There are many uses for bamboo in the Florida garden. It can be used as a hedge, as a container plant, or even a specimen plant- either in a pot or in a natural garden setting. There are two main types of bamboo: One is clumping bamboo and the other is running bamboo.
When we hear bamboo, most of us think of huge massive culms of bamboo that can grow a foot a day, growing to 60 feet tall in a short period of time. This is why so many people tremble in fear when they hear the name bamboo. They think of the running bamboo that is going to devour their house in a short period of time. Bamboo should not be feared. It is just basically misunderstood. When using the right bamboo for your project, there should not be problems.
Believe me, when I planted my golden bamboo, with its beautiful gold color and beautiful green stripes, I was delighted. Then, a short time later, we noticed a new shoot coming. Kidding around, saying “that looks like an asparagus spear about eight inches high.” When welooked the next day, it was a foot-and-a-half feet high. Later in the week, when we looked again, it was about 8 feet high. It began to make me uneasy, thinking what have I done? We have learned to control the new shoots, which grow in every direction, and are now enjoying it for its beauty, while keeping a watchful eye on its every move.
There is also the clumping noninvasive bamboo. This is a fast-growing evergreen shrub that makes a great specimen plant, a fast-growing hedge. For years, I have had golden goddess Buddha belly and black bamboo growing in pots with great success. Some say if the Buddha belly is planted in the ground, it will grow out of its little bulging culms, which is how it got its name. When planted in containers, it will keep its shape. If you have bamboo in containers, you need to make sure the containers are big enough. Because of Florida’s summer rain storms, the pots have a tendency to be top heavy and blow over. Bamboo in containers need more water than those planted in the ground.
Clumping bamboo’sroots are short, tight and altogether. Running bamboo runs under the ground in every direction.
Bamboo grows upward in the spring and outward in the summer. Summer is the easy time to control running bamboo, when its shoots are new and still soft. Over the winter months the shoots harden and become more difficult to remove.
Some of my favorite clumping bamboo are Bambusa multiplex, Bambusa multiplex ‘Golden Goddess’ and Bambusa multiplex ‘Willowy’. And as far as the running bamboo goes, I have planted golden, but I’m leaving the choice and fight up to you.
All bamboo flowers are just like seeds, similar to that of grass, being it is a grass!
Caring for bamboo is simple:
Bamboo likes water, but like all plants, it does not like to sit in standing water for a prolonged period of time. A couple of days at most.
Bamboo will grow in Florida soils, but adding compost is suggested for best results.
Bamboo is easy to grow ranging from full sun to a couple of hours a day.
Fertilize your bamboo a couple of times a year, placing a granular mix of 10–10–10 about a foot out fromthe base.
Remember, after planting your bamboo, take pictures, because in a couple years nobody will believe you when you tell them how small it was when you planted it.
Just one other thing, you know the Lucky Bamboo you can but almost everywhere? Well it is a true Dracaena -not Bamboo.
Mike Malloy, local author and artist known as “The Butterfly Man” has been a Naples resident since 1991. A Collier County Master Gardener, he has written two books entitled “Butterfly Gardening Made Easy for Southwest Florida,” and “Tropical Color – A Guide to Colorful Plants for the Southwest Florida Garden”, and currently writes articles on various gardening topics for several local publications. Mike has planted and designed numerous butterfly gardens around Naples including many schools, the City of Naples, Rookery Bay, the Conservancy and Big Cypress. Bring your gardening questions to the Third Street Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings or on Thursdays at the Naples Botanical Garden where he does a Plant Clinic or visit his website, www.naplesbutterfly.com. He also can be heard every Saturday at 4 PM on his call-in garden radio show, “Plant Talk with Mike Malloy,” on 98.9-WGUF.