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Clumping Bamboo:
Yes, a Well-Behaved Bamboo


Fargesia dracocephala
Fargesia dracocephala
Photo: Bamboo Garden
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Though no bamboo is inherently bad, clumping bamboo is entirely good. The most popular clumping bamboo is called Fargesia (sounds like bark EASier), and the species now growing in the Weekend Edition garden is F. murielae, one of the most winter-hardy of the bamboos. You'll know clumping bamboos by their common names -- umbrella bamboo, fountain bamboo -- which describe their soft, delicate and slightly weeping habit.

Congrats to you gardeners where winter lows can reach - 20° F; this culm's for you! But regrets to you hot-blooded types in the SE and the SW, where clumping bamboo will not flourish. Given that they're native to the high Himalayas, these plants are uncomfortable to the point of certain death in areas with long, hot summers.

Growing clumping bamboo is relatively easy (hey, if Scott can do it...). Here's a handful of tips guaranteed to reward you with an altogether satisfying and long-lasting relationship (anybody got similar tips for me?):

1: Give your plant morning sun and afternoon shade. Otherwise, it will scald, curl and burn.

2: While an established clumping bamboo is drought-tolerant, it will be far happier with deep, weekly waterings, particularly when summer rainfall is scarce.

3: Use a high-nitrogen fertilizer (after all, it's a grass) through spring and early summer, but don't fertilize past the 4th of July.

4: New whiplike canes (called culms) will shoot up once a year and appear to have no foliage. Just leave them be and they will leaf out. Since this is an evergreen, though, expect some leaf shedding in spring.

5: No reason to ever prune your clumping bamboo, beyond cutting out obviously dead culms by chopping them back at ground level.

6: Each year's new growth will be higher than the previous year's, until the plant reaches its ultimate height (typically, 8'-10'). It will slowly thicken in diameter but miracle of miracles, it will remain a tight clump.





   
   
   
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