Desert Bamboo. Best species, care, where to get

Desert Bamboo. Best species, care, where to get

Can you grow bamboo in the desert?

Yes, you certainly can grow bamboo in the desert. 

And in this article, we will talk about which species to choose, best practices for growing bamboo in the desert, as well as get a couple of ideas where to buy it.

While bamboo is not your typical desert plant you can add it to your landscape as many people do! 

The first step to successfully grow bamboo is to choose the right species for your climate conditions. There are bamboo species that are better suited to grow in dry climates than others. 

Luckily, there are a couple of great places to source bamboo specializing in desert-grown bamboo in Arizona. 

Where to buy bamboo to grow in the desert

Bamboo Ranch

Located near Tucson, Arizona, Bamboo ranch specializes in desert-grown bamboo for all uses. The bamboo farm has over 75 groves of bamboo in the Sonoran Desert. They have giant bamboo and medium-sized hedge bamboos, as well as tiny variegated ground covers. So you will find something that fits your needs.

If you make an appointment before, you can visit their gardens and see for yourself how a mature bamboo grove can impact the desert landscape. 

Kona Land and Water Escapes

Kona Land and Water Escapes is a full-service residential and commercial landscaping company. They are experts in the local climate and can do many things, including grow bamboo and choose the right spot for it on your property. 

They grow a noninvasive clumping bamboo – Arizona Timber Bamboo – in their bamboo nursery in Chandler. 

Their bamboo is grown and acclimatized specifically for the Arizona climate and provides lush evergreen environment.

It grows fast and gets thick and tall. The average height is 12 feet to 16 feet tall.

Arizona Timber Bamboo can be very versatile depending on your landscaping needs – it can be great for shade and privacy, blocking street noise, as well as stand proud as an accent piece. 

The main issue – water

There are many different kinds of bamboo and they have different growing requirements, so there is no answer that fits all bamboo species.

Most bamboo thrives in well-irrigated soil.  However, it is a myth that bamboo likes soggy, wet soils. 

By definition, a desert is not well irrigated. That is why you don’t see bamboo growing wild in the desert. However, you can easily create a little oasis in your front yard!

Bamboo planted in dry climates needs to be watered regularly for the first 3-4 years until it becomes well-rooted.

How much water does bamboo need?

Bamboo is a grass, but it can survive in the desert much better than a well-kept lawn.

Why?

Because bamboo often grows tall and forms large bushy clumps, it can give the ground some shade and the sun does not shine directly on the soil. 

Another way bamboo protects the soil it grows inside is by dropping some amount of leaves all year round – it creates a natural layer of mulch around it. 

These 2 elements – shade and mulch – mean that bamboo can retain moisture better than your typical lawn grass. 

This, of course, does not mean you can avoid watering. 

You need to water regularly but it does not mean it has to be a deep watering. 

The roots of bamboo are actually pretty shallow. That means it only takes a modest amount of water to get them wet.

In the desert, your bamboo will need some water every other day to stay green and healthy. Not a lot of water – light watering to get the topsoil wet will do just fine. 

Practically that means a few minutes of the sprinklers will usually be enough. 

Water your bamboo early in the morning if possible, before the temperatures rise(or the evening alternatively). It helps to minimize evaporation and allows to maximize the intake of the water provided.

At the peak of summer, they may need water every day. Just don’t do this under direct sunlight. 

While bamboo does create some mulch for itself by shedding leaves, in extreme environments, like the desert, you should put an extra layer of mulch to slow evaporation as much as possible.

Is your newly planted bamboo dead? – Probably not

You have bought a new healthy bamboo plant and planted it in your garden. 

Unfortunately, after just a few days it looks like dying – it’s shedding all its leaves and you may think – oh, after all, bamboo in the desert was not a good idea. 

Don’t despair just yet! It might be that your bamboo is experiencing transplant shock.

A transplant shock it a completely normal reaction for plants(especially bamboo plants) when they are put into a new place. Typically it means they lose some or even most of their leaves after transplanting.

If this happens you should keep the plant well watered, adding some water every day and in a few weeks time the leaves will regrow and the bamboo will be fully leafed out in 6 to 8 weeks.

Bamboo that grow well in the desert

Clumping bamboo species in general root fairly deep therefore can access more water, but runners have higher tolerance of dry, hot air.

But which bamboo specifically to choose? Here are some ideas:

Phyllostachys nigra ‘Henon’  – A fast-growing giant bamboo 

Semiarundinaria fastuosa – Also known as Temple bamboo. The culms start green then age to a burgundy color in the Fall. During the growing season, it appears to be primarily a green caned bamboo. 

Phyllostachys aurea Golden Bamboo – Small to medium fast-growing bamboo. It has beautiful golden stems and thick growth, a popular option for a privacy hedge.

Phyllostachys glauca ‘Yunzhu’ – Bamboo with spotted culms. As the culms age. the spots merge and new darker spots form on the old spots.

Bambusa oldhamii –  One of the most popular species of ornamental bamboo. In favorable conditions, this giant clumper can get about 60 feet tall with 4″ diameter culms.

Alphonse Karr – The bamboo has yellow canes with green stripes. When the cane is young it`s blushed with red/rose color.

Phyllostachys mannii ‘Decora’ – Also known as Beautiful Bamboo. New shoots are colorful and striped with cream and surrounded with mixes of reds, greens, and purples.

Otatea acuminata – Also known as Mexican Weeping Bamboo. This species grows in dense clumps with slender culms and delicate foliage that sways in the breeze.

Featured image by travelwayoflife, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0