Timber Bamboo

All timber bamboos can be grown in Arkansas. Some that are sensitive to Zone 6 would be suited to southern Arkansas. Others are quite hardy even in Zone 5; many are evergreen in severe weather.

Phyllostachys is a genus with over 80 species and cultivars now available in the United States. Known for their large culms, some varieties have grown to thirty feet in the Ozarks and can achieve heights of over sixty feet in the south. These bamboos usually prefer full sun although some variegated species can tolerate some shade.

One species often seen in roadside patches is the Yellow Groove bamboo. An exceptionally hardy species, Phyllostachys aureosulcata is often evergreen, wilting in only the worst of winters. In our trials, culms have grown to a height of twenty-five feet and have a diameter of one and one-half inches.

Other cultivars of the yellow bamboo are equally hardy. Phyllostachys a. spectabilis has bright yellow culms with vertical green stripes. It makes a handsome specimen when mature. Phyllostachys a. aureocaulis has culms that are golden in color with very few green stripes.

Phyllostachys rubromarginata is another large bamboo tolerant of cold, dry wind. It was the fastest growing bamboo in USDA trials in Zone 8. In colder climates, it has a tendency to form dense clumps before slowly spreading.

Phyllostachys dulcis is also a good choice for colder regions. It is known for quickly forming large diameter culms, which can be up to two and a half inches in diameter. It is one of the best bamboos to harvest for food, hence its name, Sweetshoot bamboo.

Phyllostachys nuda is one of the hardiest species and can reach heights of over thirty feet. The black bamboo, Phyllostachys nigra, is not quite as hardy but makes an attractive ornamental. Over the course of several months to a year the new green culms turn a handsome black color.

David Bissett’s bamboo, Phyllostachys bissettii, has proven to be the fastest spreader in our trials. A shorter species that grows to about twenty feet, it has small dark green leaves.

Semiarundinarias are a small genus of attractive bamboos. They grown between twenty and thirty feet tall and prefer a sunny site. The Temple bamboo, Semiarundinaria fastuosa, is a handsome species with large leaves and erect culms. Our young collection of bamboo in the Ozarks is a haven for the birds. Juncos have settled in for the winter, and cardinals and wrens hide in the thick hedge, whispering anxiously when we walk by. The hardwood leaves have fallen, leaving dark green patches of bamboo to dominate the landscape.

After the quiet of winter, we enjoy the new burst of bamboo each spring. Each year there are new surprises, robust growth and much to learn about this mysterious plant. We like having bamboo in the yard and are always seeing something new in this diverse family. It is our hope that bamboo will be a better understood plant, enjoyed for it beauty, appreciated for its strength and usefulness and given a prominent place in the home or garden, a place it truly deserves.

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