Bamboo Tree

Bamboo at Johnson Brothers Greenhouses

Using Bamboo Trees To Enhance Your Garden

Bamboo trees are anything but invasive. Bamboos are actually grasses that turn into beautiful and popular “trees”.  You’ve probably heard about problematic bamboo and how it can be invasive.  Not to worry – there are ways to control and manage bamboo to work for you.
Learn how to incorporate it into your existing landscape or create a brand-new, amazing garden. All it takes is a little creativity.

How Does Bamboo Grow?

Bamboo “canes,” known as culms, grow from a branching underground root structure known as a rhizome.  Bamboo has two methods of growing:  clumping and running.  Clumping bamboo species tend to spread slowly, similar to ornamental grasses.

Running bamboos, on the other hand, need to be corralled in a garden due to their aggressive nature. This variety spreads mainly through their roots or rhizomes.  This can lead to the bamboo trees spreading widely underground and send up new culms to break through the surface.  If you choose to put running bamboo in your garden, rather than using it as a barrier or hedge, then you should considering keeping it under control by using a rhizome barrier.  A rhizome barrier is a thin plastic barrier that you install around your planting area to prevent it from spreading and is very effective.

If you want to create a beautiful Zen garden clumping bamboo is a perfect and popular choice. Clumping bamboo spreads out a few inches a year until it reaches a maximum width and will not need a barrier to keep it well behaved.  Incorporate some beautiful perennial plants like lavender, thyme, or other native local plants that do not require irrigation in order to create a low-maintenance garden.  Make sure to include structural enhancements, including water features such as fountains, ponds (with or without fish), waterfalls or creeks, dry creek beds, statuary, arbors, trellises and more.  A beautiful stone bench would be the perfect choice for your seating selection.

Growing bamboo indoors and in outdoor containers is possible, but it can be tricky. Because of the aggressive root structure, bamboo in pots often becomes root bound. In order to grow successfully, you should stick to the dwarf varieties, or if using a larger variety, make sure to thin out regularly.  You can plant the left over bamboo in your garden or pass it along to friends.

Planting Bamboo Trees

Bamboos are happiest in a loose, loamy soil. When planting, dig a hole double the diameter of the existing root ball, and a few inches deeper. With the soil that comes out of the hole, mix an equal amount of organic material (planting mix or mulch).

Place some of the mixed soil in the bottom of the hole and tamp it down, so that when the root ball is carefully removed from the container and placed in the hole, the top of the root ball is at ground level.  Back fill around the root ball with the soil mix, tamp it down, then form a 3″-4″ high basin around the plant to hold water.

Good Companion Choices

If you are trying to grow bamboo trees in a shaded area, plant some hostas and delicate ferns along the front. The different shaped leaves complement each other nicely.  Otherwise, frequent companions for bamboo in the wild are spruces and rhododendrons.

Try adding a pop of color with various groundcovers, cotoneaster, and smaller flowers like marigolds, California poppies, and smaller-size daylilies and irises.

Growing bamboo is easy and will reward you with continued growth for years to come.