Early May updates, part 2

Topic: Shooting bamboos

Originally posted: 4/21/11

It’s been ten days since I last wrote about our two potted bamboo superstars: black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra) and golden bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea ‘Koi’). But have grown tremendously.

The new culms on our black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra) are now 10+ ft. tall. The culm sheaths have started to fall off, exposing newly developing branches. The culms are a bluish green at the moment; they will turn black within a year.

New culms on black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra)
Beautiful bluish-green coloration on new culms; also notice the white ring just below each node
Culm sheath (bottom) about to fall off. Check out the two new branches; they will soon move downward like the spokes of an umbrella opening up.
New culm

Our Phyllostachys aurea ‘Koi’ has ten new culms this year; this is particularly impressive considering this is a containerized bamboo. Phyllostachys aurea—commonly called “golden bamboo,” although that is somewhat of a misnomer—is known for its compressed internodes, the hollow sections between the nodes. The nodes are the circular ridges that bulge outward; they are solid and separate the internodes from each other. In the photos below the nodes are outlined by white rings. The compressed internodes gives Phyllostachys aurea its unique look.

Phyllostachys aurea ‘Koi’. This new culm is predominantly green, with a bluish flush right below the node ring. In time, the culm will turn a buttery yellow, while the sulcus—the vertical groove along the culm—will remain green.
A masterpiece of nature

Another containerized running bamboo has begun to shoot, Phyllostachys bambusoides ‘Castillon Inversa.’ This form of the famous Japanese timber bamboo Madake has green culms and a yellow sulcus. What you see in the photo below is the first new shoot on this plant, which I bought last December from Bamboo Sourcery in Sebastopol, CA.

Phyllostachys bambusoides ‘Castillon Inversa’

Our Chinese walking stick bamboo (Chimonobambusa tumidissinoda) is busy forming branches on its new culms. This species is renowned for its saucer-like nodes, clearly seen in the photo below. Chinese walking stick bamboo is native to rainforest valleys and loves high humidity. Since our climate is the antithesis of humid, especially in the summer, the leaf tips turn brown and the foliage isn’t as lush as it would be on the coast or in the Pacific Northwest. Hosing it down frequently goes a long way toward keeping it happy.

Chimonobambusa tumidissinoda with new new branch
and culm sheath about to fall off


Topic: Flowering bamboos

Originally posted: 10/13/10

Last October I wrote about two bamboo species in my collection that were in flower: Pleioblastus shibuyanus ‘Tsuboi,’ a small running bamboo with variegated leaves, and Bambusa textilis ‘Mutabilis,’ a large clumping bamboo. I had actually omitted another small running bamboo: Pleioblastus simonii.

All three are still flowering. On Bambusa textilis ‘Mutabilis,’ the flowering is limited to the “mother” culm from which the plant was propagated. There are just a few flowers, and I don’t think the plant will die. Most likely, this flowering was induced by the stress of being moved to a new home (ours). As tough as bamboos typically are, sometimes stress can trigger sporadic flowering.

The two Pleioblastus, on the other hand, are flowering all over the world. This is part of a cycle that happens every so many years—or decades in some species. Both plants are still producing new leaves together with the flowers, so I’m cautiously optimistic that they will survive. Sometimes a bamboo plant puts all its energy into making flowers to the point where no new culms or leaves are produced; in such a case the plant usually dies.

Pleioblastus shibuyanus ‘Tsuboi’
Pleioblastus simonii (flower on the left)


Topic: Another exciting plant trade

Originally posted: 4/24/11

As part of a plant trade I received a small division of a beautiful running bamboo, Phyllostachys aureosulcata 'Spectabilis.' This is what it looked like when I pulled it out of the box:


Today, less than two weeks later, it looks like this:


The amount of growth is astounding. Note that the existing culms have elongated, branches are beginning to develop, and two new shoots/culms have come up. That’s the vigor of bamboo in a nutshell!


  1. Isn't it the internodes that separate the nodes, not the other way around? ;-)

    A little warm weather really makes the shoots grow like crazy, doesn't it? I'm surprised at how much the 'Spectabilis' has grown! I assume the plant knows that it needs at least one of its buds to turn into a rhizome, but seeing more shoots worries me a little. I know the worry is probably unfounded, but I can't help it.

  2. Alan, to me it's the nodes that separate the internodes, but it's just a different way of looking at the same thing :-).

    I think the 'Spectabilis' will be fine. I'm sure it's busy doing what is needed in order to survive. I'll keep it well watered and out of the hot sun until it has leafed out.

  3. My pieces of spectabilis have put up shoots for a couple weeks already, but it has been very cold so they've made no progress at all and stayed at 1 inch or so. They do seem to be resisting the frost so that's good.

    Next week we should finally get seasonable temperatures in the 60s, but after-wards it will probably get cold again.

  4. It's always fantastic to see bamboos shooting! P. aurea 'Koi' is such an underrated plant, they should be grown by more gardeners :)

    You might be interested to know, ours and a friends Pleioblastus shibuyanus 'Tsuboi' is also currently flowering!

  5. I'm very impressed with how our 'Koi' is developing. The culm are beautiful--not only the new ones, but also the older ones that have faded to a buttery yellow. In addition, I find the leaves were attractive.

    I think 'Tsuboi' is flowering everywhere. I have a couple of small seedlings, but they're all-green, no variegation. I'm hoping the variegated mother plant will survive.


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