Plain Gardening: Bamboo

Plain Gardening: Bamboo

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Plain Gardening


Aired August 2, 2013

John Nodar


Need a screen or background or separator?  Think bamboo!

Bamboo has gotten a bad reputation over the years as a plant that—once started—will take over a yard.  Bill Finch with Mobile Botanical Gardens says that older varieties of bamboo were, in fact, runners that could spread 10-15 feet a year and require nearly nonstop pruning.  BUT THAT'S NOT THE CASE ANYMORE!

Nowadays folks can plant tropical clumping bamboo in a host of varieties that spread only a few inches per year.  They're available in greens, yellows, blues, and variegated (striped) and in sizes that, when full grown, range from 6 to 20 feet or taller.  Make sure your bamboo is the right height for your needs (won't grow into the power lines, for example.)

Even the best clumping bamboos will occasionally need pruning.  To do this, look for the oldest and weakest canes.  Surprisingly, older canes are usually the skinniest…the younger canes are more robust.  Just trim out a few with a small saw.

Once you've done that, you're left with some great building material that can become supports for tomatoes or peas.  Bill built a beautiful three-legged ladder from bamboo.  Smaller bamboo canes are traditionally used as fishing poles.  Or, for the musically inclined, you can create your own aussie-style didgeridoo!

To learn more about tropical clumping bamboo go to

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