“Good fences, make good neighbors” –
There is truth in the words above, and growing a Bamboo privacy screen in pots is an excellent idea for your patio for added privacy from the neighbors, the “looky-loos” of the street, or anywhere else you want to break the line of sight of others.
What Type of Bamboo Should I Plant?
How to Keep your Bamboo Upright?
- Bamboo is ranked among the top ten privacy plants; when grown in pots/containers, it can be the perfect solution to add privacy to a patio, a possible windbreak, and can aid in noise reduction.
- Bamboo is grass and the fastest growing plant on the planet; cultivated varieties can grow between one and four inches per day on average, making it a top choice as a privacy plant.
- A potted Bamboo privacy screen is an easy way to separate your private space from the line of sight of next-door neighbors, increasing the quality of time spent on your patio.
- You can create instant privacy space depending on the size of plants you purchase for your patio/growing area.
- Whether your Bamboo privacy screen is to be grown in partial shade, or full sun, with so many varieties of Bamboo, there is the right one to fit most situations.
- Bamboo is attractive; with leaves of different shades of green, the culms (stalks/canes), depending on variety, can come in various colors and make a great outdoor privacy screen planted in the ground or pots.
- Most Bamboos are evergreen. Bamboo will lose a few leaves (especially in relatively cold climates where cold hardiness temperatures drop below 32∘ Fahrenheit and beyond).
- Bamboo will still be green when everything else in the yard has turned brown for the season, making it an excellent addition to the patio.
- Trimmed up, Bamboo can give your outdoor space a modern look.
- Bamboo is more easily maintained when grown in a pot than in the ground (a plus for us more ‘seasoned’ individuals that don’t move as fast or bend over as well as we used to).
- Growing Bamboo in containers for privacy makes them mobile and will allow you to find the perfect location and the right place that your Bamboo does its best.
- Bamboo is silica, cellulose, water, and a few volatile oils, making it less fire hazard than small trees for patio privacy such as arborvitae.
- Bamboo is environmentally friendly; it absorbs carbon dioxide and releases 30-35% more oxygen than a similar stand/forest of trees.
- Many Bamboo species are tolerant of cold temperatures and strong winds, making some varieties a great option for our more Northerly neighbors.
- Some bamboo requires full sun; others prefer partial shade, some in-between; it is always a good idea to refer to the USDA plant hardiness zone map before purchasing plants.
- Like most grass, when using bamboo plants for privacy, they can be happy and content in many locations, tight spaces with more shade than sun, or open areas with full sun.
- Whichever variety of Bamboo is grown in containers for your green screen, you can expect that the total mature height it will achieve will be approximately half the average height of what it would be if grown in the ground with no container.
- Once established, Bamboo, unlike maintenance-intense plants, requires little effort other than watering and a little fertilizer twice a year.
- With over one thousand species, there are plenty of varieties from which you have choices to fit your needs for your local growing environment.
- If you get tired of using bamboo as a privacy screen, you can run an ad and put it up for sale; there is no shortage of people that like Bamboo.
- Unlike trees, which can take a long time to grow, Bamboo will mature quickly, and you can begin to enjoy the enhanced privacy in a shorter time as opposed to trees.
- Once the plant has established itself (2-3 years) and depending on soil conditions, sun, and wind, they do well in times of little water.
Growing Bamboo in Pots
There are important considerations when growing a Bamboo screen in pots and containers; one of which is choosing the right Bamboo for your climate.
The second being, as with any plant, Bamboo needs room for its roots to grow; starting with a larger pot will save you from having to transplant sooner than later and helps to get the plant off to a good start, and will give you the best results.
The ‘running’ variety will need to be transplanted or split up sooner than the clumping variety.
A small bamboo plant will rapidly become a larger plant, seeking more water and nutrients.
The clumping variety is said to be more drought tolerant than the running type, provided that you don’t allow it to dry up, making it the perfect outdoor screen for drier climates.
If they don’t have room to expand their root system, the plant will become root-bound and not grow as you would like them to.
It is suggested to start with a pot that is a minimum of eighteen inches in diameter.
Bamboo’s roots/rhizomes stay mainly in the upper six inches of soil.
If kept in a small pot, the plant will become root-bound, put on less height, and leaves before eventually dying.
Available in nine different colors, PolyStone planters are made of high-density polystyrene, encased in polyurea, and finished with synthetic stucco to emulate natural stone.
The composition of the planters makes them UV and mildew-resistant, insulating in the cold of the winter and heat of the summer: resistant to salt air environments.
Wooden Planter Boxes
Cedar containers can last ten, twelve, even fifteen years even without a barrier and are a good option for Bamboo.
Building containers for your Bamboo could be a possible great idea for a weekend project.
Cedar is a long-lasting wood-containing natural oil that protects it from weathering rot and insects.
Lined with a polypropylene root barrier (seen below in a ground use application), the added protection assures that the roots of a “runner” are contained and can extend the life of the wood.
The wooden frame and sides will protect the plant from freezing better than containers made of metal, ceramic, terra cotta, or concrete.
Bamboo grown in containers is often elevated off the patio or ground (with blocks of wood or bricks, for example).
Raising the container off the ground aids in proper drainage, air circulation, and gives the ability to cut away any roots from the bottom of the container that might plan an escape.
Clicking this link will lead you to FREE DIY plans for planters/containers:
Some people opt for planting pots below the ground surface; they are more stable in a wind storm, and you can’t see the container.
Corten Steel Planters
Weathering Steel also known as Cor-ten, was
Originally developed in the 1930s for coal train boxes that wouldn’t require painting.
Cor-ten (corrosion resistant-tensile strength) found its way into many industrial applications such as bridges, buildings, art projects, and yes, planter boxes that can add a rustic look, but with a modern style.
The terms ‘Cor-ten’ and ‘Corten’ are used interchangeably in the steel industry.
Corten never stops rusting, it does, however, decrease at which time it has formed a protective coating that protects the base metal from further corrosion.
So, subjected to the environmental elements, the steel rusts and forms a protective layer of rust, in most situations.
The alloys of Copper, Chromium, Manganese, and Nickel added to the steel are what make the steel rust to a certain point and then set up the protective oxidized barrier.
With that being said, Cor-ten doesn’t always perform as desired.
Climates of heavy rainfall, high humidity, and salty air are not ideal for weathering steel; more often than not.
In highly humid environments the steel never reaches the point where the steel stabilizes and will continue to rust and not create a protective layer.
In Coastal areas with high amounts of salty air (usually within one mile of the shoreline) the salt creates non-adherent rust called Akaganeite and does not allow the formation of the inner oxide layer needed to protect the steel.
I’m sure there are exceptions.
The initial ‘flash rust’ will bleed no matter what environment the weathering steel planter is in; concrete staining can be an issue, it is one more thing to consider.
Often times these weathering steel planters are set on blocks or something else to raise them off of concrete or other surfaces so they are not in direct contact with the surface.
I would consider having a sturdy deck brush and some cleaner ready at hand if I were to install these containers on a cement/concrete patio.
Large containers are not all that easy to move unless they are on wheels/castors as they can weigh several hundred pounds, such as those trendy steel boxes pictured above.
Large containers and pots equate to larger plants and greater total height as the roots have access to more nutrients and water.
Wine barrels cut in half are ideal containers for Bamboo; roughly holding 25-30 gallons of soil, they have a large footprint making them quite stable should you get some large winds.
Containers big and sturdy enough to contain all the soil and the growth of the roots that exert force on the container are not inexpensive.
Some opt for potted plants below the ground surface; they make for a more stable privacy wall in a wind storm, and you can’t see the container.
Look in the ‘free section’ of local publications; sometimes, you can score a great deal. For example, an old clawfoot tub could just be the ticket if you’re looking for the ‘rustic look.’
Once established (two-three years), you will typically (depending on the growth of the plant) need to divide/split up the root ball to avoid it getting root bound.
If you need to break them up, it means they are growing and happy and that you are doing a good job.
With an hour or two of work, you have created new bamboo plants for your outdoor area (a great way to save money on plants!)
When Bamboo is planted in the ground with intention of it becoming the “wall against the outside world,” depending on variety, the spacing is between two and six feet.
When grown in pots, figure at least two feet between the center of the plants.
Knowing this will help decide how many pots you will need to achieve your goal.
As they grow, most Bamboos are going to spread out, and growing them in pots allows you the flexibility to adjust so they are “just right.”
Placement on patio
Depending on the variety, and climate, all situations will be different; begin by choosing a variety that can, or has proven to do well in your area; grown in containers, you can assure that they will receive the optimal sun for that variety by moving them with the seasons if need be.
With this handy time and date tool I have linked here, you can determine for your exact location how much sun exposure you receive throughout the year and help guide you in your purchase of the right type of plant.
In cooler climates, choose bamboo species that are cold-hardy plants and can withstand winter’s snow and icy cold temperatures.
Black Bamboo/ Phyllostachys nigra, a running type, does well in cold temperatures down to ten degrees Fahrenheit and is a popular plant for USDA zones 7-8 which is about half the lower continental 48 states of the U.S.
Fargesia “Green Screen”(pictured below), a clumping Bamboo, does well in pots and in cooler climates, such as the new plants pictured in their new steel planter.
The Giant Timber Bamboo/ Bambusa oldhami does very well in pots. It is a favorite among many.
The Giant Gray/ Phyllostachys nigra ‘Henon’ pictured below is “heading to bed” in its steel planters set alongside the fence. Tolerant of temperatures minus ten degrees Fahrenheit, it is said to do well in zones 5-7.
Silver Stripe Bamboo/Bambusa multiplex
The Silver stripe of the multiplex species does well in containers in and out of doors and is suited for colder growing areas.
Weaver’s Bamboo/ Bambusa textilis
Weaver’s bamboo also known as ‘Slenders Weaver’ is a clumping species that remains green throughout the year and is one of the most popular for use in creating a privacy screen.
Weavers Bamboo can withstand temperatures down to eighteen degrees Fahrenheit.
Grows 10’-12’ in pots, likes full sun to mostly sunny.
This bamboo requires an average amount of water and is low maintenance.
Hedge Bamboo/ Bambusa Multiplex
Is a favorite for growing in pots because as its name implies, it can grow thick and take on a hedge-like appearance, really blocking the ‘looky-loos’.
Dragon’s Head Bamboo/Fargesia dracocephala
The Dragon’s Head Bamboo has evergreen leaves and is excellent if you need a medium size screen. You can plant it in cold climates and can handle low temperatures.
This bamboo will burn when exposed to the hot sun, so it is not a good choice for tropical climates.
Buddha belly/Bambusa ventricosa with its dark green culms it grows its ‘belly’ when under environmental stress, such as too little water.
Not a fan of freezing weather, Buddha’s belly is good down to about freezing, or 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Many popular species of Bamboo such as Seabreeze bamboo that come from southern China and other areas that are tropical or subtropical plants can do o.k. in colder climates down to 20 degrees Fahrenheit but are prone to die off in extremely cold winters.
If your area has a tropical/subtropical climate, then pick bamboo species that are not sensitive to heat and sunshine.
Lewis Bamboo Co. has a “Bamboo Finder” that will suggest what type of Bamboo may work for you.
Heat and Cold
Bamboo grown in containers and pots unprotected by a heat cable, heavy insulating wrap, and or heavy mulch are subject to winter’s freezing temperatures.
If you choose to grow your potted bamboo in steel containers, I have read of others putting in corrugated fiberglass to line the container and create air pockets that insulate the soil and root system from the wrath of the winter chill.
Potted Bamboo’s soil will dry out faster in warm weather than if it were in the ground, heat and cold, two extremes but both important considerations.
When cold weather strikes and you have the means to move the plant inside a greenhouse or an area where it is warmer and where they receive significant light, they can winter over and be fine once the weather warms.
The following year’s growth should be, with proper care, hardier with thicker diameter culms, taller, and fuller with leaves, making it a top choice for a backyard privacy idea.
What Type Of Bamboo Should I Plant?
A perennial, people usually plant one of two types of bamboo, clumping and running bamboo.
The main difference is that the root ball/rhizomes behave opposite; the clumping wants to stay close to home, and the running type wants to run away.
Depending on who you ask, there seem to be two different trains of thought as to which is the best Bamboo for pots.
The running Bamboo does better in colder climates than the Clumping Bamboo.
It is said that the clumping will take longer to fill in than the running type of bamboo.
Running Bamboo will require repotting sooner and dividing its roots sooner than a clumping variety.
They both do well when grown in containers.
When to Plant Your Bamboo
When to plant your Bamboo is going to vary as do climates and microclimates so this will give you a general idea of when to plant based upon your general area.
In colder climates, planting your Bamboo once the last threat of frost has passed, allows the plant all year to get acclimated and will be more able to survive the coming winter.
In warmer climates, you really have no restrictions or ‘best times’ to plant your Bamboo.
I would think though in any planting, or replanting of Bamboo it would be of value to the plant’s roots to do so in lower light conditions, and not at high noon.
Best Soil For Bamboo In Pots and Containers
Most Bamboo prefers loamy soil, about forty percent sand, forty percent silt, and twenty percent clay that is slightly acidic, with a pH level of around 6.5 percent. Sulfur can be added to alkaline soil to create a more acidic soil.
A one-inch layer of gravel, broken clay pot or something similar will allow for drainage, so the pot stays moist with regular watering but not soggy, creating root rot.
Leaving the fallen leaves around its base should provide the nutrients it needs as they break down (usually one year), and little or no further fertilizer is usually required.
Bamboo does enjoy a little nitrogen bump (grass clippings work fine) from time to time.
This of course depends on soil types. If you have really poor soil in the container, to begin with, I would suggest adding organic material and some good quality fertilizer that is designed specifically for Bamboo.
How to keep Bamboo upright?
Once your new shoots have grown and the Bamboo grows in height, gets heavier, and is free-standing, some Bamboo varieties (weeping) and others will want to give in to gravity and tend to fall away from the center of the growing container.
Tying the culms together with twine or the plastic coated steel wire twist ties will solve the bowing of the branches; you can use your artistic talent to get your plants just right.
Is Bamboo poisonous to Cats?
Cats eat grass when their tummies are upset, Bamboo is grass, so it stands to reason that a cat would eat Bamboo as well.
Bamboo leaves on average contain around 12.5% protein along with various minerals that are actually healthy for your cat.
Bambusoideae are not toxic to your cat.
This is not the case of Lucky Bamboo, Heavenly Bamboo, they are reportedly toxic to Felines.
So there it is, many reasons why you might want to consider growing a potted Bamboo privacy screen for your patio to block the eyes of others; along with a little shade possibly, a little quieter, a little less windy.
As you sit there on your patio with a refreshing ice-cold drink, no longer having to see your neighbor’s antics or the boat that hasn’t seen the water since the Ford administration, I think you’ll be happy with the choice you’ve made.
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