Bamboo can do well in containers, even some of the more vigorous, running types, although the slower-spreading clumpers are the best choices.
It’s important to remember your chosen variety will only get as tall as the pot’s size will let it – a a good guide is about 50% to 75% of its maximum height in open ground.
It will also be less hardy but as most cultivars are very hardy, this shouldn’t pose a problem in the UK.
Caring For Bamboo In Pots
It will also require much more watering in the summer – as much as once a day during extreme heat, usually every 2-3 days.
Bamboo needs feeding most in summer when it is producing new stems. As bamboo is a grass, it requires a high-nitrogen feed, (10 per cent or more) – a controlled-release fertiliser will save you time, applying it in spring.
Bamboo will need to be divided or transplanted regularly to stop it from becoming root-bound. With clumpers, you can leave them a maximum of six years in a large 50-55cm container; runners will need to be divided every three-five years. This is a difficult job, as the pots are heavy and the plant bulky – get friends to help!
Planting In Pots
When it comes to container size, the bigger the better. If you want planter boxes, 46cmx46cmx46cm is the smallest to use for permanent use. Bamboo can fill whatever space it is given; a long, narrow planter, will produce a long, narrow screen, of moderate height.
Use well draining high-quality potting soil and make sure the pot has good drainage holes.
Bamboo can be grown in smaller pots but will need to be repotted every year. Don’t use tall, top-heavy or blow vase-shaped containers, as bamboo blows over easily.
Metal troughs alone are not a good idea, as the roots bake in summer and freeze in winter. Line it with bamboo barrier fabric or old carpet to act as insulation and drill extra drainage holes to prevent waterlogging.
Best Bamboo Varieties For Containers
Avoid large runners; smaller runners will grow better in containers and clumpers can do very well but need partial shade. Good runners include Pseudosasa japonica, Phyllostachys aureosulcata, P. nigra, and P. aurea will produce interesting, compact nodes at the base.
For clumping bamboo, most Fargesia will make a good display, with a fountain-shaped plume of foliage.
Groundcover varieties like Sasa make short, bushy container accents. Fargesia and Sasa varieties will need afternoon shade, or the leaves will burn.
Mandy Watson is a freelance journalist who runs www.mandycanudigit.com.
A plantaholic with roots firmly planted in working-class NE England, she aims to make gardening more accessible to the often excluded – the less able, the hard-up or beginners.
Advocate of gardening for better mental health.