Sunday, November 15, 2009

Bambusa Gracilis

We noticed quite a few visitors to Our Jupiter Garden are interested in learning more about Bambusa textilis Gracilis or Graceful Bamboo.  This post is intended to provide a real life account of living with this wonderful addition to the garden.

Three Bambusa textilis Gracilis plants were added to our garden in May of 2009.  The plants were purchased at a local plant show.  Each plant was in a 15 gallon container and cost $125 (delivered) per bamboo.  When they arrived, each container held 12 to 15 individual culms. The culms were approximately 14 ft. in height. 

The roots of each bamboo were very overgrown and tightly bound.  Upon removing the bamboo for planting, I had to pull apart each plant's root ball.  One of the bamboos was especially root bound.  With some trepidation I pulled and then cut at the root ball trying to free the roots from themselves.  Out of all of the bamboo, this one took the longest to establish itself and send up new culms.  My word of advice is the less trauma to the roots the better but don't hesitate to free up the root ball if it is tightly bound.

To plant the bamboo, I dug holes approximately three times the size of the root ball.  I added a mixture of high-grade soil (with slow release fertilizer), cow manure and peat moss to each hole.  The approximate mix was 5 parts soil, 2 parts manure, 1 part peat moss.

Below is a photo of the bamboo one week after planting.


Jupiter, Florida is located directly on the East coast of Florida.  As a result, we are subject to strong winds that come off the ocean.  When I first planted the bamboo, Our Jupiter Garden encountered some very windy weather.  Given the bamboo's height and lack of established roots, they really swayed in the wind.  I struggled to keep the bamboo positioned upright and they were soon leaning in toward the garden.  To solve this problem I tied support rope around each bamboo.  The support rope was attached to the fence located behind the plants.  If you look closely at the photo above, you will see the rope (it is blue) just below the top of the fence line.  The rope was not tight and did not restrict movement in all directions.  Without the support, I am certain it would have been a battle to keep the bamboo positioned where I wanted them.  I kept the support ropes around the bamboo for about 60 days. 

The bamboo required a lot of water at first.  I soon discovered a daily watering was a necessity especially if it was hot and windy.  Bamboo lets you know it is thirsty by curling their leaves length-wise.  About one week after planting the bamboo I skipped a day of watering.  When I returned home from work, the leaves on all three plants were curled up like tightly wound straws.  The bamboo looked so bad I thought I had done them in!  Thankfully, after a good drink the leaves uncurled themselves and the bamboo was back to normal. 

The high watering requirement lasted about two months.  Six months later, I consider Graceful Bamboo fairly drought tolerant.

Bambusa Gracilis is a clumping bamboo.  This was a requirement in our small garden.  Clumping doesn't mean the bamboo's footprint won't increase.  In the past six months I estimate each bamboo's footprint has more than doubled - so be prepared to give them space to spread out.  In fact, new culms have appeared on a continual basis.  New culm growth peaked in July and August - about 3 to 4 months after the initial planting.  In Florida this is when it is hottest and wettest.  During this period it wasn't unusual to discover 3 to 5 new culms per plant each week!  While the rate of new culm growth has decreased, new culms continue to appear.  The most recent arrived on November 13th.

One thing we discovered is if you give the bamboo a really good soaking, culms will appear in the next few days.

I have read that bamboo benefits from the addition of grass fertilizer (one without weed contol - it will kill the bamboo!)  Given the growth rate of our bamboo, we have not felt compelled to fertilize beyond the fertilizer already present in the high-grade soil we added during the initial planting (we do use Miracle Grow occasionally on the rest of the garden.  We sometimes use it on the bamboo, but we have not made a habit of this.)

Below are before and after photos that show the rate of growth.  The first photo was taken on June 18, 2009.  There are 15 adult culms and a new growth.  The second photo was taken on November 15, 2009.  I counted about 50 culms while taking the photo (in the photo some are hidden behind the front culms.)





This little bamboo is very prolific!

One thing I would like to point out in the photo is the mulch.  Bamboo plants love mulch.  In fact, they make their own via dropped leaves.  Keeping the dropped leaves as a soil cover is healthy for the bamboo and they benefit from it.  To keep the garden attractive, I recommend eucalyptus mulch.  The color of eucalyptus mulch matches the color of dropped leaves perfectly.  No raking and the garden looks perfectly groomed.

Speaking of dropped leaves I know people will sometimes avoid bamboo because they think it is "dirty".  I can only say our three Bambusa Gracilis plants are five feet directly downwind from our swimming pool and I do not consider dropped leaves a problem.  During extremely windy weather pool maintenance in the form of skimming does increase, but this is a small trade off for the amount of privacy the bamboo has provided.

Speaking of privacy, in 6 months privacy in Our Jupiter Garden went from this:


To this:


Graceful Bamboo, has become one of the favorite plants in Our Jupiter Garden.  It is extremely beautiful and adds a zen-like quality of peace and tranquility.  We highly recommend it!

Bambusa Gracilis

Pros:

- Easy to grow
- Fast growing and prolific
- Provides great privacy - makes a wonderful screen
- Drought tolerant
- Stunning - a true garden focal point

Cons:

- Expensive (plan on spending around $125 - $175 for a delivered 15 gallon plant)
- Sheds leaves regularly - some cleanup required

4 comments:

  1. Hi, this is extremely useful information - thanks for posting. Just a quick question, why did you need to pull apart the root ball of each plant? Could you not just plant the whole pot intact in the ground? I'm planning some for my garden and want to make sure I do it right. Many thanks, Lex

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  2. The root ball was very, very tight. The bamboo was practically strangling itself. I pulled apart the root ball so the roots could spread out naturally and not continue to wrap around themselves.

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  3. Hi, I have just bought four Gracilis and planted as a screen in Port Stephens Australia. It has been three years since planting your Gracilis. Do you have any recent photos. Shane

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  4. Hi, i have six plants Gracilis as a screen 2 have taken off growing tall but the others look like bushes and not grown past the fence height, what do i need to do??

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