Black bamboo is a striking and exotic choice for your garden or landscaping project. Known as the diet of choice for panda bears, bamboo is part of the Poaceae family—making it a grass, despite its height and tree-like stability.
Phyllostachys nigra, commonly referred to as black bamboo, is famous for its ebony-colored stalks, or culms. It is a running bamboo, which means it spreads and grows rapidly through underground rhizomes. This can cause black bamboo to be very invasive if not controlled.
However, its rapid growth is not all bad. Black bamboo is perfect for creating dense walls or natural privacy fences and noise barriers. Black bamboo culms first appear green before transitioning to their famous black coloring during the second or third year of growth. These culms support bright green, long, lance-shaped leaves, providing a striking contrast against their black color.
This variety of bamboo can grow up to 30 feet high with each culm growing up to two inches thick. It is one of the hardier bamboo species and can be grown in colder climates than most other types of bamboo. Even northern gardeners can enjoy this tropical plant by taking it indoors for the winter.
|Botanical Name||Phyllostachys nigra|
|Common Name||Black bamboo|
|Mature Size||30 ft. tall, 2 in. wide|
|Sun Exposure||Full sun to partial shade|
|Soil Type||Well-draining, moist, loamy|
|Soil pH||Acidic to slightly alkaline|
|Bloom Time||Every 40 to 60 years|
|Hardiness Zones||7 to 10, USA|
Black Bamboo Care
Black bamboo thrives in sunny areas with moist, nutrient-dense, well-draining soil. The shallow root system of bamboo means that harsh winds could cause damage or uproot them. Planting black bamboo in an area where it is sheltered from gusty conditions is ideal.
In favorable growing conditions, black bamboo’s rapid growth can cause this plant to dominate your landscaping quite quickly. To prevent this, root pruning or root barriers can be used to keep the plant contained. Root barriers include sheets of fiberglass or polypropylene that are buried up to 36 inches deep to prevent roots and rhizomes from traveling outside of the desired area. If you do not have a large area to allow this running plant to spread, growing in containers is a great option and naturally controls the spread of the bamboo.
This bamboo species is a gregarious flowering bamboo, which means that every black bamboo plant around the world will bloom around the same time. This only happens every 40 to 60 years, and that generation of bamboo dies shortly after. The seeds can be collected and planted to start a new stand of bamboo growth.
Black bamboo uses runners to propagate, rather than forming clumps like many other grass varieties. As a result, its growth is considered fast and aggressive. The underground rhizomes easily lead to this plant popping up in unexpected places around your garden and yard. Eradicating it requires removing every piece of rhizome, which can prove to be a real challenge if left unchecked.
Black bamboo is not overly picky when it comes to light conditions. It can be grown in anything from full sun to partial shade.
Black bamboo loves nutrient-rich soil. Moist, loamy, well-draining types are ideal for optimum growth. A mix of sand, clay, and silt is a great combination, but black bamboo can adapt to many soil conditions as long as it is well-draining.
To help keep your soil a healthy balance of moist and well-draining, try adding a layer of mulch around your bamboo.
Black bamboo loves water and will benefit most from a consistent watering schedule. Try to keep your soil moist, but never soggy.
For bamboo plants in a container, you will need to water more frequently. Depending on the humidity and temperature in your area, you may need to water these plants as often as every other day.
Temperature and Humidity
Considered one of the hardiest bamboo species out there, black bamboo can be grown in zones 7 to 10. Despite being a tropical plant, this bamboo variety can withstand temperatures down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit. This makes black bamboo a perfect choice for northern gardeners.
For those living in areas with harsh winters, black bamboo grown in containers can easily be brought indoors for the colder months. As for humidity, black bamboo is quite tolerant of varying conditions. However, if kept indoors, the occasional misting will ensure better growth and vitality.
To promote healthy growth, you might choose to fertilize black bamboo for a boost of additional nutrients. Choose a fertilizer that is high in nitrogen for the best results; this type of fertilizer is typically best for grasses. Apply fertilizer in the late spring and again in the middle of the growing season.
Bamboo shoots make an interesting and fun addition to vegetable stir-fries and are often used in Asian cuisine. To harvest the young sprouts, wait until they are a few inches tall. Try to harvest while they are 6 inches or less for the best flavor.
Using a sharp knife, cut the shoot at ground level. Be sure to harvest plants sustainably and responsibly, making sure not to strip the plant of all of its new growth. When you are ready to prepare your harvest, cut the shoots in half length-wise and remove the hard outer sheath. Then, cut them to the desired thickness and boil or fry them.
Bamboo is known to be a fast-growing plant, which adds to its appeal as a natural privacy barrier. However, to keep the height of your bamboo in check, you should plan to occasionally prune the plant to your desired height.
Pruning bamboo to control growth should be done in the spring. The nodes of the plant provide an easy visual cue on where to cut back the height of each stalk. Cut each stalk just above a node.
In addition, curb unwanted growth of in-ground black bamboo plants by cutting new shoots that sprout from the rhizomes to ground level. Keep in mind that this will check the growth of this plant, but it is a prolific spreader once planted directly in the ground and you may not be able to control its growth simply by cutting back new growth.
Propagating Black Bamboo
Propagating bamboo is simple and best done by division. It is ideal to divide bamboo plants in the late winter or early spring.
- Water the bamboo well the day before you plan to divide it.
- Before dividing, cut off the top 2/3 of the culm.
- Using a sharp spade, dig up the section you would like to divide. You may need a saw to cut through the thick roots.
- From here, you can keep the clump large or divide it into smaller sections of 3 or 4 culms each.
- Plant each section in a hole twice as wide as the root ball.
- Mix in compost or other fertilizer and fill in the area.
- Water thoroughly.
Potting and Repotting Black Bamboo
Black bamboo can easily be grown in containers, which is a perfect choice for those with smaller yards or who want to keep it inside. When choosing a container, try to find one that is short, wide, and bottom-heavy. Adding rocks to the bottom of the container can help with this. Because bamboo grows to be so tall, a lighter, taller pot can easily get blown over.
Since black bamboo is a running bamboo and a rapid grower, it may outgrow its pot quicker than other species. You will need to repot once your bamboo is root-bound. Potted bamboo will need more water than plants in the ground, so be sure to keep tabs on your soil moisture. Place your pot in a sunny, wind-sheltered area and enjoy it's striking looks and green foliage.
Bamboo grows faster and taller when a chemical or organic fertilizer is applied. The American Bamboo Society advise applying a mixture of equal parts composted chicken manure and rotted leaves to a depth of one-eighth of an inch between bamboo stems in early spring and at midsummer.
The bamboo is probably not getting enough water or enough nutrients. Leaves are dropping. Again, this could be from too much water or from not enough. It might also be a sign that it needs nutrients.
It is a running bamboo, which means it spreads and grows rapidly through underground rhizomes. This can cause black bamboo to be very invasive if not controlled. However, its rapid growth is not all bad.
Black bamboo prefers soil that is characteristically moist and loamy with a soil pH ranging from highly acidic to slightly alkaline. Fertilizing is not mandatory for growing black bamboo, but you can opt to do so in mid to late spring with a fertilizer high in nitrogen.
If you are growing bamboo in pots or planter boxes, (indoors or outdoors) a balanced, slow release fertilizer (such as Osmocote 16-16-16 for example) works well.
Heat – Too much heat or direct sunlight may be the reason for a browning bamboo plant, as most bamboo varieties prefer shade or partial sunlight. Water – Both under- and over-watering can cause a bamboo with brown tips.
After planting, Black Bamboo tends to take five or six years before it becomes firmly established and the culms reach their full height potential. After planting, the new culms of the black bamboo appear green and may take up to three years before they turn completely black.
- Stop bamboo from spreading by installing a sub-surface barrier. Using a subsurface barrier or root barrier to stop bamboo spreading is one of the most common methods. ...
- Sever the rhizomes to stop bamboo from spreading. ...
- Stop bamboo from spreading by growing in a pot. ...
- Use a chemical weed killer – as a last resort.
Photosynthesis and growth comes from sunlight. The more sunlight your bamboo gets, the more “food” it receives, the faster it will grow. There are a few species of bamboo which prefer filtered light, but for most bamboo, they are sun loving plants which thrive on that extra energy.
Meeting Growth Requirements
In the ground, black bamboo grows 3 to 5 feet in height every year, eventually reaching heights of 20 to 35 feet. Container-grown plants, however, typically reach only one-half to three-quarters of their normal size. Running bamboo spreads at a rate of 3 to 5 feet per year.
First and foremost, keep your bamboo well watered. Bamboo likes plenty of deep watering – soaking down to at least 8-12 inches – and also good drainage. If you are keeping your plants in containers, or unable to transplant for a while, make sure the water is running out of the bottom of the pot each time you water.
Bamboo is an evergreen plant. All evergreen plants lose their leaves, but they don't lose them all at once like their deciduous friends. Some yellowing bamboo leaves and dropping bamboo leaves are normal processes throughout the year.
Propagating bamboo with culm cuttings. With many plants, especially houseplants, the easiest method of propagation is to simply take a cutting of fresh stem and leaves and place it in a glass of water. Within 5 or 10 days, the stem is growing roots, and then you can just plant it in the dirt.
Black bamboo grows from seed if sown when fresh and kept under moist and warm greenhouse conditions. However, it can take up to six months for the seeds to germinate and so, if you don't notice immediate sprouting, do not fret.
Bamboo does best if it gets at least 1 inch (2.5 cm..) of water a week, either from rainfall or manual watering. Water bamboo deeply to encourage deep roots, which will help protect your bamboo from drought. If possible, do not rake up bamboo leaves from the bamboo roots.
You can also grow bamboo plants in a pot – some compact varieties do well in large pots, while other 'running bamboos' are best grown in a container to prevent them from growing out of control.
- Clean the growing container. Clean the container every few months and provide fresh water once a week to prevent algae from forming.
- Give it plenty of light. ...
- Filter your water. ...
- Choose the right container. ...
- Have proper drainage.
Most bamboos grow best in deep, well-drained, fertile soils, and they generally prefer neutral to slightly acid soils. If your soil is deficient, the extra time and expense of improving it is usually well worth the effort, especially if you want to see results faster.
Both watering the lucky bamboo plant and using mulch effectively will give it more of a chance to grow strong. You should notice your lucky bamboo stalk getting thicker over time if you're caring for it well.
Fertilizer. Super Green is one of the fertilizers specially formulated for Lucky Bamboo growing in water. Because I now use purified water which has all the minerals removed, I've started to use this food 2 or 3 times a year.
If you have left it to the point where the whole plant is flowering, you can try and revive the bamboo by feeding it and watering it regularly. Then once it's finished flower cut the whole plant right back to the ground. This may seem brutal but it will hopefully encourage new growth.
Cutting the Top Off
These leaves provide energy to the plant's underground system, allowing it to sprout new canes. Therefore, cutting a stand of bamboo down to the ground won't eradicate it -- stalks eventually regrow, but from the base rather than from cut canes.
Thin the black bamboo by cutting 3- to 4-year old canes to the second or third node above the ground with sharp pruning shears or loppers. Before pruning, these will usually be the shortest of the bunch. Cut out any weakened or broken canes as well.
There are 3 known varieties of clumping black bamboo, which are: Bambusa Lako - Common name: Timor Black, Black Lako - This one grows about 15' in pots and works this is a beautiful clumping variety and the most popular and best landscape black bamboo.
Typically bamboo roots or rhizomes tend to not grow below 20 inches deep. Because of this, many find that a 24-inch barrier to be sufficient.
Place the seeds in the hot water and then let them soak for 24 hours. After that plant in a good soil like CZ Grain Soil. Bamboo loves heat to germinate. Over 80 degrees is optimal for germination.
Kill Bamboo With Vinegar
One of the best organic methods to kill bamboo is with distilled white vinegar. Vinegar is highly acidic and will kill new growth. If your bamboo grows in clumps, then you don't have to worry about it having underground rhizomes.
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Lucky bamboo likes moist soil, so keeping the soil wet is crucial. Yellowing leaves could signify that the plant has become root-bound and needs to be repotted into a larger container to give the roots room to spread out. Lucky bamboo can also grow in water with stones or pebbles to prop it up.
Most bamboo require at least six hours of direct sun per day. While some varieties tolerate more shade, the more sunlight you can offer, in general, the happier the plant. The ideal spot is in an atrium or greenhouse where light and humidity can be higher.
Bamboo can typically be grown in most containers for 3-7 years, depending upon container, plant(s) selection and growing conditions. Bamboo eventually overpopulates the planting space and the planter cannot provide enough nutrients.
Once you have an stand of black bamboo, you can propagate it easily by digging up and dividing the clump into sections. Over a few years, this clumping bamboo variety will spread, gradually increasing the size of the stand. Black bamboo grows best in moist soil with good drainage in full sun or part shade.
Though bamboo does not require fertilization, as with many other types of grass plants, such as lawn grass, bamboo responds very well to it, especially nitrogen: the first number on any package of fertilizer.
|Common Name||Lucky bamboo, friendship bamboo, ribbon plant|
|Sun Exposure||Partial shade|
|Soil Type||Water or moist but well-drained soil|
|Bloom Time||Fall, winter (does not bloom indoors)|
Most bamboo, with a few exceptions, prefer to grow in full sun. Because of this, bamboo will produce most of its foliage where this is maximum sun exposure, which is obviously at the top of the bamboo.
If your bamboo plant has dying or dead leaves or stems, you will notice that the leaves or stems are turning yellow. This is a sign that the plant is unhealthy and if untreated will spread to other parts of the bamboo plant.
Bamboo grows quickly, and most gardeners recommend planting only clumping varieties that generate new stocks near the existing root structure. Running bamboo grows horizontally underground and is considered invasive. While there are hundreds of varieties of bamboo, most can be propagated by cuttings.
How does a bamboo plant grow? Bamboo is one of the fastest-growing plants on the planet, with some species can reach full maturity in just 90 days, and most taking just a couple of years. One bamboo species can grow a massive 35 inches per day (or 1.5 inches per hour).
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A Chinese bamboo tree takes five years to grow. It has to be watered and fertilized in the ground where it has been planted every day. It doesn't break through the ground for five years. After five years, once it breaks through the ground, it will grow 90 feet tall in five weeks!
Finally, the growing conditions are critical. Moso Bamboo, for example, is considered the fastest-growing species of temperate bamboo. Although it's native to the subtropical areas of Southern China, Moso can grow very well in temperate climates.
In general, the expected height would be 1/2 to 3/4 of the maximum height. For example, Black Bamboo (a Running Bamboo) can grow over 30 feet tall in the ground but often won't top 15 feet when grown in a container. Clumping Bamboo will often achieve 10 feet in a planter, as opposed to 12 to 15 feet in the ground.
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Essentially, pruning is done to remove these dead or damaged culms, which stimulates and frees up space for new growth. The way you prune can depend on how you intend to use bamboo in the landscape.
Cutting bamboo actually stimulates growth. How does this work? Well, rather than directing energy towards regaining its lost height, a cut bamboo stalk will simply unfurl new leaves. These leaves, in turn, create and send energy down to the root system to encourage the growth of new shoots.