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 Post subject: Should I start over?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 21, 2017 8:06 pm 
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Joined: Thu Dec 21, 2017 7:59 pm
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Location: Oklahoma City
I have a well-established grove of phyllostachys aurea in the Oklahoma City area. It covers about 30' x 100' (about 3000 square feet) and is only contained by my lawnmower (no walls or root barrier).

Some winters, I have no problem at all. When I can get 2 or 3 mild winters in a row and this bamboo grows over 20' tall and very beautiful. However, it seems like I get total top kill about half the time. Its sad to deal with a grove of top-killed bamboo. We've already had one day this winter that was cold enough to cause significant damage.

I've learned that cold sensitivity is a known problem with aurea. On other parts of my property, I've started (still small) groves of rubromarginata, atrovaginata, and aureosulcata spectabilis. They survived the one cold snap we've had so far this year without damage, but it's too soon to tell if they can take a couple 10 degree nights. My fingers are crossed.

But, I'm torn on what to do with my aurea. Should I kill it out and plant something else in that spot? I'm considering decora, parvifolia, or bissetti. Will I still get freeze damage with one of these varieties? How long would it take to kill out the aurea?


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 Post subject: Re: Should I start over?
PostPosted: Sat Dec 23, 2017 1:39 am 
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Location: Island off Cape Cod Massacusetts
I would not bother to actively kill the P aurea off. Some years will set it back, likely, there will be some groups of years when it grows well. If it all gets killed down, maybe take the opportunity to mow all the dead culms down before the next shooting. It will look and grow better.

If enjoying the bamboo grove, and not overly concerned if it is mixed, plant some more hardy selections nearby. If the aurea continues to die off, the others will move in eventually.

From what I have seen, bissetti will dominate in most areas of mixed Phyllosachys. In some conditions with higher light canopy, some of the of the P aueosulcata varieties can compete with bissetti. Different hardiness zones and day light lengths and micro climates will of course vary what thrives best in any location. The other two you mentioned should be hardier than aurea.


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 Post subject: Re: Should I start over?
PostPosted: Sat Dec 23, 2017 8:11 am 
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Joined: Wed Sep 20, 2006 5:28 am
Posts: 239
Location: Southeast Texas, Zone 9a
Personally, I would not kill off the established grove until I had determined whether some other species would perform better in my area. Do you see established groves of other Phyllostachys species in your area?

P. aureosulcata is certainly more cold hardy than P. aurea, but in Central Texas, it is much less drought tolerant, and does not get nearly as large.

P. decora is very tolerant of heat and drought. While it does perform well in Central Texas, it does not get as large as P. aurea, but it might gain the advantage in your area due to its increased cold tolerance.

P. rubromarginata grows and spreads well here, but it does suffer from the heat and drought. While spreading quickly, it makes a dense and brushy mess of small, narrow culms. Several of the more cold tolerant Phyllostachys do that here, possibly due to a lack of adequate cold winter weather. I do not think that will be a problem in your area.

My experience with the other varieties that you mentioned is limited.

If you decide to try to mix the planting, you should kill off a pretty good sized chunk of the current grove first. Establishing a new Phyllostachys planting within the rhizome reach of an established grove can be pretty difficult. The new variety may not get a fair chance.


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 Post subject: Re: Should I start over?
PostPosted: Sat Dec 23, 2017 2:12 pm 
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Location: Island off Cape Cod Massacusetts
Glen wrote:
If you decide to try to mix the planting, you should kill off a pretty good sized chunk of the current grove first. Establishing a new Phyllostachys planting within the rhizome reach of an established grove can be pretty difficult. The new variety may not get a fair chance.


I'm figuring if the P aurea is not suitable for the climate/location to the extent it needs to be replaced, natural conditions would even the playing field for the new supplemental varieties.

However, if the grove is so established that the middle parts of it are root bound, with bamboo root mat dominating soil zone, it would take a few years for the mat to decomposed enough to release nutrients and yield space. In that case, digging up, or breaking up the mat would speed the establishment of new bamboos. Merely killing it chemically would not remove the clogged root zone.


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 Post subject: Re: Should I start over?
PostPosted: Sat Dec 23, 2017 4:49 pm 
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Location: Esparto, CA
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In Indiana I grew tired of cutting down hundreds if not thousands of winter killed culms most springs and dragging them off, plus I had 5 enormous piles of dead culms that are very slow to break down. As a result I began to kill off all the stuff that frequently top killed.

You might consider keeping a smaller area of the aurea but killing off most of it. Then plant hardier species in mounds on top of the aurea rhizomes. Bissetti, Spectabilis should do very well in your area.

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Brad Salmon, zone 9 Esparto, CA


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 Post subject: Re: Should I start over?
PostPosted: Sat Dec 23, 2017 5:47 pm 
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Location: upstate NY zone 6B Location Details
After growing bamboos for nearly a decade in upstate NY, the only species that seemed to never top kill and at least leaf back on tough winters has been parvifolia anf atrovaginata. If they at least have the ability tl leaf back out, at least they wont really lose size. For drought tolerance, parvifolia would probably work best since it has tiny leaves, and super fat rhizome roots.

One thing annoying about bissettii and decora or any of the thinner bamboos that hold less energy in their culms is even though they are pretty hardy, they have often gotten partial top kill where only the bottom of the culms leaf back out. You could clear out half your aurea grove, grow what you have, and see what appears to perform the best in a few years.

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 Post subject: Re: Should I start over?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 24, 2017 1:09 am 
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Joined: Thu Dec 21, 2017 7:59 pm
Posts: 3
Location: Oklahoma City
dependable wrote:
If enjoying the bamboo grove, and not overly concerned if it is mixed, plant some more hardy selections nearby. If the aurea continues to die off, the others will move in eventually.

I think I will give this a try.

Glen wrote:
Personally, I would not kill off the established grove until I had determined whether some other species would perform better in my area. Do you see established groves of other Phyllostachys species in your area?

P. aureosulcata is certainly more cold hardy than P. aurea, but in Central Texas, it is much less drought tolerant, and does not get nearly as large.

P. decora is very tolerant of heat and drought. While it does perform well in Central Texas, it does not get as large as P. aurea, but it might gain the advantage in your area due to its increased cold tolerance.

P. rubromarginata grows and spreads well here, but it does suffer from the heat and drought. While spreading quickly, it makes a dense and brushy mess of small, narrow culms. Several of the more cold tolerant Phyllostachys do that here, possibly due to a lack of adequate cold winter weather. I do not think that will be a problem in your area.

My experience with the other varieties that you mentioned is limited.

If you decide to try to mix the planting, you should kill off a pretty good sized chunk of the current grove first. Establishing a new Phyllostachys planting within the rhizome reach of an established grove can be pretty difficult. The new variety may not get a fair chance.

Thanks for the good info about what grows well in Central Texas. Our weather here is almost like yours, except with colder winters. Size is fairly important to me. I want something that will reach at least 20' tall with at least 1" culm diameter without winter top kill. I am so tired of cutting out the dead culms! From your info, it sounds like bissetti may not be my best choice.

dependable wrote:
However, if the grove is so established that the middle parts of it are root bound, with bamboo root mat dominating soil zone, it would take a few years for the mat to decomposed enough to release nutrients and yield space. In that case, digging up, or breaking up the mat would speed the establishment of new bamboos. Merely killing it chemically would not remove the clogged root zone.

Yes, it's definitely root bound. I think I'll need to dig up an area to give my replacement bamboo.

needmore wrote:
In Indiana I grew tired of cutting down hundreds if not thousands of winter killed culms most springs and dragging them off, plus I had 5 enormous piles of dead culms that are very slow to break down. As a result I began to kill off all the stuff that frequently top killed.

That's exactly what I'm up against. It took me a very long time to clear all my dead culms after last winter. I fed them all to a wood chipper and applied it back to the grove as mulch, but it was a LOT of work. Plus, the re-growth in spring was only about 6 to 8 feet tall. From experience, if it doesn't freeze this winter, it'll grow 15' culms in the spring. But, all those 6' culms will die and need to be cleaned out.

stevelau1911 wrote:
After growing bamboos for nearly a decade in upstate NY, the only species that seemed to never top kill and at least leaf back on tough winters has been parvifolia anf atrovaginata. If they at least have the ability tl leaf back out, at least they wont really lose size. For drought tolerance, parvifolia would probably work best since it has tiny leaves, and super fat rhizome roots.

One thing annoying about bissettii and decora or any of the thinner bamboos that hold less energy in their culms is even though they are pretty hardy, they have often gotten partial top kill where only the bottom of the culms leaf back out. You could clear out half your aurea grove, grow what you have, and see what appears to perform the best in a few years.

Parvifolia sounds like exactly what I need. Does it have a downside?


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 Post subject: Re: Should I start over?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 24, 2017 2:29 am 
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Joined: Mon Nov 03, 2008 12:28 am
Posts: 1177
Location: Island off Cape Cod Massacusetts
needmore wrote:
In Indiana I grew tired of cutting down hundreds if not thousands of winter killed culms most springs and dragging them off, plus I had 5 enormous piles of dead culms.


My approach for large sections of all or mostly dead culms is to "compost on site" with a rotary or flail cutter of sufficient power that it can chew the old culms up where they are. They are shredded and biodegrade fairly quickly that way, releasing their nutrients in grove site, and effort is not expended moving them. After that, if you want to re locate or get rid of stand, it is easy to machine dig neatly, no culms in the way.


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 Post subject: Re: Should I start over?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 24, 2017 2:36 am 
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Joined: Mon Nov 03, 2008 12:28 am
Posts: 1177
Location: Island off Cape Cod Massacusetts
stevelau1911 wrote:
One thing annoying about bissettii and decora or any of the thinner bamboos that hold less energy in their culms is even though they are pretty hardy, they have often gotten partial top kill where only the bottom of the culms leaf back out.


Of course it varies to what type will do well in any given place, here P bissetti seems favored to crowd out anything else given the opportunity, and they size up pretty well too.


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 Post subject: Re: Should I start over?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 24, 2017 6:53 am 
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Joined: Wed Sep 20, 2006 5:28 am
Posts: 239
Location: Southeast Texas, Zone 9a
dependable wrote:
Glen wrote:
If you decide to try to mix the planting, you should kill off a pretty good sized chunk of the current grove first. Establishing a new Phyllostachys planting within the rhizome reach of an established grove can be pretty difficult. The new variety may not get a fair chance.


I'm figuring if the P aurea is not suitable for the climate/location to the extent it needs to be replaced, natural conditions would even the playing field for the new supplemental varieties.

However, if the grove is so established that the middle parts of it are root bound, with bamboo root mat dominating soil zone, it would take a few years for the mat to decomposed enough to release nutrients and yield space. In that case, digging up, or breaking up the mat would speed the establishment of new bamboos. Merely killing it chemically would not remove the clogged root zone.

The original post describes a large area of well established bamboo that, in good years, reaches 20 feet tall. From what was stated, the bamboo is growing well, but the regular winterkill is undesirable. The established rhizome and root system of a Phyllostachys grove of this sort will provide a significant amount of competition to a newly planted bamboo (or any other plant), regardless of whether the new plant is better adapted to the area than the current grove. While it is certainly possible that a better adapted species would survive the competition and eventually come to dominate the area, I would want the new plants to establish as quickly as possible, which they will not do if they are actively competing for water and nutrients with the roots of a well established grove.

As for the rhizome mat, once it is killed, whether by herbicides or cultural means, it will no longer provide a significant impediment to the establishment of the new planting. Phyllostachys are basically forest plants, and their rhizomes are specifically designed to pierce through dense mats of rhizomes and roots. The only significant difficulty will be faced by the person digging the planting hole in the middle of the dead rhizome mat :) . Removing the dead rhizomes in an area a few feet across should be more than adequate to get the new plants in the ground, and nutrient deficiencies are easily corrected with a little high quality lawn fertilizer, or an organic fertilizer of one's choice.


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 Post subject: Re: Should I start over?
PostPosted: Sun Dec 24, 2017 7:00 am 
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Joined: Wed Sep 20, 2006 5:28 am
Posts: 239
Location: Southeast Texas, Zone 9a
needmore wrote:
You might consider keeping a smaller area of the aurea but killing off most of it. Then plant hardier species in mounds on top of the aurea rhizomes. Bissetti, Spectabilis should do very well in your area.

To the original poster: The above advice is probably the best you will get, as Brad is speaking from very relevant experience.


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 Post subject: Re: Should I start over?
PostPosted: Thu Dec 28, 2017 9:16 pm 
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Joined: Thu Dec 21, 2017 7:59 pm
Posts: 3
Location: Oklahoma City
Thank you, all. Any comments on the suitability of parvifolia for my location?

We're expecting a cold front Saturday. We'll get 3 days where the highs are below freezing. Sunday night, the low will be around 8 degrees. From what I've seen, this means my aurea will die back to the ground...again.


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 Post subject: Re: Should I start over?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2018 10:23 am 
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Joined: Wed Oct 17, 2012 6:02 pm
Posts: 25
Location: Zone 7a Oklahoma City
Atrovaginata, Aureosulcata, Grey Henon, and Bissetii all grow well in OKC.


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 Post subject: Re: Should I start over?
PostPosted: Fri Jan 26, 2018 11:53 am 
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Joined: Sat Jul 22, 2017 8:57 pm
Posts: 2
Location: Poland
springtimeshoots wrote:
Atrovaginata, Aureosulcata, Grey Henon, and Bissetii all grow well in OKC.


Also, Phyllostachys nuda as well.


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