The Craze for Ornamental Bamboo

August 4, 2009
Golden Bamboo

Golden Bamboo

Australian Bamboo
Australian Bamboo

 

Black bamboo

Black bamboo

 

In today’s landscaping industry, the popularity of cultivating bamboos as garden trees is coming to a dawn. There are landscapers now who are incorporating this multipurpose plant in their design to provide an Asiatic look into their garden. Dr. Merdelyn T. Caasi-Lit of the Institute of Plant Breeding, University of the Philippines at Los Banos, is one who is actively advocating for the revival of the Philippine bamboo industry, as it has a great potential in alleviating poverty and providing livelihood opportunities in the countryside.

Buddha Belly bamboo

Buddha Belly bamboo

In bamboo species, there are two general patterns of growth: the “clumping” (sympodial) and “running” (monopodial). Clumping bamboo species tend to spread slowly, as the growth pattern of the rhizomes or root mass simply gradually expand, similar to ornamental grasses. “Running” bamboos, on the other hand, need to be taken care of in cultivation because of their potential for aggressive behavior. They spread mainly through their roots and/or rhizomes, which can spread widely underground and send up new culms to break through the surface. Running bamboo species are highly variable in their tendency to spread; this is related to both the species and the soil and climate conditions. Some can send out runners of several meters a year, while others can stay in the same general area for long periods. If neglected, over time they can cause problems by moving into adjacent areas. Also, some bamboo species should not be planted near roads or highways as the tall plants tend to bend down and may obstruct traffic during rainy or typhoon season.

 

Taiwan Bamboo

Taiwan Bamboo

The bamboos are a group of woody perennial evergreen plants in the true grass family Poaceae. Some are giant bamboos, which are the largest members of the grass family. Bamboos are the fastest growing woody plants in the world. Their growth rate is about 24 inches per day, due to a unique rhizome-dependent system.

Some of the plants available in the market includes the Pole Bamboo, Taiwan Bamboo, Australian Bamboo, Yellow Bamboo ‘buho’ (Schizostachyum brachycladum), Buddha’s Belly Bamboo (Bambusa tuldoides), Wamin Bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris cv. Wamin), Variegated Bamboo (Bambusa multiplex f.variegata), Golden Bamboo (Bambusa vulgaris cv. Vittata) and the Black bamboo (Gigantochloa atroviolacea).

These plants are very tolerant and persistent, and will still thrive in areas with minimal care, watering or soil fertility.

 Aside from landscaping, Bamboos have other uses. Culinary experts use edible bamboo shoots (labong) in various Chinese and Filipino dishes. Bamboos are used as in construction as scaffolding and can reach great heights compared to other wood material. When properly treated, bamboo forms a very hard wood which is both lightweight and exceptionally durable unlike many other woods, thus, it is used by our Filipino ancestors as an ideal building materials for houses in the tropical region. Bamboo is used in Philippines to make chairs,wooden sofa,wooden beds,and as a framing for the traditional Filipino house, the Bahay Kubo. With this, it is no longer considered as a poor man’s timber but a multi-purpose crop with so many uses.

Some Cultural Requirements of Bamboo:

Light. Bamboos require full sun or direct exposure to light in order to fully grow and develop. However, some may tolerate partial shade.

Wamin Bamboo

Wamin Bamboo

Watering. Mature bamboos are not demanding in terms of watering in the field. They have culms or rhizomes which absorb and store water during the rainy season, which later provides it to the plant during the summer season. Young plants and newly established plants require regular watering to be established. However, for indoor planting, bamboos are very sensitive to the very dry air-conditioned environment and will require daily watering. Bamboos are in their fastest rate of growth during the rainy season.

Yellow Buho

Yellow Buho

Soil. Bamboos can thrive in almost any type of soil, maybe it be upland or lowland areas, thus it is an ideal crop for the average Filipino. For urban and indoor gardening, small bamboo species can be planted on large polyethylene or hard plastic pots, which can be moved in and out of the house or office building.

Fertilization. Bamboos are also not demanding on fertilization, however, it is ideal to provide the regular fertilizer requirement usually high in nitrogen (example urea) for optimum growth, as the plant is a fast grower. The plant also recycles soil nutrients by shedding a lot of leaves, which easily becomes compost fertilizer for itself.

Pest and Diseases. As of now, the bamboo has no serious pest and disease problems in the country, however, people importing plants from abroad should be very careful in choosing the quality of plants they bring in and quarantine them first before mixing them with other local plants as they may unknowingly bring in plants harboring serious pest or diseases of bamboo.

Propagation. Bamboos are often times propagated by division of their culms or through rooting of stem nodal sections, though some species can produce seeds. However, bamboos seldom and unpredictably flower, and the frequency of flowering varies greatly from species to species. Once flowering takes place, a plant will decline and often die entirely. Collectors desiring to grow specific bamboo can typically obtain their plants as divisions of already-growing plants, rather than waiting for seeds to be produced.

 With this, the bamboo is a very promising ornamental plant in the country and can provide potential livelihood projects to our fellow Filipinos in the countryside, thus alleviating poverty. Also the plant is not so much demanding on farm inputs like fertilizer, water and pesticides, thus the farmer has limited costs in its production. The plant is also environmental friendly, as it rejuvenates soil fertility, its root system controls soil erosion, and is a very good wind break.

 

For further inquiries, please contact:

Dr. Merdelyn T. Caasi-Lit

INSTITUTE OF PLANT BREEDING
Crop Science Cluster
College of Agriculture
University of the Philippines at Los Banos
College, Laguna, 4033 Philippines
Tel. (049)536-2448; 536-2466; 536-5287; 536-3304
Telefax: (049)536-2468; 536-2478; 536-3438
 (049)576-0091 / Mobile: (0918-507-5596

Email:  ca_cropscience@yahoo.com , binglit@hotmail.com

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