Bamboozled: Container Garden Bamboo – Container Planting Ideas in Seattle
A number of years ago, a client asked us to remove some Black Bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra) from a custom-built wooden garden container. The bamboo was very unhealthy and had been incorrectly pruned by shearing off the top in order to keep it below the roof line. This particular type of bamboo is commonly called a “runner” This means that if planted in the ground without a barrier and/or proper maintenance, the bamboo will “run” in all directions. Running bamboo can break through concrete or asphalt, and even undermine the foundation of a house if not constrained by a barrier and also maintained regularly by cutting the runners back to the main clump. In a container, running bamboo circles and circles until the rhizomes are twisted up together like a lump of stone. We used a jackhammer with an asphalt blade to remove this bamboo, a reciprocating saw with a demolition blade, as well as shovels and root saws. It was quite a job, let me tell you. Many times landscapers plant bamboo in the ground or a container without knowing much about it. I freely admit to being afraid of running bamboos.
Bamboo in Your Container Garden?
This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use bamboo in a container garden. It just means you need to select a better kind of bamboo. Clumping bamboo, such as Fargesia robusta or Chusquea culeou are two types of clumping bamboo that would be suitable for containers. Running bamboo is not suitable for container use unless you are creating large concrete containers, or planning on using wooden containers and splitting the running bamboo every three years.
Container Garden Bamboo – Planting Ideas
The clumping bamboos are far easier to maintain for the average homeowner planning to use them in containers. Additionally, you should research the clumping bamboo you plan to use in your containers for hardiness and other cultural factors. Here in the Seattle area, Bambusa multiplex ‘Alphonse Karr’ is suitable for container garden plantings, but is not hardy and must be protected in the winter. It is far easier to choose a clumping bamboo for your container that is hardy in the ground, because anything planted in a container and left outside is more challenged by harsh temperatures. In a harsh winter, even the hardy clumping bamboos planted in a container will lose leaves and look ratty, so be prepared. Some bamboos also need more water than others and all will probably need more attention to watering when installed in a garden planter. Finally, bamboo looks best planted alone in a container. Even groundcovers around a containerized bamboo will be strongly challenged to “duke it out” with the bamboo. It’s a better design choice to plant the bamboo in the container alone, then use the whole pot in a grouping if you want a mixed planting effect.