Black bamboo, Phyllostachys nigra, is a native of China. It has slender hollow grass stems that eventually turn jet black and glossy. Black bamboos are a favourite in contemporary planting and look their best in well-designed containers. Like all bamboos, the black bamboo grows best in rich and well-drained soil. The best time to plant black bamboo is a little before the growing season starts in the spring.
Tips for Growing
Bamboos come in nearly 1,000 different species and a multitude of garden varieties. In eastern Asia, the many uses of bamboo range from the construction of homes to making furniture. Some bamboo shoots are even used in cooking. It is rare for bamboos to set seed and have to be started from cuttings or from the pieces of their root-like subterranean stems. In order to propagate bamboo, dig up clumps of it and plant immediately before they dry out. The best time to divide clumps for propagation is in early spring. Bamboos need to grow in a moisture-retentive soil that has a balanced content of organic matter and clay. The black bamboo gets its best black colour in sandy soil. It grows fastest during the spring and needs to be amply watered. It also needs water if the leaves start to curl during the summer. Leave the leaves that the bamboo sheds at the base of the plant since they act as mulch and are a source of silica that is important for future growth.
Black bamboos are very hardy plants and do just as well in -10 degrees Fahrenheit as they do in the hot climate of the Deep South where they can grow up to 45 feet tall. The plant needs a light shade and its leaves can scorch in full direct sunlight. In more temperate climates, it grows to about 10 to 15 feet tall. Its striking beauty comes from the fact that its stems or culms are deep-green during the first year and then start turning black from the second year. This is seen in even the youngest of black bamboo plants. The black stems are used in craft making and furniture. The branches and leaves of every stem cluster at the top are another one of the plant's attractive features. They do just as well in planters as they do in small in-ground containers.