Bamboozled by choice - the best bamboos for Ireland

There is a dizzying array of bamboo species in the world, and you may be hard pressed to know which variety to buy. They are primarily a useful plant in many parts of the world - in parts of Asia they are used as food, for building or scaffolding, for furniture or as a biomass where they are reconstituted as flooring or pulp. In Ireland, they are primarily planted for ornament, although they can be useful too: they provide canes for use in the garden, they can provide instant screening, and the edible varieties can also be grown.

We sell more varieties of bamboo than you will find in other garden centres.  We sell primarily Irish-grown bamboo, which means they have less 'plant miles' behind them, and are more accustomed to the Irish climate when they arrive in your garden. The  majority of bamboos sold in garden centres are imported from Italy, where the much warmer summers makes them grow faster and taller than here. These are not necessarily the best plants for our climate and environment, but they are convenient for garden centres as they grow fast and can be bought from the same bulk suppliers as many of their other plants. Our bamboos are mainlynIrish-grown and are in excellent condition. To keep them this way, and to help them on their way to a life of good health, you can follow the advice below. 

As a general rule, follow these guidelines if you want to establish healthy plants:

  • Moisture: bamboos should be planted in soil with sufficient moisture, and this is particularly important for their first year or two when they are establishing themselves. They are very prone to drying out in winter and spring, when cold winds can dry them out in a matter of days. Pay no attention to the rain, and soak them well when you water them. When planting, immerse the rootball for a few minutes to get it really wet through, and keep immersed until the rot ball has stop[ed bubbling.  With such a large leaf area, they dry out quickly in their pots. They are just as prone to drying out in the winter as they are in the summer, especially in their first year or two after planting.
  • Fertility: adding a soil improver such as Gee-Up will improve growth and water retention in the soil. A handful or two of chicken manure pellets, scattered into the soil when planting, or scratched into the surface around existing plants is also very helpful - it's full of nutrients for healthy growth.By the way, leaves spent leaves on the ground - they provide vital nutrients to the plants.
  • Shelter: many species dislike strong wind, and the leaves can be disfigured or tattered by it. The most damaging wind is the north-easterly winds between February and April, when leaves can become brown at the edges. Some varieties, such as Phyllostachys bisettii and Pseudosasa japonica fare much better in windy locations. However, though they can be disfigured by these cold, drying winds, they are not dead! With TLC (water and patience and maybe a handful of chicken manure pellets) they will recover to full health.
  • Pruning: If your bamboos get too tall, remove canes (or culms, as they are officially known) at ground level. Thin out the smaller, weedier shoots to encourage sturdier ones. You can also prune off small, scrawnier side shoots up to a certain height. This gives the plants a cleaner, more architectural appearance and will not damage the plants.

Phyllostachys bissettii bamboo planted as a hedge / screen in Mount Merrion, Co Dublin. This is perhaps the most reliable bamboo for many areas in that it is wind-resistant and tends to look good year-round. Although vigorous, it is not invasive - it grows in clumps and does not have underground runners. This scheme, in a garden by Howbert and Mays, provided almost instant screening for a large property that had been quite exposed to the road. We have planted it adjacent to the sea and it has survived the winter almost unscathed, making it an excellent bamboo for seaside conditions.


Phyllostachys hedge in Ranelagh, Dublin, makes and excellent evergreen and elegant screen, kept clipped to any desired height.


Phyllostachys aurea hedge in Rathgar, Dublin, kept clipped


Removing the smaller scraggly stems of a bamboo makes them vastly better looking. Here, Phyllostachys aurea after thinning, in Bray, Co Wicklow.

 

Fargesia nitida 'Bimbo' in a raised planter bed in Kinsealy, North Dublin. In a situation like this it is important that the soil is enriched well and has plenty of compost of manure such as Gee-Up. This bamboo makes an ideal medium-sized hedge, full of movement but with a strong vertical loine, that can be trimmed if necessary.

Phyllostachys nigra has beautiful black stems. These can be 'cleaned' annually by removing lower leaves and smaller shoots. An excellent and most striking bamboo which is best when given some shelter from easterly winds.Planted here along a path in a front garden by Howbert and Mays.

 

One of the best varieties for height, robustness and non-spreading tendencies is Semiarundinaria fastuosa 'Viridis', a hard-to-source bamboo which can grow up to 6 m in height. Good even in more exposed areas, it is ideal either as a specimen (as illustrated above) or as a fast-growing, narrow screen that will block out whatever it is you don't want to see.

'Golden' bamboo (Phyllostachys auea 'Aureocaulis') has striking yellow stems with a green stripe - planted here in a back garden in Dublin 4 with other lush, evergreen garden, giving this garden a most 'jungley' atmosphere.

 

An example of bamboo being used as a screen for privacy. Here, in a small strip of garden on a busy road in Dublin 4, is a tall evergreen screen of Pseudosasa japonica, one of the thoughest and most wind resisitant bamboos.In a garden situation in can be prone to spread, but when constrained, as in the garden above, it is very useful.

An example of a plant as supplied by us. This is a Semiarundinaria fastuosa 'Viridis' in a 15 L container.

Browse our selection of bamboo.....