Bamboos are not all alike.....part 3- the compact-miniature group

Sasa palmata - a temperate dwarf runner

Pleioblastus virdidstriata- a subtropical dwarf runner

Sasa palmata variegata- a dwarf temperate runner

Completing the trilogy of bamboo information, showing that bamboos are widely diverse and adaptable, I list a few bamboo species here for those people with space challenges or for those who wish to grow plants in containers. I have the luxury at work to grow the largest bamboos in the business to substantial size, but I also rent an apartment and can empathize with those who have small garden spaces.

Schizostachyum brachycladum- Golden Bali Bamboo

Thyrstostachys siamensis- Monastery Bamboo
There are bamboos for small spaces, and a few that grow well in containers. Unfortunately for us in the subtropics, the list of "miniature" bamboos is a short one, since many of the best dwarf cultivars are temperate. One of the other problems we face in South Florida is high pH water, which many bamboos dislike, showing their unhappiness with lots of crisp brown leaf edges. Fortunately, though, there are a number of great species for large containers. Even the slightly larger-scale Golden Bali and Monastery Bamboo can grow well in large architectural pots, resulting in plants that grow to 12 feet or more in height. Both of these species  can grow comfortably in courtyards and on rooftop gardens.   

Even the running types can be grown in containers, as long as the containers are off the ground, set onto blocks or timbers. Running bamboos can find every hole in a pot, can find Mother Earth, and will take off.....well...running. Containers should be made of heavy clay, concrete or ceramic. Plastic pots will not contain the powerful bamboo roots and rhizomes very long. If you decide to grow running bamboos in pots, and the plants get too large for the pot, DON"T PLANT THEM IN THE GROUND. If you do, you will have a forest of bamboos very quickly, and the forest will be hard to get rid of. 

Fertilizing bamboos either in pots or in the ground requires a shift in your thinking. For much of horticulture the dogma is to fertilize plants to get lots of growth. This can be dangerous when trying to grow bamboos ! The smarter tactic is to use slow-release fertilizers or organic rose fertilizers to give bamboo enough fertilizer to grow well, but not so much as to grow them really fast. In so many cases, bamboo species are colonizing types, and they do their job really well. Compost, Milorganite, Black Kow, aged manure, bone meal, coffee grounds and many other organic fertilizers make excellent food sources. One of the secrets to growing great bamboos is the regularity of watering. bamboos are giant grasses, and as such they are rather thirsty. Make sure you water your bamboos regularly, enough to keep the plants from wilting. Use abundant mulch for plants in the ground. Using a drip irrigation or soaker hose will allow the deep watering that bamboos really like while conserving water during the water regulations so many of us are seeing.

Choose your bamboo very carefully, learn about it, and tend to it well. Bamboos are expensive, so treat them as a living asset. Their grace and character will reward you every day. 

Craig Morell
Pinecrest Gardens


1 comment:

  1. Craig, you've got great photos interesting articles. I hope you will consider helping ID the plants that novices upload at www.mistersmartyplants.com - John