How to Grow Bamboo in Cold Climates

I've written several blog post about the bamboo in my backyard here in Michigan. The 5 links below are some of the past history, starting back in 2009.

Bamboo in Heavy Snow - pictures after a big winter ice storm
Bamboo - 2011 - a much harsher winter meant lots of dead leaves in the spring
More Drain Pipe - trying to route a roof gutter drain around bamboo roots
Bamboo 2 - the first winter, hoping my small trees survive
Bamboo - the original grove of trees in West Virginia where i brought the trees home from

Here are some pictures from the past 4 years:

This was the original grove of trees in West Virginia where i traveled for work and ended up bringing trees home. I believe that they are Yellow Grove Bamboo but that is my non-expert opinion. I also brought home Cane Break Bamboo from Kentucky but it is a lot slower growing in my yard.
yellowo grove bamboo in west virginia kentucky
This was one of the largest trees i saw there. Probably 2-3" in diameter and at least 40' high.huge bamboo growing in the united states climate zone west virginia temperature

The first winter after transplanting the bamboo to my yard. As long as the roots don't get below -15 degrees they should survive.
growing bamboo in cold climate, snow, temperature
This was created from several pictures of my Moso Bamboo stitched together. I grew the Moso Bamboo from a seed. And like the Cane Break Bamboo, it's a slow grower here in Michigan.
animated gif, moso bamboo tree, growing, shoots, seed

After a winter ice storm my bamboo trees were completely bent over. But i don't think i lost a single one. The trees are really strong and can withstand a lot of stress.
bamboo covered in snow, michigan, growing in cold climate, winter storm bamboo
Now, onto this year.

Bamboo shoots coming up March 22nd. About a month earlier than any previous years.
bamboo shoots, 2012, new shoots, backyard, michigan
If i'm lucky and the summer last long enough, they might send up shoots a couple of times this year.
new bamboo shoots growing by the fence, invasive,
The bamboo continued to send up shoots through the early part of April. The warmer the weather the faster they grow.
cat guarding the bamboo shoots, animals, backyard, trees
growing bamboo trees in cold climate zone 5, zone 6, temperature

One thing i'm worried about is that, usually the shoots grow all at once during the first warm month. This year they grew half way, then it got super cold, they stopped growing, then when it warms up they will grow to their full height. I'm not sure how that will affect them.
clump of shoots, bamboo, trees, spring, rhizomes
But there were tons of new shoots and their diameter was slightly thicker than the previous year, which is what i hoped for. Each year more more trees = more leaves = more energy stored in the roots (rhizomes) and that = bigger trees for the next year.cold climate bamboo, shoots, trees, temperature, zone
They are also taller then any of the tress from the previous years.
how to grow bamboo in cold climates, growing, michigan, winter, snow

I noticed a lot of bent or broken shoots. I've seen this before and i think it's from ants that chew on the stalks. Sometimes they survive and the stalks have this weird bend in them. But most of the time they fold over and die.
bamboo tree bent over from bugs, insects, disease, stalk

bamboo damaged from wind, insects, bugs, disease

But that damage only happens while they are soft. Once they grow a bit and harden up they can't really be hurt.
bamboo trees, mulch, roots, rhizomes, culms, grass


Vincent Verweij said...

Please don't grow bamboo in the US. It's invasive enough. It doesn't need any help.

Notitlerequired said...

It's not like i'm planting Fragmite or releasing Asian Carp into a local river.

The bamboo i'm growing will never release seeds, it can only reproduce via rhizomes. So at the very most in 10 years my backyard would be filled with bamboo.

Perhaps down south bamboo is invasive but here in Michigan it is on the fringe of just surviving the winter.

It's kind of like what i wrote about the American Lotus http://davewirth.blogspot.com/2011/01/sprouting-lotus-seeds.html How down south it's an invasive plant but here in Michigan it's endangered and you will be fined for touching it.

Steve Lau said...

Your grove is looking nice. I didn't know they could perform that well in zone 5.

Peg said...

We grow bamboo on our property too. I love your comment to Vincent! We have 8 different kinds including broad leaf and clumping too. We cover our groves in the winter.

Anonymous said...

Hey Vincent, fuck off.

Renee in Alaska said...

So, what variety are you growing? I'd love to try it in Alaska! What soil characteristics does bamboo like?

Notitlerequired said...

I'm not 100% sure what types of bamboo they are. I brought them home from Kentucky and West Virginia.

I think the ones that are doing the best are Yellow Groove bamboo but that's only a guess from looking at pictures and reading about common wild types that grow in that state.

The smaller bamboo that i have, i think, is Cane Break bamboo. It's the only native bamboo in the US. It was growing in steep hilly areas near a river. Even in Kentucky it was only 10-12' high but the stalks were super strong, perfect for a fishing pole. Where as the Yellow Groove had a lot thinner walls and would break if you bent it too much.

I also bought seeds online for Moso bamboo. After 2 years that one isn't even 2' tall yet, but the leaves are a lot broader. The bad thing is that every winter it turns yellow and "dies". That's why it will never get as big as i had hoped, where as the Yellow Groove stays green all winter and is ready to go when spring comes along.

As for the soil, in West Virginia the bamboo was growing in kind of this dark red mossy soil. If i had to guess i would say it was 50% peat moss and 50% red clay. My backyard is probably 90% michigan blue clay and the Yellow Groove is doing fine. Except the clay in my yard is much harder and i do get a bunch of "dolphining" where the roots arc out of the ground. So i would say that any type of soft clay/peat moss combination would work just fine.

Good luck growing in Alaska. I have read that some people in Ontario are growing bamboo. But obviously the biggest problem is the short summer and cold winter.

Right now it's about 20 degrees in Michigan. I make sure in the fall to dump all the leaves on the ground around the trees, to help insulate the roots. Also when it snows in the winter i shovel snow on top.

Although be prepared for it to look like this after a heavy ice storm:

Finally if you are thinking of growing your own, i would suggest going with a 1 or 2 year old plant. Seeds take too long and they are hard to get. So next time you are in the lower 48 states, dig a small plant up or order one online.

Good luck.