Bamboo in the Desert
I am growing Bamboo in the Desert.
This is the experience of a non-green thumb, newbie, growing Bamboo in the Desert. I do not suggest that anyone consider this advice. The past 20 years my front and back yards were desert Xeriscapes needing little care and if a plant died it was not replaced. I grew Lantana, Dwarf Oleanders and Ruellia all requiring little if any effort. I am also not a skilled tradesman so I’m sure to learn more about woodworking as this unfolds.
We moved into a new home with a very small backyard in Gilbert Arizona near Queen Creek. My desire is to make a shady courtyard, more like an additional room, to relax in. I would need a fast growing, attractive, interesting plant to block the intense afternoon sun. As I write this on October 22, 2016 it is 100 degrees outside. Next week it should finally cool off to the upper 80’s.
Great Bamboo Web Sites
I did a lot of research on-line about Bamboo and if you are looking for Bamboo advice from experts and professionals I found the following websites to be very informative.
Maya Gardens This is were I purchased from.
Running Bamboo and Clumping Bamboo
I heard that Bamboo is invasive so I decided to use planters to contain them. During my research I learned that there are two types of Bamboo, Runners and Clumpers, so I designed my planter to be able to contain invasive Bamboo. Running Bamboo can be invasive and Clumping Bamboo is considered non-invasive. This way no matter what Bamboo I decided on I should be okay.
The planters are 18″ high, 20″ deep and one is 79″ wide the other is 103″ wide and they are raised 3 1/2″ off the ground using paves. Bottoms are 1/2″ mess and sides have 14.5 mill liner. I used a pond liner instead of a Bamboo Rhizome Barrier after deciding on Clumping Bamboo. If I had decided to plant a running Bamboo I would have used a thicker Rhizome barrier. My reasoning for the pond liner was to prolong the life of the wood. I also layered the bottoms with a water and air permeable landscape fabric. I want the roots moist, not sitting in water, and to drain well.
Which Bamboo to plant?
I wanted my Bamboo to grow to 10′ to 12′ high, as erect and upright as possible, and to be a dense screen. I hoped for an interesting stem, culm, and it had to be able to take full sun and the heat of the Arizona Desert which possibly could be six months of 100 degree plus temperatures. There are over 1,000 species of Bamboo but not all are available in the United States and trying to find any Bamboo for sale in the Phoenix area was almost non-existent. I did find the Bamboo Ranch about 90 minutes away in Tuscon Arizona with over 75 groves of Bamboo and one local nursery with Punting Poll Bamboo and one local nursery with Timber Bamboo.
Alphonse Karr Bamboo
Bambusa multiplex ‘Alphonse Karr’
The bamboo species Bambusa multiplex Alphonse Karr was named in honor of Journalist Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr who was noted for saying…
“Some people are always grumbling because roses have thorns; I am thankful that thorns have roses.”
“The more things change, the more they are the same.”
“Every man has three characters – that which he exhibits, that which he has, and that which he thinks he has.”
Alphonse Karr is a Clumping Bamboo described as great for hedges or tall screens, attractive stems are brilliantly striped green on yellow with new growth pinkish and green. As a hedge can be maintained at 8 to 10 ft. tall with occasional pruning. It is non-invasive, evergreen, will grow in partial to full sun, best with regular watering – weekly, or more often in extreme heat, and is fast growing to 15 to 35 ft. tall. Exactly what I am looking for and if the Bamboo Ranch can grow it in the Sonoran Desert maybe I have a chance at successfully growing it.
Where to buy Bamboo?
I could not find Alphonse Karr Bamboo for sale locally except in Tucson where it was only available in 15 gallon containers which were to big for my planters and it is probably too soon in my Bamboo hobby for me to attempt propagation by division.
Still researching all types of Bamboo on-line an ad popped up offering 5 Alphonse Karr Bamboo plants for only $89 plus $21 for shipping. I clicked on the ad and it took me to eBay. I thought that if I was to buy on-line from out of state I should research all available options and I searched dozens of on-line nurseries. I found that Bamboo is expensive and to buy on-line, sight unseen seemed risky to me. A few days later that eBay offer of 5 plants delivered for a little over hundred dollars was still available so I decided that for less than I would be paying for one plant elsewhere I would be getting 5 so why not try the eBay offer. I thought that for that price the plants are probably going to be very small and a couple would probably die so I ordered the 5 plus 2 for a total of 7, with shipping the total cost was about $167. I expected small plants, that a couple would probably die in transit, and all most likely worst for wear during shipping.
On Saturday, October 15, 2016, a few days after ordering, my Bamboo arrived, several days earlier than expected. FedEx delivered only one box approximately 6″ x 6″ x 48″. I asked the driver where the rest of the boxes were and he stated that was it, just the one box. So all seven plants were in this one small box. The box was in good shape label side up. The label stated to keep box this side up and it was, thank you FedEx.
Knowing that I needed to get them some water and sunlight I opened the box right away. I was very pleased when I opened the box and saw all the green but you cannot tell the size just by opening the box. I dug the first hole and carefully removed the first plant from the box, oh my word, this plant is much taller than the 1 foot tall I expected and each plant has numerous canes. I unwrapped the root ball and the soil was very, very moist. I was shocked and excited by the excellent condition of the plants, their size and then number of culms of each plant.
I now realized that I over ordered. I wanted to have 5 plants, 2 in one planter and 3 in the other planter. Since I cannot by locally and I needed to order sight unseen from out of state, and thinking that they would be very small and a couple plants most likely would die, I ordered 7 plants. Maya Gardens in Oregon sent me 7 large, beautiful, Alphonse Karr Bamboos that if they do not survive it is totally my fault.
The above photos were taken shortly after planting on 10/15/2016. I intend to add new photos next month then again when they start new growth next spring or summer so please return to view how well I can grow Bamboo in the Desert.
Note: I did some thinning by removing multiple culms from each plant the first week of November.
Thanksgiving Day 2016 and they are still shooting. I was pleasantly surprised when in the last half of October there were new shoots. I was not expecting newly planted Bamboo to bring forth new shoots just a couple weeks after planting and in the Fall no less. It is now Thanksgiving Day, only one month after planting and again I found new shoots. These photos were taken Thanksgiving Day 11/24/2016, one month after planting Alphonse Karr Bamboo in the desert. You may click images to enlarge.
Update: December 25, 2016, a little over two months since arriving and in the Arizona Winter there are still new sprouts, a total of 18 sprouts growing on 6 of the 7 plants. The 7th plant has no recent sprouts but it is healthy looking and has new leaves growing. All seven plants have new leaves growing.
The Alphonse Karr Bamboo made it through another hot Arizona summer and winter is now upon us. Look closely and you will see the new shoots now reaching the roof. The bamboo have now been in the planters for 2 years. I am purposely ‘Legging Up’ to give a classic bamboo look.