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How to Perfectly Grow and Care for Black Bamboo Plant

Wondering if a plant can act as a natural privacy fence and still offer you other benefits? Well, that must be the black bamboo plant. This plant is a salient and exotic option for your garden or your landscaping project. It's known as the diet of choice, mainly for panda bears. So, if you are growing the bamboo plant for a natural privacy fence besides other benefits, you're lucky. This variety of bamboo can grow as tall as 30 feet high, offering you maximum privacy. There are definitely other major benefits, so keep reading to learn more.

What's a Black Bamboo Plant?

The black bamboo plant (also known as Phyllostachys nigra) is a species of bamboo originating from the Hunan Province of China and is commonly cultivated elsewhere. It's part of the Poaceae family, making it grass, despite its tree-like stability and height. Besides, it grows about 25 m tall by 30cm broad, and it forms clumps of slender arching canes, which usually turn black after 2 or 3 seasons.

Furthermore, It's a running bamboo, meaning it spreads and grows fast through underground rhizomes. This usually causes it to be very aggressive if not well-maintained. However, its fast growth is not all bad. As mentioned earlier, black bamboo plants are ideal for creating noise barriers and dense walls or natural privacy barriers. Also, we use the black bamboo for lumber (timber, musical instruments, food, among other things.

What Are the Main Bamboo Plant Types?

Bamboo plant types can be divided into two main categories: clumping and running

1. Clumping bamboo

As the name suggests, this bamboo grows in a big clump of grass that commonly grows up and stays put where you have planted it. We recommend this type of bamboo plant if you want well-behaved bamboo in your garden and one that you won't need to worry about spreading.

2. Running bamboo

This type of bamboo plant usually spread like crazy when not kept in check. It propagates by sending out underground runners referred to as rhizomes which usually send up new shoots elsewhere. Additionally, these rhizomes can travel more than 100 ft (30 m.) before sprouting, meaning your bamboo patch may end up being your neighbor's new bamboo patch too. Therefore, you shouldn't plant this type of bamboo unless you know how to contain it and are willing to take care of it.

How to Care for Your Black Bamboo Plants

Black bamboo (phyllostachys nigra) plants usually blossom in sunny areas with nutrient-dense and well-draining soil. However, they have a shallow root system that can be damaged or uprooted by harsh winds. Therefore, planting black bamboo plants in a garden where it's sheltered from windy conditions is recommendable.

When you plant the black bamboo in favorable growing conditions, the rapid growth can cause it to dominate your landscaping very quickly. Therefore to avoid this, you can use root pruning or root barriers to keep it contained. Root barriers include polypropylene or fiberglass sheets that you burry about 36 inches deep to prevent rhizomes and roots from traveling outside the required area. However, if you don't have a large space to grow the plant and allow it to spread, growing in containers or pots is an excellent option and naturally usually controls the spread of the bamboo.

The black bamboo species is a gregarious flowering bamboo, meaning that every black bamboo worldwide will bloom around the same period. This usually happens every 40 to 60 years, and that generation of bamboo perishes shortly after. However, you can collect the seeds and plant them to start a new stand of bamboo growth.

Note: Black bamboo usually uses runners to propagate instead of forming clumps like most grass varieties. Its growth is considered quite fast and aggressive. The underground rhizomes easily lead to this black bamboo popping up in unexpected areas around your yard and garden. Furthermore, eliminating it requires removing each piece of rhizome, which can be challenging if left unchecked.

Factors to Consider When Planting Black Bamboo Plants

1. Soil

Black bamboo usually thrives well in nutrient-rich soil. Besides, moist, loamy, well-draining soil is perfect for optimum growth. Of course, a mix of clay, sand, and silt is a good combination, too, though black bamboo can adapt to many soil conditions as far as it's well-draining. Therefore, to help keep your soil moist and well-draining, try placing a layer of mulch around the bamboo plant.

2. Light

When it comes to light conditions, black bamboo isn't very picky. It can be perfectly grown in anything from full sun to partial shade. Therefore when you plant bamboo plants, ensure there is light at least.

3. Temperature and humidity

Although black bamboo (phyllostachys nigra) is considered one of the hardiest bamboo species to grow, it can be grown in 7 to 11 zones. In addition, it can endure temperatures down to 0 degrees Fahrenheit despite being a tropical plant making it an ideal option for northern gardeners.

Furthermore, for those living in tough winter locations, you can bring the black bamboo grown in containers or pots indoors for the colder months. Conversely, as for humidity, black bamboo is very tolerant of different conditions. Nonetheless, if kept indoors, the irregular misting will ensure the vitality and better growth.

4. Water

Black bamboo is usually like water, and consistent watering is encouraged. Try to keep your soil moist as much as possible but never soggy. For black bamboo plants in a container or pot, you'll need to water more frequently. Moreover, depending on the temperature and humidity in your area, you may need to water every other day.

5. Fertilizer

To enhance healthy black bamboo growth, you might decide to fertilize it to boost additional nutrients. Choose the fertilizer that's high in nitrogen for the best results; one that's best for grasses. Then apply it in the late spring and again in the middle of the growing season.

Steps on How to Propagate Black Bamboo

Propagating bamboo is usually done by division, and it's very simple. It's important to divide bamboo plants between the early spring or late winter.

1. Ensure you water the black bamboo properly the day before you divide it.

2. Before dividing, ensure you cut off 2/3 of the culm.

3. Dig up the section you'd like to divide using a sharp spade or a hoe. You might need a saw to cut through the roots.

4. Next, you can keep the clump large or divide it into small sections of 3 to 4 culms each.

5. Plant each section in the hole twice wide the root ball.

6. Mix fertilizer or compost manure and fill in the area.

7. Water thoroughly 

Pruning of Black Bamboo Plants

The bamboo plant is known for its fast-growing capability, which usually adds to its appeal as a natural privacy barrier. Nonetheless, to keep your bamboo height in check, you should prune it occasionally to your desired height.

Pruning your black bamboo to control growth should be done in the spring seasons. The plant's nodes offer an easy visual clue on where to cut off the height of each stalk-cut each stalk immediately above the node. Furthermore, you can curb the unwanted growth of your in-ground black bamboo by cutting off new shoots that usually sprout from the rhizomes to the ground level.

However, bear in mind that although this will check the growth of the black bamboo, it's a prolific spreader once planted straight in the ground, and you might not be able to control the growth by just cutting back new growth.

Potting & Repotting Black Bamboo

You can easily grow Black bamboo in containers, which is ideal for those with either smaller yards or who want to keep it inside. When deciding on the container to use, ensure it's short, wide, and bottom-heavy. You can decide to add rocks to the bottom to make the container heavier. Since black bamboo grows tall, a lighter container can easily get blown over.

Additionally, since black bamboo is usually a running and a fast grower bamboo, it may outgrow its container quicker than other species. Therefore, you'll need to report once your black bamboo is root-bound. Besides, potted bamboo usually requires more water than plants in the ground, so ensure tabs on your soil moisture. Also, put your pot in a sunny, wind-sheltered place and enjoy its salient looks and green foliage.

Harvesting of the Black Bamboo

Bamboo shoots usually make a fascinating and fun addition to vegetable stir-fries and are regularly used in Asian cuisine. To harvest the young sprouts, you need to wait until they're a few inches tall. However, you can harvest them when they're 6 inches or less for the best flavor.

Using a sharp knife, go ahead and cut the soy at ground level. Ensure you harvest the plant responsibly and sustainably without stripping the plant of all of its new growth. Besides, when you're ready to prepare your harvest, cut off the shoots in half length-wise and get rid of the hard outer sheath. Then, cut them to the desired thickness and fry or boil them.

What Are the Causes for a Browning Black Bamboo?

Insect pests are regularly blamed for bamboo with brown tips. Besides, the most likely perpetrators are sap-sucking insects like mealybugs, scale, mites, and aphids. Cultural or environmental conditions usually lead to browning on your black bamboo, including water, heat, fertilizer, and winter damage.

1. Insect Pests

  • Mealybugs- These bamboo are common and easy to spot by their whitish protective covering. Besides, sooty mold and ants may result in an infestation of these pests.
  • Scale- Scale is small, sap-sucking insects that you can identify by their waxy, tan, or brown shell-like covering. Most of these pest types create honeydew that usually draws sooty mold and ants to the black bamboo.
  • Mites-These minuscule pests are difficult to see with naked eyes. They're especially common during dry weather when your black bamboo leaves are dusty. If you suspect the presence of mite on your bamboo, look for fine webbing and specks on the leaves.
  • Aphids- These aphids are some of the most common sap-sucking pests. The small aphids can do vast damage when left unchecked. Though aphids are green, they may also be brown, tan, red, yellow, black, or grey. They usually excrete huge quantities of honeydew, which invites ants. Also, the sticky substance they produce can attract sooty mold.

Most sap-sucking insects are quite easy to control by spraying the bamboo with neem oil or insecticidal soap. If the infestation happens to be light, a sturdy blast of water from a spray nozzle might be enough to kick them off the leaves. Therefore, chemical insecticides are unnecessary and usually do more harm than good as the toxins kill ladybugs, bees, and other beneficial insects.

2. Cultural and environmental conditions

  • Water – Both over-and under-watering can cause a black bamboo with brown tips. A new bamboo plant usually benefits from watering once or twice a week until the plant gets the 3-6 month mark. After that period, in-ground plants require no supplemental irrigation. However, when it comes to potted bamboo, we recommend you maintain the soil moist. Besides, a mature black bamboo will let you know when it needs water; avoid watering it until the leaves start to curl.
  • Heat – Direct sunlight or too much heat might be the reason for a browning bamboo plant since most bamboo varieties like shade or partial sunlight.
  • Fertilizer – Avoid using too much fertilizer since it might be the reason why bamboo plant tips are turning brown. Also, avoid using too much organic fertilizer, such as fish emulsion, since it might contain salts that can end up burning bamboo leaves.
  • Winter damage – Most bamboo types endure winters in climates as far as planting USDA zone 5. Nonetheless, colder climates can be the reason why your black bamboo is turning brown. Some of the bamboo leaves might even fall from the plant, though they grow new leaves.

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