ANSWERS TO COMMON BAMBOO QUESTIONS
Q. I thought bamboo only grew in warmer climates?
A. There are approximately 1500 species of bamboo throughout the world with about half being tropical and half hardy. So theoretically we can grow around 750 of the hardy species here in the Pacific NW. We have approximately 100 under cultivation.
Q. Someone said if you plant bamboo it will quickly overtake my yard and garden.
A. Many of the hardy bamboos we offer here in the NW would pose a running problem when planted in warmer climates. With our cool spring and summer temperatures the bamboos tend to move at a much slower rate.Their spreading habit is dependant on how warm the soil becomes. Now, there are a few species here that if not contained will spread at a pretty good clip. I inform the customer which ones can misbehave and suggest a barrier material to keep them in bounds. For these species we recommend containing them with a 40 mil high impact polyurethane barrier which we sell here at the nursery. There are other methods of containing bamboo such as planting in a raised planting container and on a mound which is effective for 3 - 4 years.
Q. Can you eat the bamboo shoots?
A. Yes, all species of bamboo shoots are edible providing you boil them first. We find them most tasty when after boiling them you marinate the shoots in soy sauce for an hour or two.
Q. Does bamboo grow in sun or shade and is it an evergreen?
A. Yes, many bamboos are understory plants and do well in either sun or shade. We have other species like Fargesia that prefer shade and others, like Phyllostachys and Semiarundinaria that like more sun. Yes, bamboo is evergreen.
Q. Will bamboo grow in water?
A. No, bamboo likes to be near water but not in water. 'It likes its toes wet, but its ankles dry.' Water is a natural barrier for bamboo. There are certain species that will tolerate more standing water that others such as Phyllostachys heteroclauda 'Purpurata.'
Q. Can I use bamboo for a privacy screen?
A. Yes, privacy screen bamboo is a big seller here at the nursery! With homes being built so close to each other and most are two-stories to save further on land space, bamboo is an excellent privacy screen as it is low maintenance, all vertical green growth and evergreen. We sell privacy screen species according to their final height: "one-story, two-story and three story bamboo."
Q. What type of fertilizer and watering do I give my bamboo?
A. Bamboo is nothing more than a giant primitive grass and a member of the grass family, so the requirements are the same as for your lawn: a light feeding in spring and summer of a typical grass fertilizer and regular watering. With the low growing groundcover bamboos I suggest you take your mower to them in later winter or early spring. They will reward you with a flush of new leaves as spring arrives. Don't take this approach to the larger species!
Q. My friend says if you've eaten Chinese food you've eaten bamboo shoots. Is that true?
A. Probably. Cut bamboo shoots are common ingredients in many Chinese foods.
Q. How fast does bamboo grow?
A. When bamboo shoots in the early spring or summer they are the fastest growing plants in the world! At the nursery we have a grove of timber bamboo (Phyllostachys bambusoides and Phyllostachys vivax) that grew between one foot and a foot and a half everyday for a month! It stopped growing after 32 days and was 35 feet tall with a 2.5 inch diameter. After completing its growth it then branches out and finally leafs out. Once completing its growth it will never grow again! . We are expecting bigger shoots this coming spring.
Q. How do I propagate new starts of bamboo?
A. Hardy bamboos are propagated by division. Our procedure is to dig out a large clump and then cut it with an electric Sawsal or handsaw. Ensure that there is enough root and rhizome material to support the top growth. Better to have more rootball and a few culms with leaves that the other way around. The best time to propagate new starts is just before the plant begins to send up new shoots, usually in later March to the end of April. Successful divisions can be taken at any time of the year.
Q. I've heard Asia would not be Asia without bamboo. What are some of its uses?
A. There are thousands of uses for bamboo. The canes are used for making furniture, building scaffolding, fences, water pipes, construction, chop sticks, food, musical instruments, etc. The US Navy used it in WWII in the South Pacific to reinforce concrete!
Q. How long does the average culm of bamboo live and when can I start to harvest culms (canes)?
A. About 7 - 9 years. The culms to be harvested should be at least 4 years old. If they are harvested any sooner they may slowly wither and become useless.
(note. a 'culm' is alive, while a 'cane' is a dead or cut culm.)
Q. What colors does bamboo have?
A. Bamboo culms come in the following natural colors: black, green, gold & green, gold, gray, red, yellow and powder blue. We carry all these species.
Q. Can I plant bamboo in a container?
A. Yes. Any species of bamboo can be planted in a container such as a wine or whiskey barrel as long as the plant is removed every 3 - 4 years, halved or quartered and then part of the plant is replanted in the container. Failure to do this will result in the bamboo rhizomes encircling themselves in the container making it difficult to water and causing a slow deterioration of the bamboo.
Q. Can I keep bamboo indoors?
A. Yes. Most any species of bamboo may be kept inside providing they are located in a strong indirect light or morning light with light afternoon shade. Obviously,tropical species do better inside than the more hardy species. They require humidity as the average home is drier than the Gobi desert. When first placed indoors there may be a large amount of leaf drop which will gradually be replaced by new leaves. In the spring and summer place the bamboo outside and bring them inside when the weather turns colder in fall. Mist daily and water 3 times per week while indoors.