Also known as black stem bamboo, black bamboo (Phyllostachys nigra) is a variety of running bamboo that has been cultivated in the United States since 1827. Though fast growing, black bamboo displays less of the invasive tendencies as other species of running bamboo, and is more similar to clumping bamboo.
New shoots start emerging in late spring, reaching their mature height as early as June. The plant is capable of growing more than 4 inches a day, for a total of more than 3 feet a week. When the plant has reached its final height, it begins to produce branches, which appear from the knobby nodes on the plant's canes. The colour starts shifting from green to mottled brown, and eventually to blackish brown.
Black bamboo grows to an average height of 20 to 30 feet, with a canopy spread of 5 to 30 feet. The diameter of the culms is 1 to 2 inches. Though black bamboo is a running bamboo species, it spreads outwards quite slowly. Black bamboo takes 25 years to spread out 20 feet. Plants grown in containers require a pot that is at least 3 feet wide to accommodate for growth.
Black bamboo does best in USDA planting zones 7 to 10, thriving in either partial or full sun. Plants grown in full sunlight tend to grow faster than those grown in partial shade. Avoid planting near pathways or other areas where overhead clearance is necessary, as canes tend to lean as the plant ages. Cut leaning canes to the ground, or tie to another bamboo cane to keep the cane upright.
Black bamboo thrives when cultivated in a moist soil that is enhanced regularly with manure and turf fertiliser. Use a turf fertiliser without weed killer to avoid harming the plant. Watering frequently helps the plant to establish a strong root system, and to produce good leaf colouration. The plant loses foliage when temperatures drop between zero to minus 5 degrees Fahrenheit. If temperatures drop as low as minus -9.44 degrees C, the plant loses its upper canes.
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