Phyllostachys Nigra ‘Black Bamboo’ is a beautiful and unique bamboo plant. The legendary ‘Black Bamboo’ is native to Taiwan and China. Introduced in 1827, black bamboo became the first hardy oriental bamboo. New canes emerge green and turn ebony black within two years with sunlight exposure. This is reported to be the only species the culm turns a true ebony in color. The culm sheath have wavy blades with prominent oral setae, auricles and ligules.
Those who grow ‘Black Bamboo’ in Western gardens are charmed by it’s graceful habits and by the sharp contrast of color provided by the dark culms and green foliage. New canes emerge green and turn ebony black within two years with sunlight exposure. Beautiful in the landscape with the sharp contrast of color provided by the dark culms and green foliage.
This beautiful bamboo does not like wind and the foliage can be damaged at temperatures 10 degree F. if a dry wind is present, so it needs to be planted in a protected place. Foliage loss occurs at 0 to -5 degrees F. with complete top kill of canes at around -10 to -15 degrees F. I recommend this species for USDA Climate Zones 7 and 8. It is being grown successfully in climate zone 6 with moderate top damage during the harsh winter months. Black bamboo should be protected from wind if possible. The culms are not as erect in shaded sides as some other species and tend to weep or arch over. Pruning can correct this behavior. The wood is of high quality and used by many craftsmen.
Climate Zone 7-9 expect mature size canes to be over 30 feet in height.
Climate Zone 6 expect mature size canes to be 16 feet in height.
It is recorded growing in Maryland and Washington, D.C., but slow to reach it’s maximum height there.
‘Black Bamboo’ does well as a potted bamboo as long as it is placed in a cool place in the winter to have a dormant period.
Plant introduction number (PI) into the U.S. 77257
The Chinese name for black bamboo is Zi zhu and the common Japanese name for black bamboo is Kurochiku
There are two basic sizes for mail order. The 2 gallon sizes which range from 2'-3' tall and 3 gallon sizes which range from 4' and taller depending on species. The root system is included in the height.
How Bamboo Grows
Bamboo grows a little different than most plants. The bamboo that you get initially never grows vertically again. It has babies that are taller, that has babies that are taller. Every generation should be taller that the previous year's shoots. The intriguing aspect is that each year’s growth emerges and grows to it complete height in 60-90 days. They spread as they produce larger growth, filling in and providing a screen.
This link will help you learn how bamboo grows. It will give you an idea of what kind of growth to expect from your planting. It is a lot of information, but well worth your time. How Bamboo Grows
Bamboo can tolerate a multitude of soil conditions. Bamboo prefers soil in the 4.5 – 7.0 pH range but can tolerate soils from 3.5 – 8.0 pH. Soil composition and compaction has little effect on plant health but bamboo tends to spread slower in soils with higher compaction and lower permeability. Bamboo cannot survive in habitually wet planting sites, the area needs to be able to drain within a week after heavy rain.
Bamboo is a natural woodland understory plant. It grows well in filtered to direct sunlight conditions. Most bamboos need at least 4+ hours of filter sunlight a day. More active growth typically occurs in higher sunlight conditions.
One division of bamboo will start a grove or screen over time. However, if you want a privacy screen fast, I recommend planting bamboo 3 to 5 feet apart. This will hopefully allow you to have a good screen in three years. There are a lot of factors such as water, sunlight, and climate zones that speeds up or slows down the process. Three years is about the average on this spacing, closer planting will allow you to screen or develop your grove faster. You cannot over plant bamboo.
Planting bamboo is also easy. You want to dig a hole about twice the size of the root ball. When you plant the bamboo amend your soil with composted manure and a good top soil. Bamboo can be planted at ground level or slightly deeper. It is not a picky about it conditions but this will help get it off to a good start.
Bamboo can benefit from a fertilization program. You can safely fertilize your bamboo once it has been in the ground for one month. A time release fertilizer will work great. Time release fertilizers allow for proper absorption in case your soil is out of PH balance. We offer some fertilizer to help with growth. We fertilize twice a year. Once in the early spring to encourage new growth and then again during the middle of the grow season to replace any nutrients that are being depleted. Click here to see our recommended fertilizer: All Fertilizers
Over the years a lot of myths have been told about bamboo, while it can spread under good conditions, it is not as invasive as many people would have you believe. In colder climates an aggressive runner here in the south will hardy spread at all in comparison. We have been growing bamboo since 1985 and had experience with it long before that. The bamboo's underground root system (rhizome) will spread beyond the initial planting over the years, so in the next two or three years you will need to decide on some method of containment on the sides you do not want the rhizomes to run over into.
We have constructed a page discussing multiple methods of controlling bamboo. It goes over root pruning, mowing new shoots, and in ground barriers: Controlling Bamboo
All this said and it may discourage you, but as with any plant there will be maintenance. Bamboo is very beautiful and is great in a Japanese style garden, but it will need maintenance down the road. At first it may seem to be doing nothing, but after 3 to 5 years you will have a lot of beautiful culms (canes) and love the foliage. All our 150 plus species simply contained by mowing and weed eating the new Spring and Summer shoots. Hopes this helps and don't be afraid of the bamboo.