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Brat or beauty: sasa bamboo

There is something of the parent in every gardener: when you see an unruly progeny performing perfectly, nothing could be more satisfying. Such is the case with this dwarf sasa bamboo (Arundinaria pygmaea) --a garden brat that the owner now has starring in a 6-inch pot.

Sasa bamboos are well known for their ability to withstand bad treatment and be effective ground covers, yet garden authorities rarely describe them without using the word "rampant,' "aggressive,' or "uncontrollable.' Outdoors, even a piece of fleshy white root carelessly dropped to the ground can spring to life, spreading and crowding out other plants.

Nine months before the photograph above was taken, this sasa owner pulled a tiny sprig from another established pot and stuck it in its container. The plant was well treated, but not fussed over--the owner kept soil from drying out and gave the pot a light monthly feeding with a liquid fertilizer.

In two years the owner may want to knock the dwarf out of its pot and divide the clump. Meanwhile, it's a surprising, lowmaintenance house plant, happy in a bright window or in lower light. (On a half-time basis, it can endure even very low light if it's moved back into strong indirect light or partial sun.)

Two other sasa bamboos--A. disticha and A. humilis--also work in pots. Both grow to 2 or 3 feet, but need larger, deeper containers to thrive.

Give these potted bamboos loose, rich potting mix, ample water, and regular feeding April through October with a light house-plant fertilizer. You can propagate them in any season.

Photo: Content in cramped quarters, dwarf sasa bamboo in 6-inch pot stretches out copious bright green leaves on jointed stems.

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