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PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 8:38 am 
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Joined: Sun Apr 26, 2015 8:02 pm
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Location: Arizona, USA
I haven't been nearly as active as I've wanted to be on this site as of late, originally because of dwindling free time, but more recently because I have slowly come to the realization that successfully growing bamboo in the Phoenix area is just not feasible, at least not anymore.

I say that mainly because, despite my best efforts and having spent enormous amounts of money replacing plants, trying different varieties and doing everything I possibly can, there's just no way to get them to thrive here. I do see, here and there, large, decades old clumps, mainly in places like the Phoenix Zoo and a few old-school nurseries, but other than that, I don't know anyone else that successfully grows up here in the "Valley of the Sun". At this point, I've come to the conclusion that establishing new plantings, whether they start at 1, 5, 10 or 15-gallon, is just not feasible. The summers have just gotten too hot, too dry and too insufferable for anything of that size to survive, much less thrive. Larger, established clumps/groves, I can see it, but new stuff just can't seem to acclimate enough to make it through the first or second year without enormous setbacks, one after the other. I have felt, for years now, that I've been trapped in this two-steps-forward, one-step-back scenario, but it gets worse with each passing year.

Case in point, this summer we've broken records left and right and last year was the same story. Monsoon comes late, temperatures get too hot, for too long, and nearly every clumper in the yard has become a crispy critter. It doesn't help that the intense heat brings out throngs of local spider mites, which have quite literally devoured even 15-gallon specimens to the point of complete top kill. I've used Forbid to beat them back most of the year, with high success, but once summer hits, it's too hot and too windy to apply and so all you can do is watch the plants be devoured. I have an Asian Lemon bamboo, 15-gallon with several 1" or so canes, that has been completely obliterated this season, top to bottom. The whole plant is littered with a fine dusting of husks, and not a single viable leaf or growth point. Withered, browned out and utterly dead. Even on the few lucky plants that, by chance have no evidence of spider mite issues, have burnt to a crisp in the unwavering heat. It hasn't been the 119F days that wiped them out, but the ridiculously long string of 110F or so for weeks on end, with consistent and unrelenting wind. No amount of watering was able to keep them from crisping up and bleaching out, despite my best efforts.

If you had seen them in the spring, when they were well grown, fertilized, mulched and full of life, you would never believe how they look now, much less that it was only a matter of weeks from one to the other. It is so incredibly disheartening, not for the money involved so much as the time and energy invested in getting them this far. If nothing else, I have learned that whatever success I had limping most of them through the summer before, it was clearly a tenuous victory at best. A few more degrees of average temperature was the difference between looking like crap and being cooked.

Since June, I have lost B. oldhamii (x5), Asian Lemon, chungii (for the second time), malingensis (for the second time), textilis v. gracilis, multiplex (silver stripe, 'Alphonse Karr', typical, golden goddess) x6, dolichoclada 'stripe' and G. apus dead to the ground. The hangers on, which I give 50/50 odds at best, are B. dissimulator, B. bambos and B. dolichomerithalla 'silver stripe'. Of the three, 'Silver Stripe' gets almost too much shade, tucked behind a large orange tree, but it hasn't been enough to stop it from drying out almost completely. There is no evidence of spider mite damage either, it's just the hot, dry air and wind.

I'm not putting this out there for sympathy or because I want to bellyache about my problems, but because I would hope to spare others the trouble I have been through and the disappointment I am now reaping after so much energy put into this. Year after year, the plants have struggled, and in all that time I've almost never gotten more than a single shoot that survived to become a cane. Some plants, many in fact, never produced any. The 'Silver Stripe' even in choice digs with ample shade, has yet to produce a cane in over two years. Not a single one. This is a 15-gallon planting that already had 3 or 4 canes when I put it in, not some minuscule sprig.

It's sad to say, but the constant struggle has finally gotten the better of them, and by extension the better of me. I just can't keep replacing expensive specimens in the hope that it was something I'm doing wrong or that it was bad luck or a bad time to plant or whatever else. At some point you just have to accept that the climate is just beyond what the plants can tolerate or ever adapt to, and that's the conclusion I've ultimately reached after the last few years. :cry:

As I've said to others, I may not be professional plantsman, but not a novice. I've grown a lot of things successfully in my yard, palms from seed to 20 foot specimens, grapes from tiny plantings into full rows that I can actually harvest from, three kinds of citrus, dyckia, hechtia and deutercohnia, succulents aplenty and even an agave collection (over 115 species at present). I can count my non-bamboo losses over the last couple of years on a single hand. If I were to count my bamboo losses in the same time frame, I would need run out of fingers and toes and still not be done. :roll:

If someone is seriously growing successfully in the Phoenix area, I would genuinely like to know what species and how they are able to make it work or what they're doing that I'm not. At this point though, my stance is that whatever dies will be replaced with something other than bamboo, and those that do survive will be dug up and trashed if they haven't thrived by the time something else comes along for which I could use the space. Maybe that sounds terrible, but life is too short to limp along plants that struggle every year. Seeing your plants grow well and thrive is what inspires me, but seeing them struggle and die a slow death only a few weeks after they looked their best? That just makes me sad and puts me off, to the point where I don't even want to be out the yard. :(

So let this lengthy posting be a warning to those that want to try establishing clumping bamboo in the Valley of the Sun. Don't make the mistake I did and assume you can plant a bunch of varieties and have a nice collection of clumping bamboo that will grow well and eventually thrive. More than likely you'll have plants that look great most of the year and then burn to a crisp in the summer, thanks to record breaking heat, late monsoon and our lovely local spider mite population. :|


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 9:15 am 
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Location: SE TX, Zone 9a
It sounds like you have given bamboo a fair chance, and I certainly understand your decision to move on to other pursuits. I have had to make the same decision, although on the opposite end of the rainfall/humidity spectrum. It is so wet where I live that I have had to give up on growing a large number of dry land plants.

After seeing how well tropical bamboos tolerate, or even prefer, frequent inundation, I can see how they would not be easy to grow in your area. Interestingly, I have lost quite a few running bamboos to flooding over the last few years, which has been very disheartening, but no tropicals have been lost from too much water, and only a couple showed any stress at all.

Out of curiosity, have you tried Otatea in your area?


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PostPosted: Mon Jul 17, 2017 11:12 am 
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Location: Island off Cape Cod Massacusetts
Well, you made a good effort. Some plants don't do well in some places. On the bright side, you can probably grow dates, pomegranates, lemons, maybe avacodos, etc, that I would love to grow but never will in my location.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 12:41 am 
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Location: Arizona, USA
Glen wrote:
Out of curiosity, have you tried Otatea in your area?


Believe it or not, horrible as this sounds, I never have liked the look of them. I just don't have a spot where they would have looked good either, so never gave them a go. Only seen them offered once at a nursery up this way, and never seen it grown, but that's neither here nor there I suppose.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 12:43 am 
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Location: Arizona, USA
dependable wrote:
Well, you made a good effort. Some plants don't do well in some places. On the bright side, you can probably grow dates, pomegranates, lemons, maybe avacodos, etc, that I would love to grow but never will in my location.


I just hope I can find a suitable substitute for those that don't survive. I really wanted to have a nice, tall group of specimens to create some shade and privacy too. I really hate to start over with something else, but hopefully I can find something readily available that will provide what I need. Definitely going to look for something more attuned to desert climate before I look at anything exotic this time around.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 2:35 am 
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Joined: Sat Jul 04, 2015 12:52 am
Posts: 82
Location: Southern Missouri Z6B
You could try screening with Teddy Bear Cholla. It may not be a perfect screen, but I bet it will make just about anyone think twice about entering your yard.
On a more serious note, as others have said you gave it a shot, sorry it didn't work out. Surely there's something you can plant that will be almost as cool, if not you could always relocate.
I wish I could grow Saguaro Cactus here in MO, but that's not gonna happen.

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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 4:50 am 
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Location: Arizona, USA
wolfedg wrote:
You could try screening with Teddy Bear Cholla. It may not be a perfect screen, but I bet it will make just about anyone think twice about entering your yard.
On a more serious note, as others have said you gave it a shot, sorry it didn't work out. Surely there's something you can plant that will be almost as cool, if not you could always relocate.
I wish I could grow Saguaro Cactus here in MO, but that's not gonna happen.


It's alright. I've got other interests, just not many that I've sunk that kind of time and coin into. But I'll get over it, especially once I remove the carcasses and fill the void with something else so I don't have to look at block walls. :?

Appreciate all the kind words.


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PostPosted: Tue Jul 18, 2017 2:25 pm 
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Joined: Sat Oct 01, 2005 9:14 pm
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Location: Carmichael, CA
Bamboo Society Membership: ABS - America
How do Italian Cypress do there?

I must be on the edge of still can grow bamboo well here being a bit 'cooler' than there. We keep having 100-108F days with wind but nights drop 35+ degrees.

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PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 2:20 am 
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Location: Placerville California
Bamboo Society Membership: ABS - America
Sorry to hear that.

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Elevation 3000 ft
Zone 8B ( probably 8A )


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 2:57 pm 
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Joined: Fri Feb 21, 2014 4:53 am
Posts: 226
Location: Amador County, CA on 5 acres with mostly phyllostachys bamboos in zone 7 they say
Maybe someone has asked this but have you tried any runners there? For some reason I can't imagine decora and some others not hacking it in Pheonix...but others on here would know better than me. I am currently growing decora in a full sun mound of almost solid rock below it and in the winter time it floods around the rock mound like a river.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 4:43 pm 
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Sorry to hear man. But it also looks like you picked all the wrong bamboo to plant. No way any clumper will live there. And all the rest seem wrong too. I ditched clumpers the first year.

When I did my search for bamboo I searched for the most heat and drought tolerant plants. But for me they also have to be cold tolerant and wind tolerant. I think anything also cold and wind tolerant are also stronger in the dry harsh heat too.

In all my searches and reading and trial I found the best plants to be:

Decora
Bissetii
dwarf bissetii
Spectabilis

Surprisingly one of my small shrubby bamboos is doing awesome too, but I forget what species that is. Have to look it up later. Now I also know I've read a few others that would work for your area that won't for mine since your area doesn't get as cold.

I have others but these do the best. With your ground there I'd imagine you'd also need to truck in new soil. And also compost with it and mix it all together. Mixed in with the native soil it should work great. Don't ever do to much compost though, that stuff holds way to much water and dries out bone dry when it's dry. Worst of both worlds. Also you have to water the living crap out of the bamboo. More than you think it could handle. With all that watering make sure to fertilize it enough to though. But seriously water, a lot. I'd water what I thought was a ton and then go scrape the surface and it would be bone dry right below the surface, I'm like what the flip where did the water go?!?! So I have to constantly drench it to keep it happy and so it would soak in deep. These dusty dry soils form some weird barrier when they get wet and it's like a flipping force field against water lol. Long slow sustained water like drip systems can be best. I'll give you an Idea how much I water my decora. In really hot weather I turn the sprinkler on full blast for 3 hours a day every two days. 3 flipping hours, it's drenched. But it loves it. But that's how much it needs. And I have extremely good amended soil I trucked in. Be careful with mulch on top too, that stuff makes a good barrier too against water and nothing wants to get through it. I guess you probably have some good desert bamboo in there too I just never looked up, but I'm thinking the ones I have work better because they are not just desert bamboo. They can take a ton of watering, unlike what I'd imagine desert bamboo would. So maybe that helps to keep it going, good amended soil, lots of water, and a bamboo that can handle lots of water. And they are super wind tolerant, maybe some desert bamboo aren't as wind tolerant either.

Now sure I don't get quite as hot as you. Here it's 3 month of pure sun, up to 108 degrees. But it's insanely windy, so much some of my bamboo is leaning all one direction. That's like worse than more heat. And nasty cold windy harsh winters. But I know and have heard these bamboos living where you are. If you want to keep at it, get these bamboos and do what I said. I know you'll have good results.


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PostPosted: Wed Jul 19, 2017 5:46 pm 
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Location: Arizona, USA
T9D wrote:
Sorry to hear man. But it also looks like you picked all the wrong bamboo to plant. No way any clumper will live there. And all the rest seem wrong too. I ditched clumpers the first year.

When I did my search for bamboo I searched for the most heat and drought tolerant plants. But for me they also have to be cold tolerant and wind tolerant. I think anything also cold and wind tolerant are also stronger in the dry harsh heat too.


With all due respect, not being in our climate, I am not certain how you reached that conclusion about clumping bamboo. Nearly all the bamboo were grown in Tucson, 90 minutes South of here, where they had heretofore grown fine at the private nursery from which they were obtained (for decades at that). To wit, runners never grew worth of crap for me, and I tried at least four or five varieties (including Spectabilis in fact), all of them 15-gallon. I have never seen successfully grown running bamboo in Phoenix, not once. Even the zoo seems to exclusively grow clumping bamboos, as does every nursery I know with an old growth stand of bamboo.

Nothing wrong with putting your opinion out there, but it seems a bit ill-informed I think. Blanket statements about what will grow here from someone a thousand miles away that has probably never grown bamboo here just comes across the wrong way. There are plenty of clumping bamboos growing here, big stands at the zoo and some nurseries. They've been here for decades and I suspect that is why they persist and survive better than my newer transplants (and as noted above, not all have been lost either). As with many plants, smaller specimens are more vulnerable to weather extremes and the pests than larger ones, and extremes have become the new normal the last few years. If I had started 10 years earlier, I probably wouldn't have as many problems.


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PostPosted: Thu Jul 20, 2017 1:43 pm 
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Location: Southern Missouri Z6B
@Desertdweller
Just curious. What is your soil like there? Just wondering if maybe some large scale (IE whole yard 1ft+deep) soil ammendments might help with moisture retention.

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