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Bamboo belongs to the family of grasses (Poaceae) and is related to cereals such as wheat, oats, rice or corn, but also with the turf grasses. Accordingly, one speaks of the "bamboo stem" - even if it is over 20 meters high, because bamboo is sometimes tree-high in our latitudes. The variety of bamboo species is huge. There are 47 species with more than 1,000 varieties. There are four groups: dwarf bamboo (up to 1.5 meters high), small bamboo (1.5 to 3 meters), medium bamboo (3 to 9 meters) and giant bamboo (over 9 meters). The largest is the tropical genus Gigantochloa: their species form up to 40 meters high stalks! Of the higher, thick-stalked bamboo species, the genus Phyllostachys has the greatest importance in Central Europe. The plants usually bear the German name Flachrohrbambus, because their stalks are flattened on one side. In this they differ from the bamboo genera also commonly used in garden design umbrella bamboo (Fargesia), Arundinaria and Sasa. The real bamboo (Bambusa) is not sufficiently hardy in our latitudes. In East Asia, the main distribution area of ​​most species, the bamboo has such a great importance that one can justifiably call it culture-defining. Not only do you make roof trusses and scaffolding, but also furniture, fences, water pipes, floor coverings, containers, ropes, clothes and chopsticks. In addition, his young sprouts are an important food. The botanical name "bamboo" exists only since 1753 and was derived from the Swedish naturalist Carl von Linné of the Indian word "Mambu".

Appearance and growth

Strongly growing species of the flat-tube bamboo such as Phyllostachys viridiglaucescens can reach heights of growth of up to ten meters and a stalk diameter of seven centimeters in Central Europe - within one season! Because unlike trees and shrubs, each stalk grows up to its final height in the year of the shoot and then remains unchanged for several years. However, this does not happen overnight. The longest and strongest stalks are only formed after 15 to 20 years. Bamboo, however, not only grows upwards fast but also in width. Its rhizomes, subterranean to many bamboo species. If you're not careful, the bamboo hedge, originally planted as a privacy screen, turns into a whole bamboo grove in an instant! As beautiful as the plant may be, it is questionable whether the neighbors share love. Therefore, for most bamboo species when planting to ensure a stable rhizome barrier. Exception: umbrella bamboo forms such a short spur that it maintains its horstigen growth character until old age.
The stalks of giant grasses are hollow inside and can reach a diameter of up to 30 centimeters in tropical species. In our latitudes, however, they are rarely more than five inches thick. The regularly arranged, beaded ringlets (nodules) divide the blades into individual segments (internodes). The flat nodes serve for stabilization. If you only know how to process bamboo, you might think that the surface of the stems is painted. This is a fallacy: bamboo inherently has this weatherproof and waterproof protective layer, which even protects it from fire and many chemicals.

Phyllostachys bamboo

Several flat-tube bamboos (from left): Phyllostachys vivax 'Aureocaulis', P. aureosulcata, P. bissetii and P. nigra

Flat-tube bamboos are wintergreen, bear lanceolate, light green leaves on short side shoots and, depending on the species and variety - about 20 are available in Germany - green, yellow, black or yellow-green patterned stalks. Some species also stain their stalks in strong sunlight, rust-red. Bamboo stalks are small works of art of nature and dance at the slightest breeze, which gives them despite their size a filigree, airy-light appearance.
The bamboo blossom is still a phenomenon: umbrella bamboos bloom only about every 70 years and then die off. Late-flowering species such as Phyllostachys usually show flowers in a shorter time interval and have significantly better chances of survival. A disadvantage of the Phyllostachys species is their strong propagation urgency: they form lignified rhizomes just below the soil surface in all directions, from which new stalks are expelled at regular intervals. So they can conquer several square meters within a few years, if you do not prevent them with strong rhizome barriers made of high-strength plastic.

Excursus: The Great Bamboo Dying
The heyday of the umbrella bamboo species, as already mentioned, is subject to an approximately 70- to 80-year cycle. After flowering, the bamboo dies. From the seeds, a new generation of bamboo is created, which starts to bloom again 70 years later.After the great Fargesia bloom, which caused the death of almost all umbrella bamboos in Central Europe around the turn of the millennium, a plant propagation plant from seed had grown new plants. These were then propagated thousands of times by meristem culture in the laboratory within a short time and placed under different variety names on the market. Soon it turned out that these new umbrella bamboo varieties started to bloom again after a short time. Some experts suspect that the particular method of propagation confused the bamboo internal clock, while others believe that the proliferation was accidentally divisional of plants that had not yet flowered. The events caused a great uncertainty among home gardeners: Nobody knew whether he had now replaced his dead umbrella bamboo by a flowering specimen, or whether his new bamboo would soon face the same fate. This problem is now over, because the nurseries now multiply their Fargesia species again classically by division by hand.

Location and ground

The soil requirements of most bamboo species are not high. They grow on sandy, loamy and even peaty humus soils, as long as they are neither dry nor stunned. Also in terms of pH, the giant grasses are tolerant. Flat-tube bamboos love a sunny and warm place in the garden, which should be protected from cold east winds - they can dry out the leaves in winter. The plants are also satisfied with partial shade.

Planting and care

Rhizome barrier for bamboo

All species of the flat-tube bamboo need a solid rhizome barrier

Before you plant your bamboo, it is important to know what kind it is. Never plant a flat-tube bamboo without an expertly set rhizome barrier, because you would regret that after just a few years. Only use the real rhizome barriers made of two millimeters high density polyethylene (HDPE). The 70 cm wide rolls are sold by the meter and bolted to a ring with a special metal rail. Allow at least two meters of diameter to prevent the bamboo from drying out, and let the top five inches look out of the ground, so you can instantly see if a rhizome is sliding over the root barrier. Tip: There is a hardy bamboo species that does not form foothills, namely the umbrella bamboo (Fargesia). The species Fargesia murielae and Fargesia nitida are with about three meters in height to the smaller representatives. However, their stalks are rather thin and not as expressive as those of the hardy, strong-growing Flachrohrbamboo. When planting a bamboo hedge, you should calculate that the plants need at least one meter in width. Loosen the soil thoroughly and clean it up with ripe compost or rotted leaves. In case of drought, you should water the bamboo hedge in time, as the soil dries slightly due to the lateral limitation due to the necessary rhizome barrier.

Bamboo roots comparison

The roots of Phyllostachys (left) and Fargesia in comparison: one forms long extensions, the other remains compact

Special care does not need the different bamboo species. Like most grasses, they have quite high potassium and nitrogen requirements and should therefore be supplied with a special bamboo fertilizer every spring. Alternatively, you can also simply use Lawn Fertilizer - it is quite well matched to the needs of ornamental grasses. If you want to fertilize purely organically, it is best to administer mature compost, which has been enriched with a few handfuls of horn shavings. On low-potassium soils, you can once again provide your bamboo with a commercially available lawn autumn fertilizer in August. This makes the blades more resistant to frost damage. In drought, timely watering is important both in summer and in winter, as many bamboo species quickly lose large amounts of foliage in dry conditions. The plants regenerate again as soon as the water supply improves.

Bamboo in the box box

In the flower box there is no danger of bamboo spreading unintentionally

As potted plants are mainly low-growth bamboo species such as up to 1.50 meters high umbrella bamboo variety 'Bimbo'. Strong-growing flat-tube bamboos, on the other hand, need at least one planter in the Maurer bucket format, otherwise they quickly suffer from dryness and take care of themselves. Even better is a brick raised bed, which has earth contact downwards - so it is not so easy waterlogging and the plant is supplied by rising capillary water in addition. Even less well-known bamboo species such as the up to two-meter-tall, large-leaved species of the genus Indocalamus are very decorative in the large tub. As a rule of thumb, the planter diameter should be at least three times the diameter of the root ball. In addition to regular watering, the various types of bamboo in the tub also need a good supply of nutrients. It is best to fertilize it every two weeks with a liquid fertilizer for green plants.

To cut

Bamboos do not need a regular cut.If you want to clear the plants, you should always remove individual stalks directly at ground level. They result in larger flatbeam bamboos outstanding perennial supports. Bamboo hedges can also be fitted with a shaped cut by shortening the hedge to the desired height. Note, however, that once cut stalks do not regrow - if the hedge is to become higher, you must wait until enough new stalks have formed. The flanks of a bamboo hedge can also be easily shortened. The short side shoots branch then and give the hedge so a particularly dense appearance.

winter protection

Freshly planted bamboo is sensitive to frost in the first years. Cover the planting site in autumn with a thick layer of leaves. It is important that the foliage is cleared again in the spring - otherwise there is a risk that the soil heats up too much and the bamboo drifts too early.


Japanese garden

Bamboo should not be missing in a Japanese-designed garden

Whether as a groundcover, privacy or in the bucket: The bamboo is an ornament with its evergreen foliage even in winter. With its elegant, graphic elegance, it fits very well into architectural gardens designed with modern building materials such as steel, concrete or gabions. Also at pond edges makes the bamboo a good figure. All higher bamboo species are perfect for their individual stand with their picturesque growth. For Japanese gardens, the flat-tube bamboo is usually a good choice because it looks very exotic. Depending on the species and variety, it forms stalks which can be up to ten meters long and poor in pitch, while the thin, dense stalks of the three to four meter high umbrella bamboo are reminiscent of reeds from afar. Good planting partners are depending on the garden style, soil and location Japanese maple (Acer palmatum), velvet hydrangeas (Hydrangea sargentiana), cut boxwood and yew trees (Taxus) and irises (Misanthus), Miscanthus, Hostia, Daylilies (Hemerocallis ) and different ferns.
Bamboo hedges are very popular and have many advantages: they are evergreen, opaque and do not need to be regularly shaped with the hedge trimmer. For hedges, it is best to use upright umbrella bamboo varieties such as Standing Stone and Campbell. Umbrella bamboo grows dense and therefore offers a good privacy. In addition, he does not form foothills. If you want to plant the flat-tube bamboo as a hedge, you must install a rhizome barrier along the entire length, which makes the project quite expensive. In addition, the Flachrohrbambus offers at least in the first years because of its loose foliage and the widely spaced stalks no good privacy. A beautiful, less known bamboo species for hedges is the upright-growing arrowbamboo (Pseudosasa japonica). With its strikingly large leaves, it offers particularly good privacy and, in a mild climate, reaches stature heights of more than four meters. The arrow bamboo can freeze back in severe winters, but quickly forms new shoots in the spring. Pseudosasa japonica forms like the Flachrohrbambus foothills and therefore also requires a root barrier.

bamboo hedge

Bamboo hedge made of umbrella bamboo (Fargesia)

Especially the dwarf bamboo species of the genus Pleiobastus (formerly Sasa) are excellent evergreen groundcover - but with all the consequences. In addition to the most famous Pleiobastus pumilus, three to four other groundcovering species are commercially available. Anyone who plants a bamboo as a groundcover in the garden should first isolate the entire area with a good root barrier, as the up to 20 centimeters high dwarf bamboo spreads over rhizomes like its larger relatives. Only combine the aggressive grass with robust, deep-rooted shrubs such as pine trees. Even most perennials do not stand up to the root competition of the dwarf-bamboo in the long run. Especially in the Japanese garden art, the uniformly green bamboo areas are very popular, especially since they remain virtually weed-free without great care. They are often even planted as lawn replacement and simply kept short with the lawnmower.


Phyllostachys vivax 'Aureocaulis'

Phyllostachys vivax 'Aureocaulis' is one of the most popular bamboo varieties

From the flat-tube bamboo there are species and varieties with blue-green, black-violet, yellow and even yellow or green striped stalks - which often arouses the collecting passion of bamboo friends. The most popular green-striped variety is Phyllostachys vivax 'Aureocaulis'. It can grow in mild regions over eight feet high and forms up to eight centimeters thick stalks. Green stalks with yellow stripes shows Phyllostachys aureosulcata. The five to seven-meter-high species form strong, sturdy stalks, is quite frost hardy and good for hedges. The frost-hardest flat-tube bamboo is the five to seven-meter-tall Phyllostachys bissetii. It forms deep green stems and is also good for bamboo hedges. One of the most popular flat-tube bamboos is Phyllostachys nigra, the Black Bamboo. It is about five meters high and initially forms green stalks, which later turn violet black in the sun.It shows from -18 degrees Celsius first frost damage and is thus not quite as frost hardy as the aforementioned species and varieties.

Black bamboo

In black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra), the middle-aged stalks show the most beautiful coloration. If they are old, they turn gray

From the umbrella bamboo in the European gardens about 15 different species and varieties are widespread, which like the flat-tube bamboo sometimes have different stalks coloring. The color palette ranges from reddish brown over dark green to green yellow. Red-brown stalks shows, for example, the still quite unknown variety 'Jiuzhaigou 1'. It has only been around in Europe for about ten years. 'Juizhaigou 1', with a height of between two and three meters, is slightly smaller and daintier than most other forms of Fargesia and is considered to be very hardy. However, as with the flat tube bamboo, optimum coloration only occurs in sunny locations.
Tip: If you are looking for an umbrella bamboo that looks very similar to the old Fargesia murielae, you should choose the variety 'Standing Stone', because it has a particularly picturesque, upright habit. Also very beautiful and vigorous is the variety Fargesia robusta 'Campbell' with dark green stalks and bright leaf blades.


Bamboo is only propagated by division in the spring. If you're lucky enough to see a flower, you can try sowing too, but it will take a few years for the plants to grow to a handsome size.

bamboo shoots

Young shoots of flat tube bamboo

Diseases and pests

Although bamboo is not particularly susceptible to disease, it occasionally struggles with pests. These are mainly lice and mealybugs, aphids, scale insects and the heat-loving bamboo mites that are quite common on the Upper Rhine and in the Rhine-Main area.

Fargesia rufa

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Bamboo: bamboo

Bamboo: species

Bamboo: species


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Various bamboo species and varieties

Bamboo: bamboo species

The bamboo species Fargesia rufa is well suited as a privacy screen

Bamboo: bamboo species

The blue-green leaves of Fargesia scabrida 'Asian Wonder' make a magnificent contrast to the purple stalks

Bamboo: bamboo

Broad leaf bamboo (Sasa tsuboiana) impresses with a compact and spherical growth

Bamboo: species

Pleioblastus viridistriatus is a dense and compact growing bamboo that is well suited as ground cover

Bamboo: bamboo

Because of its spotted stems, Phyllostachys nigra 'Boryana' is also called Tiger or Panther Stain Bamboo

Bamboo: species

The black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra) is an absolute eye-catcher in the garden

Bamboo: bamboo species

The flowers of the umbrella bamboo (Fargesia nitida) show only about every 70 to 80 years

Bamboo: bamboo

Fargesia robusta 'Campbell' is also called zebra litter bamboo because its sheath blades are white at first and together with the green stalks they give an appealing pattern

Bamboo: species

The reddish brown stalks of Fargesia 'Jiuzhaigou1' grow up to three meters high

Fargesia rufa

Fargesia scabrida 'Asian Wonder'

Big-leaf bamboo

Pleioblastus viridistriatus

Phyllostachys nigra 'Boryana'

Black bamboo

Umbrella bamboo Fargesia nitida

Fargesia robusta 'Campbell'

Fargesia 'Jiuzhaigou1'

Worth knowing about bamboo

Did you know that…
... a panda only eats bamboo? He spends up to 12 hours a day purifying up to 40 percent of his body weight on bamboo shoots and roots. That makes 15 to 30 kilograms a day and a pandas nose - lucky that bamboo is growing so fast!
... bamboo produces significantly more oxygen than an equal area of ​​forest?
... the Chinese use bamboo to regenerate the soil leached by paddy fields? After ten years rice can be grown there again.
... in the former Siam (today: Thailand) the entire capital was built on floating bamboo rafts?
... raw bamboo shoots contain poisonous hydrogen cyanide, which is broken down during cooking? Pandas are insensitive to hydrocyanic acid.
... contains bamboo wood silicic acid that neutralizes poisoning? From the wood was traditionally cooked in many Asian countries a brew, which detoxified the body again.
... the lucky bamboo that you can buy in garden centers is not actually a real bamboo, but a dragon tree?

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