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Selecting your Bamboo Plants

One of the plusses of growing bamboo is the wide variety of ornamental species available. However, unless you're very fortunate, you'll have to order your bamboo through the mail. Most nurseries don't stock bamboo, and many of them can't even order it. Of all my bamboos, I have only one specimen - golden bamboo (Phyllostachys aurea) - that was stocked by a local nursery.

Luckily there are a number of nurseries specializing in bamboo, and a few of the general mail-order nurseries now carry some bamboos. Cost of plants ranges from $5 for gallon sizes of the smaller bamboo types to $40 or $50 for the 5-gallon sizes of some kinds and $250 for specimen sizes or particularly unusual species. Like other nursery stock, the size you order depends on how long you're willing to wait for the best results. I generally prefer the larger sizes (5 gallons or more) because I'd rather trade money for time and see quick results. If you're patient, there's no reason why you can't start small.

Plant your new bamboos immediately after purchase. Most nurseries ship bamboos as bare-root plants, although some ship them in containers. In either case, drench the plant with water and plant as soon as you cart. I have held potted specimens in their pots for as long as a week, but I don't recommend doing so. If you can't put the plant in its permanent location, try to set it out in a temporary spot.

Divisions from established clumps are easily transplanted whenever there is no snow on the ground, but are most likely to succeed either in spring before active growth or in the fall before plants go completely dormant. Try to get a fairly large chunk of rhizome with several buds and one or two culms attached. The culms can be cut back, but leave one or two branches with foliage on each culm. Dig a hole twice the diameter of the plant and about that deep. Fill it with a rich mixture of compost, topsoil and organic soil amendments. If your soil is heavy you may want to add some sand to ensure good drainage. Plant the bamboo deep enough to completely cover the rhizomes, taking care not to damage the buds. Mulch well and keep moist but not soaking wet. In warm weather you will see new foliage within a couple of weeks, although you may not get any new culms until the next growing season.

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