How To, Mandy, Planting, Plants

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 at PrimroseMandy 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.

See all of Mandy’s posts.

Mandy, Plants

stop plum tree branches breaking

There’s nothing better for a gardener than seeing a fruit tree laden with blossom and then young fruit – and nothing worse than seeing your crop ruined when the branches snap.

Many healthy fruit trees drop fruit naturally in the ‘June drop’. Where a heavy crop has set, too many fruitlets may remain on the branches. Deliberate thinning of the fruitlets produces better-sized, ripe and healthy fruits.

This is particularly true of plums, which are not great at regulating the size of their crops.

If the branches don’t snap, you’ll get a huge crop one year and the tree will wear itself out, bearing little or no fruit the next year. This is why it’s vital to thin plums in early summer.

Thinning Plums

Thinning allows sunlight and air to penetrate the canopy, improving ripening and reducing the spread of pests and diseases.

The tree is able to make good growth and develop fruit buds for the following year.

Using your thumb and forefinger, remove fruitlets to leave one every 5-8cm. Finish thinning by mid-July.

Supporting Branches

Heavily laden branches may need extra support with stakes and ties even after thinning.

Once fruit has set, they may need thinning again to ease weight in the canopy, as well as to boost fruit size (you could cook with these plums).

Nitrogen-based fertilisers and watering can really boost the crops of plums, gages and damsons.

Apply a mulch of well-rotted farmyard manure in mid-spring, supplemented with a top-dressing of dried poultry pellets, plus a top-dressing of sulphate of potash in late winter.

To get the best flavour, plums need to ripen on the tree, so pick over several times, as they ripen quickly and in a glut.

Mandy at PrimroseMandy 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.

See all of Mandy’s posts.

Mandy, Plants

The fashion for bamboo continues and with good reason – it’s easy to care for, looks good in a variety of styles and gives a tropical, oriental look to gardens. 

Bamboos are split into two groups – running and clumping. 

Be aware of height – bamboo will lose its natural graceful shape and movement if pruned back.

After planting, top-dress with a high nitrogen fertiliser, then use a balanced fertiliser such as Growmore during the growing season.

Running Bamboos

Running, or spreading bamboo which includes the popular Phyllostachys aurea and P. nigra (golden/fishpole and black bamboo) is usually best suited to a larger plot due to it’s spreading nature.

Most running varieties range from 4-8 metres tall or more and tend to spread by rhizomes.

Barrier fabrics are available if you would like to contain your bamboo in a specific area. 

Planting in containers is another option – Phyllostachys is often planted in troughs to create a feature piece. Bare in mind, they will need regular watering because they are thirsty plants. 

Running bamboos include: Arundinaria, Bashania, Chimonobambusa, Clavinodum, Hibanobambusa, Indocalamus, Phyllostachys, Pleioblastus, Pseudosasa, Sasa, Sasaella, Sasamorpha, Semiarundinaria, Sinobambusa, and Yushania.

Containing a Running Bamboo

New plants can be restricted within a physical barrier to prevent them spreading.

Dig a trench at least 60cm deep, ideally 1.2m deep and line it with paving slabs, corrugated iron sheets or specialised root barrier fabric (not weed suppressant fabric or butyl pond liner).

Fabric ends should be overlapped by at least 30cm and bonded with mastic. The barrier should stick up at least 7.5cm above soil level, to prevent rhizomes from arching over the top. The rootball should sit 3cm lower than it did below soil level.

Clumping Bamboo For Smaller Gardens

There are alternatives that are not so tall or invasive – clumping bamboos. They still have rhizomes but they are short and stay close to the main plant, so it’s still wise to put a physical barrier in the planting hole.

Smaller varieties are suitable for growing in large pots – half barrel size – and need plenty of water or the foliage will die off and look raggy.

Fargesia varieties are excellent for the smaller garden – they are graceful, delicate and move in the breeze.

Best varieties are F. ‘Jiuzhaigou 1’ (red bamboo, Jiu and Red Panda): The young green canes turn red/purple, then orange-brown, giving a multicoloured effect. Grows up to 3m high with a 2m spread, less in pots. It will stand some shade but needs regular watering. Avoid cold, drying winds, as it is susceptible to wind burn. Hardy to -25ºC.

  1. F. robusta ‘Pingwu’: This reaches 4-5m but only has a spread of 1.5-2m, both less in a large container. Culms start off yellow and red, sheaths fade to almost white. It keeps its foliage even during harsh winters – it is hardy to -17ºC.

Other clump-forming bamboos: Bambusa, Chusquea, Dendrocalamus, Drepanostachyum, Himalayacalamus, Schizostachyum, Shibataea, and Thamnocalamus.

Mandy at PrimroseMandy 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.

See all of Mandy’s posts.

Mandy, Plants

azalea not flowering

There are several common causes linked to Rhododendrons and Azaleas not flowering – here are the most common and what you can do to help flowering next season.

Drought or overwatering: These environment factors put so much stress on the plant that they do what all plants do in this situation – shed the flower buds to give the main plant a chance of survival.

Flower buds start forming in late summer – dry conditions at this time can cause flower buds to fail, or only partially form, drying up and dropping in spring.

Both Rhododendrons and Azaleas are shallow rooted and need to be in acidic soil with a pH of between pH 5.0 and 6.0, which is well-drained. Apply an 8cm-deep loose mulch of chipped conifer bark or other acidic organic matter from July to minimise the roots drying out.

Overwatering and planting too deep in a heavy soil will lead to root rot which kills the plant – often a first sign is dropping or discoloration of flower buds.

Frost damage: Avoid frost pockets and sites exposed to early morning sun in winter and spring, which will ruin delicate flower buds. Avoid open, east-facing sites.

Poor light: In deep shade, a plant will produce leaves and elongated growth at the expense of flower buds in an attempt to reach better light. Move the plant to a position in dappled shade.

Rhododendron leafhopper and bud blast: Leafhoppers are sap-sucking insects are active from late spring to autumn. Bud blast, a fungal infection associated with the insects, spoils developing buds.

The nymphs (young) are creamy white wingless insects that live on the underside of the leaves. Adults are 8-9mm long and have pale yellow heads and a bluish green thorax. In sunny weather, they can be seen on top of leaves, ‘hopping’ off when disturbed.

The problem is that females cut into next year’s flower buds in late summer/autumn. These are thought to provide entry points for the fungal disease bud blast (Seifertia azalea). Infected buds turn brown and die.

Infected flower buds should be picked off and disposed of (never composted) to reduce the amount of fungal spores in the area.

Wrong pruning: Flower buds form from late summer – any pruning needs to be carried out immediately after flowering in spring/early summer. If you cut back your plant in autumn or winter, you will cut off the next season’s flowers.

Mandy at PrimroseMandy 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.

See all of Mandy’s posts.