Growing bamboos

Page last updated: Tuesday, 3 June 2014 - 10:56am

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Bamboos are variable plants which can be shrubs, ground covers or grow to 30m tall.

Their stems can vary from just pencil thickness up to a diameter of 20–30cm. There are two distinct types of bamboo which are known as clumpers or runners. Clumping varieties are most suitable for small spaces and running types can be planted in contained areas where they are unlikely to become rampant.

This web article looks at different varieties suitable for Western Australia and their requirements.

About bamboo

Bamboos grow well in sandy soils, with good irrigation and fertilising, and generous use of organic material to improve the soil. Clay additives, available from nurseries, should also be incorporated into sands to help them retain water and nutrients.

Bamboo plants grow poorly in heavy clays or where there is high salinity or extended water-logging. The optimal soil pH (by the water system of measurement) is between 5 and 6.5. Apply lime if the pH is too acidic (low pH).

The underground swollen, woody, rhizome is the foundation of the plant; it produces beautiful arching stems and graceful leaves. Flowering is rare, and plants that flower and set seed soon die.

Several plants are falsely called bamboos. The ‘lucky bamboo’, Dracaena sanderiana, is a popular indoor pot-plant and the small bushy panda bamboo, Pogonotherum paniceum, is a true grass. The sacred bamboo, Nandina domestica, is a small garden shrub, with reddish leaves. The giant reed (Arundo donax) is a grass, but resembles a bamboo, because it has cane-like stems to 6m high. Unlike bamboo, it flowers readily at the top of the stems. It is often found in waste areas and chicken-runs, but may be useful for stakes.