In its natural environment, bamboo grows under the shade of taller trees. However, you can grow taller bamboo in partial sun to help shade a part of your yard or landscape. If growing bamboo for complete shade, you might consider planting one type that grows tall and a second mid-height variety to fill in potential places where sun might peek through the taller varieties.
The type of bamboo that will be best for creating shade will depend on your climate zone. Bamboos are available that are cold hardy down to United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Hardiness Zone 5. The warmer your climate zone, the more bamboo varieties you will be able to choose from for your shade screen.
Although bamboo grows best in fertile, loamy soil that drains well, some varieties can be tolerant of harder clay soils or looser sand soils. Bamboo does not, however, do well in very wet and water logged soils or soils on which water frequently pools. Bamboo does best in soil that is around 6.5 pH, but can tolerate some variance in soil acidity, depending on the variety.
Once established, bamboo can be drought-tolerant. However, an inch or two of water a week is recommended for most varieties of bamboo. Bamboo will naturally drop some leaves that can help form an organic mulch to help retain water in the soil. You might also consider mulching to help retain soil moisture.
Bamboos growing in acidic soils will not need much fertilization. The leaves they drop will return nitrogen to the soil. A light balanced fertilizer, like a 10-10-10, or most organic fertilizers will give your bamboo plenty of nutrition.
There are two types of bamboo. One is called clumping bamboo. Clumping bamboo reproduces by very slow-growing runners that grow close to existing runners. Clumping bamboo is generally not invasive. The other type, running bamboo, can be highly invasive. If you are planting a new bamboo grove and either know you are planting a variety that reproduces via runners or are not sure how your bamboo reproduces, you should install a bamboo barrier. Commercial plastic bamboo barriers are designed to be installed to a depth of 36 inches. They prevent the runners from getting out of your planting area. You can also use concrete as an effective bamboo barrier.
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