'Green Panda' Bamboo in backyard cedar planters

Asked October 1, 2017, 7:31 PM EDT

We made 4, 10' long, 21/2 ' high cedar planters for the backyard-used 4 Green Panda bamboo plants per container, to be used eventually as a barrier from the house behind us. It has done well until this summer, planted May 2014. We are one block from the beach (Manzanita) and have a lot of salty wind down through the backyard. With the heat of this summer, the wind, the bamboo suffered. Dry, losing its leaves, been watered, fertilized, brown areas. Need to know if it is dying-should it be taken out or should it be fertilized now, trimmed out at the ground, left alone until next spring? It is not pretty and looks sad. Any advice you can give me would be so helpful. Thank you, Janet Ward

Tillamook County Oregon

3 Responses

Thanks for your question about your bamboo plants. They are looking a bit sad! In addition to the dry weather in Manzanita this summer (our plants there suffered, too!), I think one of the issues may be how closely you planted the plants in the planters. Every source I've found indicates they should be spaced 3 to 12 feet apart (depending upon the source). Using the information you gave, yours are closer to 2 feet apart. While the Fargesia rufa ("Green Panda") bamboo is a clumping (as opposed to rhizomatous) grass, each plant still needs adequate root space to thrive, even if you're watering it every day. Since clumping bamboo is not invasive, it tends to perform better in the ground, as opposed to containers, but probably too late to change that.

I can't tell you if your plants are dying or not, but I see some greenery in the photos, so all is not (yet) lost. I suggest you prune the plants as described in this article, and thin the plants to two per planter. Keep the growth that is green, on the remaining plants. The survivors will put on new growth, but cut culms will not grow back. I would also urge you to check the pH of the soil in the planters. As this article indicates, they prefer more acidic soil (5.5 to 6.5 pH), so you might need to add a bit of sulfur, or mulch with pine needles to reduce it to their preferred range.

Hope this is helpful to you. Good luck!

Thank you for your quick response-interesting the responses you gave to me-too bad I didn't have all that information when we tried to decide the best way to go for some kind of a screen/barrier. But, I will do the best on the info you sent and maybe all will be looking lovely next spring! Thanks again.

You're welcome! BTW, you can get an inexpensive pH test kit (about $5) at any garden center. They're little vials, which have chemicals that test pH as well as the level of the 3 major nutrients plants need (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium). If your containers are full of sand, you're likely to have a pH closer to neutral (7.0), which is what water is. Although we tend to curse clay, it actually helps hold the nutrients close to the roots, and is generally a more acidic medium.

You may not see any dramatic growth in the remaining plants until late spring, but I'll look for them on some of my beach walks!