Tropical bamboo in subtropical climate experiment

Document your results with different mulches, seeds, mutations, TC or other experiments.

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Re: Tropical bamboo in subtropical climate experiment

Post by I_am_Ian »

MosoMoso wrote:Hello,
Thanks for your post. I'm also in the Sacramento area, and would love to hear of your experience with dendrocalamus giganteus. Is our area good for this tropical species? - Tom
I used to have a pretty good size D giganteus in the ground but a bad cold snap in 2013 top killed it. It lives on in a pot, a shadow of its former self.

If we have some mild winters like the last 3, it will likely survive but we do seem to get the once a decade or so cold snap that can drop into the mid 20’s and with enough hours below 30 degrees the tropical clumpers are going to get pretty f*cked up. Then they look terrible until the spring. But I’ve had luck with all my other dendrocalamus for the last 3 years and so far so good this winter. But I only chose ones that had reported some frost tolerance. The D giganteus just isn’t worth it for me at this point. It likely won’t grow very big anyway. It does have a enormous leaves though.
Posts: 108
Joined: Mon Aug 26, 2013 10:01 pm
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Location: United States

Re: Tropical bamboo in subtropical climate experiment

Post by I_am_Ian »

Time for an update! It's been 3 years since the last one. Luckily we have had mild winters every year since then with temps dipping below 30F probably less than 6-7 times total and I think the coldest it ever got was 28F.

I will start with the bamboo that aren't doing well or have died.

Dendrocalamus giganteus:
This one lived in a pot for a few years but eventually died altogether. Probably my fault somewhat due to neglect, but in a pot is no way for this species to live.

Dendrocalamus Parker Giant:
Flowered and died like everyone else's.

Thyrsostachys siamensis:
After showing some promise and gaining size in it's pot, it died suddenly. Could have been partly my fault, hard to tell. Sad this one didn't pan out because it was really beautiful.

Dendrocalamus tibeticus:
Since I've had it in the ground over two years it's only sent up one new shoot and another aborted one. Doesn't even grow many leaves each year. Might be the elevation or lack of sun. If it doesn't do anything this season I will probably retire it.

Dendrocalamus dianxiensis:
Similar results to tibeticus. Hasn't grown much at all.

Now for the plants that are doing pretty good:

Dendrocalamus farinosus:
This is the smallest Dendrocalamus I have, and maybe the smallest of the entire genus. The first couple of years it didn't do much growing and some of the canes aborted, but the last season it bounced back pretty good. It has a few good canes 6 to 8 feet tall. The leaves are it's best feature, small and delicate.

Dendrocalamus minor:
No complaints, it's done well enough. Similar results to the farinosus but slightly taller growth. Not as many total canes though. Still looks great with the powdery coat and stripes.

Bambusa dolichoclada:
Sort of a mixed bag. Has grown only two canes so far but they are both about 12 feet tall with good leaf growth. Oddly, the branches and leaves seem to get denser the higher up the cane you go. So it makes for a rather striking form.

And finally the ones that have impressed me most.

Bambusa emeiensis 'Viridiflavus':
This one has always shown signs of liking the climate here and it continues to do well. Consistently sends up 2 or 3 canes each year with increasing size and good leaf growth. It hasn't displayed much of it's signature striping pattern though. The tops of the canes get very skinny and sort of nod over which gives it a distinctive look.

Dendrocalamus fugongensis:
Seems to like it here. Hasn't grown a lot of culms, but the ones it does send up are large (10-15 feet) and healthy, with lower internodes developing a soft felt texture. They do tend to lean out though. It has that typical Dendrocalamus large and droopy leaf look, which is the only one of mine that is displaying that with any size. So if you like the look of a tropical clumper in zone 9b, this is the only one that has survived and gotten big enough to really give you that classic look.

Dendrocalamus validus:
This one has been a pleasant surprise and has some amazing characteristics. I've been thoroughly impressed by it and out of all my bamboo this one is has acted the most like a truly exotic tropical. First, like most of them, it has not grown a lot of canes, but the ones it does put up have been very successful. In fact, this thing has only grown one cane per year, but wow, talk about upsizing. The first cane was 1" and 8 feet tall, then next year 1.5" and 12 feet tall and then next year 2.25" and 15 feet tall. finally this year its already launched another 1.5" cane about 8 feet and still growing. And that's it! I suppose it's not very good growth for a tropical bamboo but that was to be expected. Anyway, the really amazing thing about this one is the branch growth. They are super long! The longest branch measures 8' long on a 12' tall cane. The main branches grow in a regular staggered ladder shape that looks like you could climb right up it. And they come out of the can super thick, like over half the diameter of the cane itself. Also, if a branch breaks while growing, it develops a new shoot from the break and continues to grow, haha, I've never seen that before. Anyway this is a fascinating species to watch, one of my favorites.

In summary, I figured growing these tropical clumpers here in my subtropical climate was always going to yield sub par results and that's okay. All of them are completely dwarfed by my bambusas in size and completely outshined in cane production. Still, they are a viable alternative and have added so much more interest to my jungle. If you attempt to plant any of these in zone 9a or 9b, be prepared to have very slow growing and lose some. But also be prepared to be surprised by their antics. Besides if these things could grow to their full size here they would probably take up too much space and become a nuisance, so it's kind of cool to have mini examples of them.
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