Archive for October 26th, 2013

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No-Fuss Shrub

October 26, 2013

heavenly bambooHeavenly bamboo reminds me of Simon Cowell’s unpopular comment made in past years to some of the hopeful American Idol contestants, “You’re just not memorable.”

Although heavenly bamboos are commonplace in commercial and residential landscapes, most people don’t give these shrubs a second glance. They are overlooked or quickly forgotten. Yet, they do have benefits, the greatest being a no-fuss shrub.

If planted where there is ample space there is no need to prune. Mature size is six-feet high and five-foot wide. Heavenly bamboos require little or no water once established, depending on the zone and soil. This multiple trunk shrub is evergreen. In full sun the foliage brings color and interest to landscapes with red leaves and orange berries which turn red in winter.

But, like all plants there is a downside to heavenly bamboo.

As a member of the barberry family (not bamboo), heavenly bamboo is host to wheat rust which can cause large-scale grain crops to fail. Most of us aren’t growing grain and neither are our neighbors. That being the case, this would not be a consideration when selecting heavenly bamboo. However, the berries are toxic to animals, but this can be solved. Usually, when planted alone  instead of grouped together, berries will not develop. Bud clusters can easily be cut off when they begin to develop. Heavenly bamboo is a host for powdery mildew which can spread to nearby plants, especially those prone to mildew.

My personal experience:  Knock-on-wood, mildew has not been a problem. I trim my heavenly bamboos once or twice yearly only because I want to maintain a certain height. I haven’t watered them in years and other than rain they do not receive moisture from nearby sprinklers. Now, that is drought-tolerate.

In addition to being extremely low maintenance and bringing beautiful hues to autumn and winter landscapes, when paired with commentary plants, as seen in the photo, heavenly bamboos are memorable year round. So next time, give them a second glance.

Note:  Cultivars include Harbor Dwarf (2-3 feet high) and Alba (6-feet high) with white berries.

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