have seen numerous plants which have suffered due to the very cold and wet winter we have had. One of the problems with the Golden Bamboo is that it takes a few years to become established. By growing your Bamboo in a container you will need to feed it regularly and I would start this feeding early May. It is also important that during the summer months you keep your plant well watered.

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Aileen asks...

Are there any bamboos that have roots that don't spread and which are not to high?

Bill replies...

The two Bamboos I would recommend for a small garden are:

1) Phyllostachys Aureosulcata Aureocaulis - this Bamboo is one of the most attractive of the species and produces some beautiful pinkish canes which when mature gradually change to a mild yellow. An established plant will produce numerous new canes but, the basal clump will stay tight and not spread.

2) Phyllostachys Aurea (The Golden Bamboo) is again ideal for a small garden and the basal clump will remain tight. Although named the Golden Bamboo the canes are green and will only turn golden if we have a very hot summer.

Both species need to be kept well watered especially during the summer months and will need feeding at regular intervals.

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Patricia D'Arcy asks...

We have bamboo in our garden which has gone completely out of control We have had shoots coming up all over the garden which is paved and pebbled. It is even pushing up the paving stones. About six weeks ago we took all the pebbles up and the membrane underneath and we were shocked at the root system before our eyes. We pulled out all the roots and cut everything back to the main plant - now six weeks later we are in the same position we were before we took the pebbles and paving stones up. The plant has advanced into our neighbours garden.; Help what can we do?

Bill replies...

What I would do Patricia is to dig a small clump of your Bamboo up and place it in a pot and if you do not want to keep any of the remaining Bamboo I would spray with a systemic weed killer such as Round Up or Tumbleweed - which contains glyphosate. Spray on a warm but still day and you must ensure you do not spray any other plants in the garden. The weed killer will then be transferred through the leaves into the stem and then into the roots and it is the roots we have got to kill.; You may need to spray at least two/three times to keep the Bamboo under control i.e. Summer/Autumn time.

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Sarah Green asks...

I have recently purchased a black bamboo, that we are thinking of splitting into two plants.; Is it ok to do this time of year, or should we wait for warmer weather?

Bill replies...

The Black Bamboo (Phyllostachys Nigra) is a beautiful architectural plant and it is possible to split them but I would wait until you can obtain two decent sized plants before doing so. The best time for splitting your Bamboo is late spring.

Bamboos need to be planted in a sheltered spot and it is very important to keep your plant well watered.

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Ann Henderson asks...

I have a couple of medium height bamboos (currently in containers) I want to plant out one in a border, for privacy. How do I do this, yet stop it from spreading all over? Thanks

Bill replies...

There are two methods you can use Ann - the first method is to dig a hole where you wish to plant your bamboo - the width of the hole needs to be the width to which you require your bamboo to spread - you then need to completely line your hole with one of the polypropylene ground cover liners - which are interwoven* Place your bamboo into the lined hole and gently firm the soil around your plant.

The second method is - dig a hole and plunge your container into the hole.; This method will keep you bamboo under control and it will also help to stop your bamboo drying out during the summer months.

* The polypropylene ground cover liners can be obtained from any garden centre outlets and are used mainly for weed suppression and have excellent water permeability.

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Paul Harvey asks...

I am thinking of planting some bamboo in my garden, I have been told they don't like windy sites, is this true and to what extent? Also what are good varieties for our climate (Rossendale) Thanks.

Bill replies...

Bamboos are certainly becoming a very popular architectural plant in the Lancashire area.; The most popular one is the Black Bamboo (Phyllostachys Nigra.) This Bamboo produces black canes which are magnificent. It will grow in full sun or a slightly shaded spot - but will require sheltering from prevailing winds. However, a Bamboo which is more tolerant to wind damage is the Arrow Bamboo (Pseudosasa Japonica) it will grow in a wide range of soils and also in exposed costal areas. One of the most attractive Bamboos and, ideal for a small garden, is Phyllostachys Aureosulcata Aureocaulis.; The new canes are pinkish red in colour and then mature to a deep yellow.  Last but by no means least I would certainly recommend the Golden Bamboo (Phyllostachys Aurea). This Bamboo is very versatile - it will either grow in a very sunny or shaded spot - but again will need shelter from the wind.

It is very important for all Bamboos to be kept well watered with the majority needing protection from the wind.

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Dawn Strong asks...

How can I get rid of bamboo that is coming from my neighbour's garden? It has totally ruined my shed and patio.

Bill replies...

I feel the best method of keeping the bamboo under control Dawn is to spray the leaves of the plant with a systemic glyphosate weed killer. One recommend brand is RoundUp. It is important when spraying to use the recommended clothing and avoid spraying any other plants in the vicinity.  The weed killer will be transferred through the leaves down the stem and into the roots.You may have to apply the weed killer two/three times during the summer months when new leaves appear.

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Karen Walker asks...

I had bought an ornamental lucky bamboo in a vase with water only. My problem is one of the stems has turned yellow the rest are still green. What went wrong can you help?

Bill replies...

I purchased an Ornamental Lucky Bamboo myself approximately one month ago Karen and it is situated on the kitchen window sill in a light position and, so far so good, it seems to be growing ok. But as the leaves begin to grow I will need to add a dilute solution of liquid feed to the water.  It is not going to be easy to grow bamboos under these conditions with numerous shoots strapped together and I feel sooner or later some of these stems will start to yellow - it is just the conditions they have been grown under.  

last updated: 02/06/2008 at 12:25
created: 07/03/2007

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