Flowering is desirable in some garden plants (fruit trees, broccoli, and, of course, flowers) and undesirable in others (lettuce, cabbage, and arugula). I’m not sure how I feel about the flowers recently appearing on my bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata). Yes, bamboo! Bamboo typically flowers only after decades of growth, sometimes after more than a hundred years of growth. My bamboo is about 25 years old.
The downside to bamboo flowering is that it weakens, sometimes even kills, the plant. And “the plant” could be a whole grove since bamboo spreads by rhizomes (underground runners). All shoots are connected underground and are, essentially, one and the same plant. Bamboos sometimes flower gregariously, that is,
most or all of them all over the world flower in unison, so death or weakening could be more widespread than my little grove.
Bamboo is a plant that can strike up admiration as well as terror. Right now, my planting is leaning towards terror.
Most cold hardy bamboos are so-called running types for their ability to spread via underground runners. A few hardy bamboos behave like tropical bamboos, forming neat clumps whose spread is hardly noticeable. These cold-hardy temperate kinds (Fargesia spp.) have relatively thin canes that create picturesque, delicate-looking fountains of greenery.
But 20 years ago I wanted (and still want) bamboo with robust canes thickening to an inch or more across, a bamboo on which can climb tomato or bean plants, that I can use for making trellises, even for eating. And the grove itself, with some pruning out of crowded canes, becomes a mysterious forest.
This spring’s new growth of bamboo towering above last year’s.
Yellow grove bamboo (Phyllostachys aureosulcata) is …