Planting a Hedge of Rufa Bamboo

by philinshelton on March 23, 2009

in Bamboo Plants,Landscape projects

More often than not, gardeners want to cram a bamboo hedge into a space that is too small.  But every once in a while we get a client with enough room and the right conditions for creating a perfect bamboo hedge.  Read this article to learn how we did it.

The Site

In our latest bamboo installation, Outdoors By Design design guru Leslie Coulter wanted to replace an ugly hedge of diseased Photinia.  She needed a plant tall enough to provide separation from the road, but short enough to allow a view of the landscape plants in the bed beyond.  The hedge would also serve as a backdrop for viewing trees and shrubs from the house, and eventually cover part of a slope down to a roadside ditch.  The length of the hedge is about 100', with a good 6'-8' separating it from planting bed.  It has full sun exposure during summer, and the soil is a sandy loam.

The Perfect Bamboo

This is a perfect space for the low, sprawling form of Fargesia dracocephala 'Rufa'. Topping out at about 6', this vigorous clumping bamboo will attain the perfect mature height for the screen and the backdrop our clients need.  Rufa grows very well in full sun,  and with a little compost mulch, and water over summer, it will be established by the end of the growing season.  In two years, the screening will be significant; in 4 years, it will be a solid wall of green foliage.

The Install

Fully rooted Rufa We started by selecting eight fully rooted plants bursting with new spring shoots (pic right).  We purchased these last fall from Boo-Shoot Gardens, LLC and overwintered them in our unheated hoop house.  I recommend using #3 size container plants because they are large enough to make a significant visual impact in just two growing seasons. Next, the plants are spaced 12' apart on center, and the holes are dug deep enough that the top of the root ball will sit a little lower than the soil surface.  You should pull the big roots away from the root ball, and trim the matted roots on the bottom before planting.
New Rufa hedge

New Rufa hedge

Next, the plants are placed, the holes are backfilled, and a little grass fertilizer (summer formula) added to get the plants through the shooting season.  We finish the bed with some compost mulch to help control weeds and conserve moisture. Look for future updates and pics to follow the progress of this bamboo hedge

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Adam Williams March 23, 2009 at 3:20 pm

I’m wondering why 12 feet apart? Rufa will grow almost as wide as it is tall. Is this just a budget issue?

philinshelton March 23, 2009 at 9:21 pm

Good question! In this case, not a budget issue at all. We could have planted closer together to get screening faster, but after 4-5 years the plants would be overcrowded. The 12′ spacing is a compromise between “instant gratification” and “just too darned long to wait”. After about 3 years, a #2 container of Rufa will grow to about 4′ tall and 6′ wide. But it won’t stop there! Make no mistake, these Rufa will fill out to form a solid screen in 4-5 years with good growing conditions.

OnesLikeMe August 15, 2009 at 9:29 am

this may be a strange question but, i have a small dog (chihuahua), and i was wondering how close the actual stems will grow to each other. would my dog have room to squeeze through the bottom?

Mike July 19, 2012 at 7:48 pm

Good article. I live in long island new York and am planning on planting a rufa hedge this year. Couple of questions if you don’t mind.
Are you happy with the 12′ spacing? Seems a bit wide. I was thinking 8′ or so, but will that cause overcrowding and if so how would I remedy it in say 5 years

Can I trim the hedge so that it is a bit narrower? It seems that the width may take over too much of the yard

Thanks in advance and great bamboo site

philinshelton September 10, 2012 at 10:01 pm

Sorry for the extremely slow reply. I am guessing that you have already planted your hedge. If not, great, if so, then for the record and other readers, yes, you can shrink the spacing to 8′ so the hedge will fill in faster. If the plants are very happy, they will fill that distance and more over 7-8 years. If they are starved for light, water, nutrients (or a mixture of) they may take over a decade to fill out, or who knows, maybe two decades or longer! I am finding that the growing environment plays an enormous role in the growth rate of my bamboos. If your bamboo outgrows the bed border, feel free to prune away. If it’s that happy, not much chance of hurting it!

Art Doyle May 18, 2013 at 7:08 pm

I need a bamboo clumping hedge that I can keep under 6 feet by topping it. Also, I need the hedge to be filled in for screening from the ground up. Will the Fargesia Robusta Hedge (called Rufa?) fill the bill? Thanks, Art

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