Bamboo looks beautiful in containers and raised beds. The plants are great for Japanese themed gardens or simply to add structure and height to the garden. Growing in containers provides flexibility for placement in the garden, patio or balcony. Since the container itself is a barrier, you don’t have to worry about the bamboo overgrowing the entire garden . In addition, you can move the bamboo in the tub to optimize light conditions or overwinter. Bamboo plants are tall and narrow, making them ideal for balconies and terraces where space is at a premium. However, they require a little more care and attention than those outdoors. Find out which bamboo species are best suited for container growing and what to look for when caring for them below.
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Which bamboo in the tub?
Choosing a bamboo for a container is similar to choosing a bamboo for your garden . You need to know how much sun or shade the desired location will get. Most importantly, choose a bamboo that is sufficiently hardy for your region. Do you want the bamboo to serve as a privacy screen? If so, how tall or dense should it be? It is important to find out about the winter hardiness, amount of light, and growth height of the bamboo variety you select.
Stoloniferous bamboo species generally provide the best growing height (if that is the goal). Because they are flowing bamboo species, their roots grow much more vigorously and become root bound much more quickly. This means that their roots have outgrown the container and have no other place to grow.
Horst-forming bamboo varieties do not grow as aggressively and therefore generally last much longer in pots before they need to be root-bound and repotted. In general, most clump-forming bamboo plants do not reach the height that a bamboo with root suckers would reach in a similarly sized container.
Bamboo in a container: which variety?
Many varieties of Fargesia (horst-forming) and Phyllostachys (with runners) are suitable for container growing. For small spaces, the Fargesia variety is recommended because it does not grow as vigorously as Phyllostachys and does not develop as strong roots.
- The ‘umbrella bamboo’ (lat. Fargesia rufa) can reach a height of up to 2 meters. It has slightly drooping foliage and spreads its shoots nicely to the sides. So for a rectangular container this variety is perfect.
- Suitable for keeping in tubs is also zebra bamboo (lat. Fargesia robusta ‘Campbell’), because it has excellent frost resistance (up to -24 degrees). This compact, upright-growing bamboo is notable for their cream-colored stem sheaths, which contrast nicely with the dark green culms.
- The red-stemmed bamboo ‘Chinese Wonder’ (lat. Fargesia jiuzhaigou) is also interesting. Because of its upright growth, it is also ideal for small balconies and terraces. The red bamboo reaches a height of up to 3 meters when old and can also grow in the shade.
- Bamboo Fargesia ‘Great Wall’ (Fargesia nitida) grows very fast, is characterized by a particularly dense growth and feels comfortable both in the sun and in the shade.
- From the genus of runner-forming bamboo varieties, Phyllostachys bissetii is well suited for container growing. This bamboo, still called green cane bamboo, grows especially densely and has glossy green leaves. This Phyllostachys is very hardy (down to -24 degrees) and can tolerate windy locations near the coast.
- The yellow bamboo ‘Aureocaulis’ (lat. Phyllostachys aureosulcata) is also a real eye-catcher. It has beautiful golden-yellow-brown culms that turn orange to red in the sun and contrast nicely with the green leaves. This bamboo can reach a height of 3 to 5 feet, but tolerates heavy pruning quite well.
- Phyllostachys humilis, still called Bronze Bamboo, is also a low-growing bamboo that can be planted in a pot or tub.
Recommended bamboos for specific uses:
As a privacy screen:
- Chusquea culeou ‘Red Sheat’ – height 2 to 3 ft.
- Fargesia nitida 2 to 3 m
- Phyllostachys viridiglaucescens 4 m
- Pleioblastus gramineus 3 to 5 m
- Pleioblastus hindsii 3 to 5 m
- Pleioblastus simonii 4.5 m
- Pseudosasa japonica 4 m
- Sasa palmata ‘Nebulosa’ 2 to 4 m
- Semiarundinaria fastuosa 5 to 6 m
For bamboo poles:
- Arundinaria tessellata 4 m
- Phyllostachys aurea 4.5 m
- Phyllostachys flexuosa 4 m
- Pleioblastus simonii 4 to 5 m
- Pseudosasa japonica 4 to 5 m
- Semiarundinaria fastuosa 5 to 6 m
- Yushania anceps 3 to 5 m
Decorative variegated culms:
- Fargesia nitida 2.5 to 4 m (purple)
- Himalayacalamus hookerianus 4 to 5 m (orange/green)
- Phyllostachys aurea 4 to 5 m (yellow)
- Phyllostachys aureosulcata f. spectabilis 4 to 5 m (yellow/green)
- Phyllostachys bambusoides ‘Castillonii’ 5 m (yellow/green)
- Phyllostachys nigra 3,5 m (black)
- Phyllostachys vivax f. aureocaulis 5 m (yellow/green)
- Sasa palmata 2 m (light green)
- Sasa palmata f. nebulosa 2 m (with purple spots)
- Chimonobambusa marmorea ‘Variegata’ 1 m
- Hibanobambusa tranquillans ‘Shiroshima’ 2,5 m
- Pleioblastus viridistriatus 1 m
- Pleioblastus chino f. aureostriatus 1.5 m
- Pleioblastus shibuyanus ‘Tsuboi’ 1.5 m
- bicolor dwarf bamboo Pleioblastus variegatus 75 cm
- Pseudosasa japonica ‘Akebonosuji’ 3 m
- Sasa kurilensis ‘Shima-shimofuri’ 2,5 m
- Sasaella masamuneana ‘Albostriata’ 1 m
- Sasaella masamuneana f. aureostriata 1 m
- Fargesia dracocephala 3m
- Fargesia murielae 2,5 to 4m high
- Fargesia nitida 2.5 to 4 m high
- Indocalamus tessellatus 1 m
- Sasa palmata f. nebulosa 2 m
For deep shade:
- Chimonobambusa marmorea 1.5 m
- Chimonobambusa quadrangularis 3 m
- Fargesia nitida 2.5 to 4 m
- Indocalamus tesselatus 1 m
- Sasa species 2 m
Keeping bamboo in a tub
The tub should be sufficiently large, as most bamboo plants grow strongly. It is worth choosing a container that is about three times the size of the previous pot. For young plants, the container should have a width and depth of at least 40 cm. Ideally, the pot should be wider than it is deep. Also ensure good drainage so that water can drain away unimpeded. This is important because bamboo does not tolerate waterlogging. Choose frost-resistant containers, such as ceramic, terracotta or wood. These will make it easier for the plant to overwinter outdoors.
Since the growing area in containers is limited, so is the growth potential of bamboo. This results in bamboo in pots being much shorter and the culms thinner. A bamboo grown in a container will never reach the size of the same species growing outdoors. If you are aiming for tall and thick culms, opt for the largest pot possible to achieve the best size potential.
When to plant bamboo in a container? Plant in the spring to take advantage of the food reserves in the rhizomes and allow the plants to form fresh new culms in the summer.
Most bamboo species do best in sunny and partial shade locations. If they are protected from the wind, all the better. It is also advisable to provide the plants with plenty of moisture during the summer, such as by spraying the leaves.
The soil for bamboo must be fertile and permeable. The best soil for planting is universal soil mixed with water-retaining granules or coarse gravel. It is advisable to fill about 5 cm of expanded clay, perlite or ceramic chips as a drainage layer. This will prevent the roots from standing in water, which is especially important in winter.
When to cut bamboo
Bamboo can be pruned regardless of planting time. Remove old shoots that have turned brown. You can also cut off thin and weak shoots to help the plant direct energy to stronger shoots. Bamboo can also be pruned to a certain height or shaped so that the shoots at the bottom are more visible, for example. In this case, cut the side branches directly off the shoot with pruning shears.
Bamboo plants need sufficient nutrients to grow properly. It pays to pay attention to this, especially if they are growing in pots. Slow-release fertilizers with the right amount of nitrogen are best. You can start fertilizing as early as the beginning of April. However, from the beginning of August at the latest, stop fertilizing so that the shoots can mature until winter.
The bamboo in the container needs a lot of water, especially in the summer. However, as already mentioned, it does not tolerate waterlogging. For this purpose, you can use hydrogel, which facilitates the maintenance of constant soil moisture.
Bamboo in containers is also sensitive to hot temperatures and strong winds. In hot temperatures and wind, moisture evaporates more quickly. In summer, you need to water the bamboo every other day, and even daily in extreme heat. If the leaves turn yellow, it means that the bamboo has received too much water.
Repot bamboo in a tub
Depending on the growth rate of the variety, bamboo should be repotted every 2 to 4 years. Remember that plants can only grow healthy and well if they have enough soil and nutrients.
The ideal time to replant or divide a bamboo is either in the fall or winter. When transplanting bamboo, you should cut back the heavily branched portions of the root ball. Disturbing the root ball during the active growing season (spring and summer) can potentially destroy the bamboo.
Overwintering bamboo in a container
Like most potted plants, bamboo plants in containers are much more susceptible to frost than those in the garden. Place the plants close to the house wall during the winter to protect them from the cold, dry wind. Wrap the pot in several layers of bubble wrap, Styrofoam or similar insulating material. The shoots can simply be tied together and wrapped with breathable fleece.
Regular watering will ensure that the roots receive adequate water throughout the winter. On days when the temperature is above freezing, water them only lightly. Mulching also helps prevent the root ball from freezing.
Bamboo is usually very low maintenance, but can occasionally be attacked by sooty mold or root rot. Aphids are particularly common infestations of fargesia.
Leaves curled – This usually signals a lack of water to the bamboo. Especially in the blazing sun it rolls up the leaves.
Bamboo in pots will not grow – Like all plants (not just bamboo), they eventually outgrow their pots and their roots become “root bound”. With bamboo, some species grow much more vigorously than others and therefore become root bound much more quickly. If bamboo remains root bound for too long, it suffers as the roots can no longer find nutrients. The leaves do not grow as green and dense. New shoots do not form as often and the new culms do not grow as thick and tall. For this reason, the bamboo needs to be either repotted or divided.
Bamboo frostbitten – If it is completely dried out and light brown after the winter, it is frost damage. You should simply cut the bamboo back completely and provide some soil amendment. It will sprout again in the spring.