I have stumbled into bamboo growing, almost by accident, but in 2010, I will probably be growing up to ten varieties of hardy bamboo, for food, mulch, fuel, construction material, and for the sheer beauty of the plant. If only it had a value for my bees, it would be perfect. In this article I have listed the varieties that I want to try growing, and included details about their edibility, and use as timber.
The idea for growing hardy bamboo started to form after watching the DVD, A Forest Garden Year, by Martin Crawford. In it, he demonstrates how to eat the new shoots, and mentions that all hardy bamboo species are edible. (Please note that whilst the temperate climate varieties can be eaten raw, the tropical/sub-tropical varieties contain compounds that are poisonous, and need to be cooked first, to destroy them. ) That alone would not have been enough to start me looking into bamboo, but by a coincidence, I have a friend who is a fan, and has quite a lot of it. I had taken some of his surplus canes to use, when he suggested that I dig up some of his and plant it at home. Vic and I share an interest in trees. He has a marvelous collection of attractive trees, along with some stunning mature bamboo. So this Autumn, another friend helped me to harvest some bamboo culms and rhizomes. These have been planted out. Some in a nursery bed, and others in containers. It will be Spring before I know how successful the transplanting has been.
Vic also recommended a book by a British Author, to learn how to grow bamboo. The book is called Hardy bamboo, by Paul Whittaker. He runs a bamboo nursery, and his website is.
The book is available from Amazon, for quite a bit less than from the Author, which is a little strange. I have also been loaned a copy of Bamboo for Gardens, by Ted Meredith. Of the two, the first has better pictures, and suggestions for the ornamental use of bamboo, whereas the second has better detail on propagation, and edibility.
After sifting through the many species available to me, I’ve settled on about a dozen varieties to experiment with, almost all are members of the Phyllostachys family. I have a few of the varieties, but many of them will need to be bought, and I’m still looking for stock of some.
For those of you who are interested in trying some yourself, I’ve tabulated the list that I’m working on. Please note that the heights/diameters are maximums, and may not always be attained. For people looking to grow bamboo for construction, you need to do a bit more research into the properties of the larger species.
Table of Hardy Bamboo Varieties and their Uses
Species min temp height diameter season other
P. Aureosulcata -26c 45ft 2 1/4 ins Early/Mid OK Raw
P. Bissettii -29c 40ft 2ins Early
P. Dulcis -18c 40ft 2 3/4 ins Early
var. Henonis -21c 65ft 5 ins Late/Mid Bitter until cooked/good timber
P. Nuda -29c 34ft 1 3/4 ins Early Tasty
P. Praecox -18c 36ft 3 ins Early Very productive/excellent taste
P. Viridiglaucescens -21c 40ft 2 3/4 ins Early Good taste/strong timber
P. Viridis -18c 55ft 3 1/4 ins Late Tasty
P. Vivax -21c 70ft 5 ins Early/mid Excellent taste/timber not as strong**
Pseudosasa Japonica -21c 18ft 3/4 ins Very hardy/good for canes
Sasa Kurilensis -21c 10ft 3/4 ins Tasty, thinner but longer shoots.
Note** Whilst Phyllostachys Vivax is as big as many of the other timber bamboos, the culm wall, is less strong, so it has less strength.
Hardy Bamboo Availability
Bamboo can be quite expensive. Phyllostachys Aureosulcata varieties can be bought quite cheaply from the wholesale catalogue of Parkers Dutch bulbs. They are very ornamental, and the shoots are good to eat. Many of the others can be bought from Paul Whittaker’s nursery, using the link above. A bit more research should lead you to other nurseries, although I’ve yet to find one that sells all of the varieties that I’m looking for.
I currently have specimens/bits of Phyllostachys Aureosulcata f. Spectabilis, Phyllostachys Aureosulcata f. Aureocaulis, P. Nigra, Pseudosas japonica, and at least two other varieties, that I don’t have a name for yet.
I have some pictures of the stuff that I’ve planted, but there isn’t really much to look at yet.
The first picture shows the clumps surrounded by wire, to keep the rabbits and chickens away from them. The tall single culm is Pseudosasa Japonica, the shorter yellow bamboo rear right is a variety of Phyllostachys Aureosulcata, and the dark green cut stems centre and right of the picture, are two un-named varieties.
The second picture shows a clump of pseudosasa japonica. This was dug out earlier in the year, using a mechanical digger. left for months in a heap, and it still had new shoots. Very tough. I also have some rhizomes in containers.
Next time I visit Vic, I’ll take a camera, and get some pictures of his specimens. They are stunning.