Phyllostachys nigra, or Black Bamboo, is a giant grass characterized by large woody stems that is native to Southern China. Plants spread by very vigorous rhizomes and it is considered a running form of bamboo. In nature, plants will reach 25 feet (>7.6 m) tall and the stem at maturity will reach 2 inches (5 cm) in diameter. Clumps can become very large if left uncontrolled. The stems start out green and become speckled, changing to brownish or purplish black at maturity. Leaves are medium green, 6 inches (15 cm) long and about 1/2 to 1 inch (1.25-2.5 cm) wide. In containers, it make an outstanding looking plant, but due to the vigorous growth they will outgrow most containers in a couple of years. I have seen this plant break ceramic pots with their rhizomes. In the landscape, they make great hedge plant, but be careful about controlling their roots. It is hardy in the landscape in USDA zones 8-10.
Blooming: In the greenhouse, our plants have never bloomed. This could be due to our controlling their size and spread. Some Phyllostachys are said to bloom once every 50-60 years.
Culture: Phyllostachys nigra need full sun to partial shade in hot areas with a moist soil mix. In containers, we use a soil mix consisting of 2 parts peat moss to 2 parts loam to 1 parts sand. We water the plants every other day in the greenhouse and never allow the plants to dry thoroughly. We fertilize them monthly with a balanced fertilizer diluted to 1/2 the strength recommended on the label. Our plants in containers rarely reach over 8 feet (2.4 m) tall. We divide the plants every couple of years to keep them "inbounds". In the landscape they are used as hedge plants and create an airy tropical appearance. The rhizome should be controlled with some kind of barrier to keep the plants growth in check. Clumps will reach their mature height at about 6 years from planting. During the winter months in the greenhouse, we restrict watering and do not fertilize during this period. Also at this time we divide plants and discard the older rhizomes.
Propagation: Phyllostachys nigra is propagated by division of the rhizomes. This can be done at any time of the year.
Phyllostachys nigra was featured as Plant of the Week May 23-29, 2008.
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Cal's Plant of the Week was provided as a service by the University of Oklahoma Department of Microbiology & Plant Biology and specifically the late Cal Lemke, who used to be OU's botany greenhouse grower and an avid gardener at home as well. If the above links don't work, then try the overview site. You may also like to look at the thumbnail index. ©1998-2012 All rights reserved.