If you are like me, you got your bamboo, then
started thinking about where to put it. Or
, you planted it in the only place left in the garden. That's not the best way to do it! A better way is to decide on the site, analyze the growing conditions, and then decide which bamboo will work the best for the growing conditions.
How Much Space do You Have?
If you are like the majority of folks considering bamboo, you are interested in creating a screen 10'-20' tall, and it is probably bordered by a fence or wall on one side, and by a walkway or lawn on the other. Regardless of whether you choose a clumping or running bamboo for your screen, the bed should be at least 5' wide, preferably wider. Why? Because in good growing conditions, any bamboo large enough to create a tall screen, A) will constantly strive to overgrow the bed border, and/or B) struggle to reach its mature height because it doesn't have enough room to spread into the soil. You can certainly grow bamboo in smaller spaces, but you may be disappointed in the amount of work it takes to contain/maintain it, or in its lackluster performance as a screen.
What's the Soil Like?
All bamboos thrive in, moist, well-drained soils, with lots of rich, organic material. However, most will grow quite well in a wide range of soils, from sand loam to clay loam. If you have really sandy, clay, or rocky soils, you can amend the soil to get the best performance from your bamboo. For some tips, read my articles on Fertilizing Bamboo and A Soil Primer
How About Water?
Once established, most bamboos are fairly drought tolerant. However, if you want fast vigorous growth, especially with the clumping bamboos, plan on watering weekly during summer dry spells. On the other hand, very few bamboos will tolerate standing water for any length of time. Depending on how wet the site is, you may still find a bamboo that will work, but your choices will be very limited.
You need to know how many hours of sun the site receives, and what part of the day it receives it. In general, the timber-size bamboos do best in full sun. You can grow them in a good bit of shade, but most will be stunted and slow to spread without several hours of intense midday sun. Many of the clumping bamboos will do full sun, but prefer or require afternoon shade. The shrub and dwarf running bamboos usually prefer part or full shade.
Turns out, it's a trick question. First
, figure out where you want to plant your bamboo and how tall it needs to be. Decide if you have enough room to plant it, (a 5' wide bed is the minimum for a tall screen) note how much sun it gets, then select a bamboo that will work for your site. If you're just getting started, check out my Bamboo Short List
for few recommendations, or to really dig deep, check Bambooweb.info