Phyllostachys belongs to the grass family and is a genus of Asian bamboo. It is mostly found across regions of China but has also has many species which have migrated to parts of Asia, America, Europe, Australia, etc. These trees are known to be quite massive and can grow up to 100 feet tall in the correct environments. This is most commonly seen in hotter regions where the tree is provided with sunlight for many hours every day.
These bamboo trees are most commonly known for their unique grooved design which differentiates them from other genus. This is a deep groove known as the sulcus that runs across each individual part of the stem of the bamboo. Larger species are also known for their hard and sturdy bark which is often used for making furniture in China. That being said, they are also quite aggressive and fast growers due to which many species are invasive across the world.
Phyllostachys trees are becoming more popular every day when it comes to bonsai. Because of their unique grooved design and dense structure, many bonsai growers are gradually developing these trees.
This guide is to assist bonsai enthusiasts in learning more about the Phyllostachys Bonsai Tree’s maintenance, growth and care.
How long does it take to grow Phyllostachys Bonsai?
Phyllostachys bonsai are known to be fast growers and unlike many other bonsai species, can reach maturity within the span of a decade. This is the approximate time it will take for the seed to mature to the point where it can be cut. That stated, the length of time it takes to mature as a bonsai depends on the individual species of Phyllostachys tree you’re growing.
Let’s go into some specifics about how to plant, care for, and cultivate your Phyllostachys bonsai. Here are some fundamentals to assist you in caring for your tree.
Position and lighting
Phyllostachys bonsai are native to warmer areas such as Eastern Asia and due to this, benefit from being in full sun conditions. This can be done throughout the spring and summer months as the bonsai will benefit from the warmer temperatures and direct sunlight. That being said, as temperatures get colder, you should keep your bonsai indoors and use growing lights as a sunlight alternative.
Phyllostachys bonsai are quite hardy when it comes to warmer temperatures and climates. This is due to most species being native to warmer regions thanks to which they can withstand spring and summer temperatures. However, while they do well in hot regions, colder areas are quite problematic and you should avoid keeping these bonsai in areas lower than 45 degrees Fahrenheit (ca. 7 °C). Ideal temperatures for optimal growth are around 66 degrees Fahrenheit (ca. 19 °C).
You should use a soil mix that is well-draining and can allow water to flow through easily. A great mixture you can use would be equal parts of Pumice, Lava rock, and Akadama as it helps in avoiding water logging.
Phyllostachys bonsai are very thirsty and require ample amounts of water to remain healthy and keep growing. Preferably, you should water your bonsai daily to make sure that the soil remains moist at all times. That being said, you can water more or less depending on the climate and how fast the soil dries out. Also, make sure that your bonsai has decent drainage as stagnant water can lead to root rot.
Fertilizing is important and can help in promoting the growth of your Phyllostachys bonsai. We would suggest that you use a bonsai fertilizer bi-weekly during the growing season for optimal benefit. This should be reduced to once a month during winter as the bonsai slows down and will not be using as many nutrients.
Phyllostachys bonsai are fast growers and can be grown in group planting styles. This is how they are naturally found and adds to the dense structure that they form in the wild. Also, you can achieve this look without intense wiring as your bonsai will continuously grow new shoots.
How to Plant and Grow Phyllostachys Bonsai
You want to know how to plant and grow Phyllostachys bonsai. Perfect! However, you must first grasp the Phyllostachys species that are generally available and those that are normally suggested for bonsai.
- Phyllostachys angusta – This is endemic to various provinces in China and is known to be quite thin and tall.
- Phyllostachys aureosulcata – Endemic to China, this species is a running bamboo that is known for its distinct yellow striping and groove. It is commonly grown for ornamental purposes and is also decently hardy in colder weather conditions
- Phyllostachys nuda – Native to regions of China and Taiwan, this species grows prominently in full sun conditions. It can also withstand temperatures as low as 10 degrees celsius.
That said, each species has its own distinct qualities, and it is difficult to put any individual species above the others. So, let’s get into the specifics of how to cultivate and also plant your own Phyllostachys bonsai.
The most common method for propagation of Phyllostachys bonsai species is cuttings. They are easily able to grow from cuttings as long as you maintain proper nutrition, watering, and positioning.
Pruning and wiring
Pruning is vital for keeping your Phyllostachys bonsai in good condition. Unlike other types of bonsai, these bamboo trees require regular pruning to maintain their dense yet fragile structure. For this, you should trim the leaves all year round whenever they seem to be growing out of the central bonsai.
Moreover, as Bonsai Bamboo grow much faster in warmer climates, pruning will be more important to maintain the size and shape of your Phyllostachys bonsai. However, make sure that you don’t cut any central branches as it can lead to cracks and damage in the harder bark.
While wiring is not as important and beneficial for these bonsai, it can still be done. Wiring should be done using a copper wire and will give you the best results if done during the end of winter. That being said, avoid tightening wires too hard as they can leave cuts and scars on your bonsai tree.
Phyllostachys bonsai are very fast growers and will develop vast branches and root structures at alarming speeds. Because of this, repotting these bonsai is a regular task that should be done at least once every other year. However, for some faster-growing species, you can also repot your tree yearly to maintain a tighter and more dense root structure.
For repotting, you should remove your bonsai from its original pot with the entire root structure. Following this, you can trim the roots according to growth to reduce them to a more tight and dense structure. After this, place the bonsai back into the pot or in a new pot and fill the empty area with new, well-drained soil.
Making sure the soil is well-drained and allows for water flow is important as damp soil can lead to root rot. This is a very serious issue and if you don’t deal with it quickly, can lead to the death of your bonsai.
How to Care for Your Phyllostachys Bonsai
In the first few years, it is advisable to keep Phyllostachys bonsai in warmer climates and protected from the cold to maintain optimal growth. While cold weather is a problem, warmer climates are fine with this plant and it can be kept in full sun conditions without any problems. If you cannot keep it in full sunlight, artificial growing light will also do the job for a few hours a day.
When it comes to watering, the Phyllostachys bonsai are very demanding and should be watered on a daily basis during summer. This can be reduced slightly during winter as long as the soil does not get too dry in between waterings. As for repotting, Phyllostachys bonsai should be repotted every 1-2 years due to their fast growth which can lead to the roots spreading out too far.
Pests are a common issue with bonsai but the Phyllostachys bonsai is one of the hardier species in this regard. These bonsai are resistant to many bugs and parasites and are able to withstand many conditions when grown properly. That being said, some pests that can still affect your Phyllostachys bonsai are –
- Red Spider Mites – These garden pests are common across various types and species of plants across the world. Bonsai infected by this pest will begin to show signs such as lack of colouration or limping branches. While it is hard to see these insects with the naked eye, using white paper and dropping them in it is a great way to distinguish them amongst your bonsai. As far as controlling an infestation is concerned, you can use pesticides and insecticides in diluted forms to kill these critters and keep your bonsai safe
- Scale – Scale is another common insect that is known for its ability to thrive in warmer climates. These insects will stick to the bark of your bonsai and suck the sap through from it. This is quite problematic and can seriously deteriorate plant health. The best way to tackle them is to use an alcohol swab to pick them out individually followed by regular diluted insecticides.
These insects can occasionally cause problems if your bonsai is not in optimal condition. To avoid any such infestations, make sure to keep your bonsai pruned, watered, and in the correct soil. This will reduce the hiding places for these bugs and also keep your bonsai resilient and healthy to fight against them.